Stray cattle population chokes arterial roads of Panchkula

Despite hosting two cattle pounds, one especially built at a cost of more than 3 crores “to tackle the stray menace in the city”, the strays continue to rule roads, residential areas and markets.

THE TRAFFIC in Panchkula often comes to a screeching halt as a stray cattle make their way through prime roads or decide to park themselves in the middle of one.

Despite hosting two cattle pounds, one especially built at a cost of more than 3 crores “to tackle the stray menace in the city”, the strays continue to rule roads, residential areas and markets.

The halting traffic, upset residents and numerous complaints filed by them have all failed to attract the attention of the elected as well as the ruling bureaucrats towards the persistent issue. The representatives of various sectors have approached their local councillors, the MC office, the mayor as well as the DC Panchkula, but all has been in vain.

In January this year, the much awaited cowshed of Panchkula in Sukhdarshanpur was inaugurated with huge pomp and show by then cabinet minister, Ratanlal Kataria, Haryana Assembly Speaker and local MLA as well as local Mayor to “curb the menace of strays in the district,” local MLA Gian Chand Gupta had said. It has been eleven months since, but the city is yet to get rid of the strays. The MC General House in its first meeting in January had resolved to make Panchkula free of stray cattle by March this year. The deadline has not only lapsed by several months but remains a far off dream as hundreds of stray cattle adorn Panchkula as one enters the city.

This is not the first such deadline that the district has missed and will certainly not be the last. The Haryana government had first set a target to free the state of stray animals by August 15, 2018, and then had extended it to January 1, 2019. Years have since passed but to no avail.

“Stray cows can be seen on every road in Panchkula. On main roads, one can always spot a group of cows moving dangerously. Everyone knows and can see that the voice of the general public has been totally ignored not only for their demands and needs but even basic rights and necessities. They don’t reply to a single letter or tweet. Reason is clear, the public has no right to raise issues once they elect the officials. Officers too become part of their system as otherwise they might be transferred,” says Rakesh Aggarwal, RWA Sector 12.

As per the Chairman of the Haryana Gau Sewa Ayoga (HGSA), Shravan Kumar Garg, stray cattle population in the state in cowsheds has increased to over 5 lakhs from 2.5 lakhs since 2015.

The state passed a budget of Rs 50 crore for the HGSA in the financial year 2021-22, from the 30 crores in 2020-21, which had risen from a budget of Rs 45 lakhs in 2018. At least 650 cowsheds remain functional across Haryana.

The state has also formed a Cow Task Force in each district with the Deputy Commissioner as its chairman and SP and other senior administrators as members for each district, who are directed to submit a monthly report to a state level committee, headed by the Chairman of HGSA. The Special Cow Protection Task Force’s (SCPTF) major role will be to rehabilitate stray cattle of the state in gaushalas/nandishalas/gau abhyaranyas.

Despite a huge budget and several initiatives for cow protection, people continue to be harassed by the prevailing and growing stray cattle menace. “Money is being regularly spent as usual without any benefit to general public on matters of strays as well as other issues. What is going in MC shows that no one is bothered about the problems being faced by residents. They are very busy splurging for welcome gates, paintings, changing grills, tiles, grass etc. These are their priorities. Jitna marji bol lo aur likh lo kuch hone wala to hai nahi. Aur na he kahin kuch sunwai hogi,” says Ramandeep Singh, resident of Sector 21.

As per an MC Panchkula survey in 2019, a total 803 stray cattle had been identified by the administration which remained loose. However the updated numbers revealed in an RTI filed in 2021 stood at 1700 stray cattle in the 20 wards of the city. Even this is a gross undercount, allege locals.

BR Mehta, a resident of Sector 25, says, “Hundreds of stray cattle are always roaming the roads near and around us only. The numbers represented are far less than the actual ones. There is at least double the stray cattle in Panchkula as compared to what MC has counted.”

Meanwhile the cowshed, built in an area of over 4.25 acres, built at a cost of 5.6 crores, said to have a capacity to accommodate somewhere between 1000-1200 cattle, still remains only half full.

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