Maharashtra state government’s Department of Animal Husbandry in May 2016 put out an advertisement for volunteers who are “engaged in animal welfare activities on religious grounds” to apply for “honorary” non-salaried position of welfare officers to serve as “eyes to monitor the beef ban” imposed last year. It further mentioned that they have no “political affiliations”.
An overwhelming 2,388 applications came soon, each recommended by district deputy commissioners of animal husbandry, with officers having “vouched for the sincerity and integrity of the applicant” and taking “responsibility for their conduct”.
Out of them, 2,371 applications were officially admitted, awaiting scrutiny by the High Court-appointed Committee to Monitor Animal Welfare Laws.
The candidates are required to possess “working knowledge of animal welfare laws and in particular, Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act 1976 and Prevention and Cruelty Against Animals Act, 1960”. Once appointed, these welfare officers will receive official ID cards to monitor and report any act of cruelty against all animals.
The Indian Express reviewed all these applications and found some interesting findings:
- Despite specific criteria disallowing political/religious links, many applications cleared include those who admitted to being members of various Hindutva outfits, including Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Ram Sena, Hindu Sena, Shiv Sena, Durgavahini, Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
- Over 60 per cent of applicants have identified themselves as “gau rakshaks” with affiliation to existing gaushalas and gau rakshan samitis.
- Vidharba has the maximum number of applicants at 1,358, with 442 from Amravati district bordering Madhya Pradesh.
- From Marathwada, 464 applications were received, with 200 from Nanded district alone. Solapur, near Karnataka, has seen 244 applicants — the highest from a border district after Amravati.
- In several cases, candidates have been put up by NGOs engaged in animal welfare; very few speak of animals beyond cattle.
- Of the Nanded tehsils where elections are due, Deglur, Bioli and Dharmabad — all bordering Telangana, with checkposts for monitoring cattle movement — have seen the majority of applicants (73).
- A section of applicants are “unemployed” and have shown diplomas in Animal Husbandry and Dairy Diploma as qualification criteria.
- Of the total, 41 applicants are women, including 13 housewives and at least one applicant admitting to being a member of Durgavahini. The others are engaged in “business” with one applicant planning to start her own gau shala.
- The other animal which gets mention in the application is snakes, with many identifying as “sarpa mitra”.
Protection of animals against cruelty is indeed a human duty. However, the fervor and method with which only a particular animal is being focused on, creates questions regarding the government’s real intents. Cow is a holy animal to Hindus, true; however officially recruiting people from groups infamous for vigilantism is a fearful development. An official shelter to such groups can do huge harms, if not regulated properly. Even the focus of self-proclaimed “cow protectors” has been just one aspect – beef. None of them seems to be bothered about heaps of plastic and e-waste lying around streets, the stinking polluted water bodies, poor quality of fodder and survival competition from the exotic hybrid breed of cattle.
The Logical Indian requests the government to attend more pressing issues like girls’ education, plight of farmers, state of unemployment and so on. Sidelining these and focusing on violent protection of mere a single animal is not what a Welfare State should aim for. Moreover, all animals, and not mere cow, needs to be protected. The zeal shown for animal love in the form of cow protectionism is in contrast with rapid clearances being given for various projects, at the cost of invaluable biodiversity!