Two recent incidents of stray cattle injuring people, including former Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel, have not only revealed the extent of menace but also exposed the administration’s will to tackle the situation.
Patel was hit by a cow in Mehsana on Friday, and on Saturday a bull entered Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel’s cavalcade in Porbandar.
In the last ten months, 4860 attacks have been reported in 33 districts and cities by the local media, in which 28 persons have lost their lives. The highest deaths were reported from Porbandar (6), Banaskantha (5) and Patan (four), but the highest number of incidents have been reported from Ahmedabad 524, followed by Dahid (282), Amreli (259), Surat (248).
The state government passed the Gujarat Cattle Control (keeping and moving) Bill on March 31. According to this, pastoralists living in eight major cities and 156 towns were to be fined for leaving their cattle free on the roads. However, within two weeks, the government put the Bill on the backburner after pastoralists and Maldharis opposed this and decided to launch statewide agitation. Fearing electoral dent in the vote bank in upcoming Assembly elections, the government decided not to go ahead with the Bill.
“Law and imposing a fine is not the solution,” believes Nagji Desai, President of Maldhari Panchayat. According to him, there are two possible solutions to stray cattle issues in cities and towns, first is state should stop expanding cities and merging villages. In 2021, alone in Ahmedabad 38 villages were merged.
He questions without grazeland how the government expects pastoralists to feed their domestic cattles.
The second solution is to create Pastoralists Vasahats kilometers away from the major cities. For example, pastoralists living in Ahmedabad city can be rehabilitated some 20 to 30 kilometers away from the city like Sanand, Kalol, Dehgam and Kheda, where the state can provide them houses, stable and land for fodder or grazeland. The Rajasthan government has created Maldhari Vasahats.
State Congress chief Jagdish Thakor last week made a promise that if his party comes to power it will give pastoralists the farmer’s status so they can buy agricultural land on which they can grow fodder to meet the needs of rearing domestic cattle.