The Indian State has launched an ambulance service for cattle in northern India’s Uttar Pradesh state, in a bid to protect the animal sacred to the country’s majority Hindu community.
State deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya flagged off the novel Cattle Healing Mobile Van Service on Monday and publicised a toll free number to help the authorities rescue cows in distress.
Maurya said each ambulance, which included a veterinarian and an animal paramedic, would transport abandoned, ill or injured cattle to special shelters or take them to veterinary hospitals for treatment, in the state capital Lucknow and four other nearby cities.
The service, which would soon be expanded statewide, will also initiate legal action against those who abandon their cows once they stop giving milk.
It will also penalise municipal officials in whose jurisdiction the stray animals eat plastic bags or other harmful objects from garbage dumps that proliferate across cities.
Thousands of deserted cattle die each year in Uttar Pradesh and across India after choking on plastic bags and other toxic material that the hungry animals ingest in their quest for food.
India’s cattle protection drive has attained gargantuan proportions under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government that assumed office nearly three years ago.
Other than issuing unique identity numbers to millions of cattle in a bid to prevent their slaughter for beef, the federal government now aims to establish ‘dedicated’ cattle sanctuaries across the country.
Junior federal home minister Hansraj G Ahir recently announced the proposal to establish ‘Project Cow’, along the lines of Project Tiger, a conservation programme introduced in 1973 to preserve India’s dwindling tiger population.
We need to stop cattle slaughter, he stated, but the biggest stumbling block is who will take care of these cows.
The minister believes that setting up sanctuaries and providing cattle with free fodder will stop farmers from selling their fallow aged animals for slaughter, but declined to elaborate on what experts said would be hugely expensive and unproductive.
Alongside, several BJP-ruled states have initiated strict legal measures to protect cows.
In Modi’s western home state of Gujarat and northern Haryana province, for instance, both of which are ruled by the BJP cow slaughter is punishable with imprisonment of up to 14 years.