The Goa stray cattle management scheme has met with a tepid response in the five years of its operation since 2013. The panchayats, the municipal bodies, non-government organisations (NGOs) and animal welfare organisations were expected to take care of the problem under the scheme. However, barring a few, they have shown no interest. The scheme was modified in the year 2015 to offer more attractive incentives to the local bodies and NGOs, but it failed to excite them. There are 215 local self governing bodies in the state and scores of NGOs (including those running goshalas, cow shelters), not to mention the thousands of angels who parade themselves as friends of animals. Only seven of the local bodies (four panchayats and three municipal bodies) have agreed to implement the scheme.
Stray cattle have been one of the causes for death or injury to humans in road accidents. The problem is encountered all over the state including the streets of the capital city, during day as well night. The local bodies and NGOs need to look at the attractive incentives in the modified scheme again. There is provision for 90 per cent grants to buy hydraulic lift mounted vehicles worth Rs 18 lakh, Rs 10,000 per month as salary for the driver and Rs 5,000 per square metre for the construction of animal sheds. The scheme also provides for payment of Rs 75 per day for feeding cattle, Rs 30,000 per month for salary of veterinary surgeon, Rs 6,000 each for appointment of six attendants per month, payment of Rs 2,000 as rumenotomy cost per animal, besides Rs 5 per animal for the survey of stray cattle, Rs 2,000 for burial of dead animal and Rs 200 per animal for microchip or notching. The local self governing bodies should not forget that it is their responsibility and no one else’s to deal with stray animals in their areas. They cannot be irresponsible and leave drivers of vehicles, pedestrians, women, children and farmers to the mercy of stray cattle.
Most of the stray cattle that you see loitering are not all abandoned, as is the case in some states like Uttar Pradesh where such cattle have been damaging crops of farmers. The stray cows seen on the roads and in the open spaces of Goa have owners who milk them but do not want to take care of them during the rest of the day and let them wander around to feed themselves. These owners come forward to claim compensation in case the hapless animals meet with accidents and are injured and die. Though in most cases the identity of the owners is known the authorities seldom act against them, despite the nuisance and dangers caused by their animals. It is sad to note that the state government, the local bodies, the NGOS and cattle owners do not bother about the safety of the people and the animals. The stray cattle problem could be minimized by identifying their owners and forcing them to look after them. The government ought to carry out a survey of all the domestic animals, which would not only help it identify the owners but also keep a track on the stray animals. In case anyone comes to claim the benefit in case the animal is involved in an accident and if they are not registered with the authorities, they should be denied the claim.
Despite the presence of a large number of stray cattle within its jurisdiction, the Corporation of the City of Panaji is not part of the scheme. The rules to deal with stray animals should be enforced vigorously and the errant owners should be brought to book. Unless the government cracks the whip it is unlikely that the local bodies and others would fall in line. The number of stray animals has been increasing alarmingly since the ban on slaughter of bovines has been enforced in the state. It is time the authorities try to find out the reasons for local bodies and others not coming forward to avail the benefits under the scheme and correct the anomalies if any. The government has to force the local bodies implement the scheme and penalize those which do not take up the responsibility. Unless strong and strict measures are taken, the local self governing bodies, the NGOs and the thousands of friends of animals would not be motivated to do the job Goans at large expect them to do.