Tamil Nadu Government's scant regard for Cow Protection

Glorious  Bharatiya Tradition: When  it comes to religious tradition and the cultural heritage associated  with it, our culture stands foremost in the world, with thousands of  temples more than millennia old, a continuous legacy of pious worship  by Hindus from across the world. Since ancient times, temples have  been seats of learning. The temple tradition includes protection,  preservation and progression of Vedas, agamas, literature, arts,  architecture, gau samrakshana, music, fine arts and culture.

As  we worship the deities installed inside the temple, we also worship  the vrukshaas and theerthas associated with them. We also worship the  vaahanaas of the deities. However, if there is one animal to which we  give equal importance as that of the deity, it is the Cow. To no  other animal in the Hindu pantheon does the Sanatana Dharma give so  much of sanctity and importance.

In  ancient times, each and every temple had its own nandavanam (garden)  and goshala attached to it. Devotees visiting the temples would visit  the goshala and offer worship to the cows and feed them. Products  like milk, komiyum (cow urine) and cow dung cakes used for daily  rituals like abishekams and homams were all taken from the goshalas.  Even the vibhuti (sacred ash) was prepared from cow dung.

Degeneration  caused by political instability and governmental apathy

Even  while our nation was oppressed by the invaders for a thousand years,  our religious tradition and cultural heritage almost remained intact  and continued, though practicing them was made difficult. Our  worshipping pattern didn’t change at all. Our culture of  worshipping the cow continued.

Although,  the Hindu Religious Endowment was established during the British  period itself in Madras, the temples of Tamil Nadu bore the brunt of  loot and mismanagement only after the takeover of the endowments by  the governments formed by the Dravidian parties. With the advent of  the Dravidian governments since 1967, the temples have been  systematically mismanaged and their wealth looted alternatively by  the DMK and AIADMK governments. The Temple tanks, nandavanams and the  goshalas became extinct due to total disregard. Even those left are  not getting the required attention from the government.

High  Court’s Direction

In  the third week of August, the Madras High Court constituted a 3  member committee to investigate the status of goshalas attached with  the temples under the purview of Tamil Nadu government’s Hindu  Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR&CE) Department and ordered  the committee to submit its report within two months.

The  High Court gave this order after hearing a petition (WP 28793 &  28794 of 2013) filed by writer and animal activist Radha Rajan. The  petition said, “The Goshalas attached to the Temples under its  purview are maintained by the HR&CE Department itself. However,  more than a dozen cows died in the Goshala attached to the famous  Thiruvannamalai Temple due to lack of sufficient food and improper  maintenance”, and prayed for the constitution of a committee to  look into the omissions and commissions with regards to the HR&CE  Department’s maintenance of temple goshalas.

When  the petition, submitted by advocate Sathish Parasaran, came up for  hearing by the First Bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishen  Kaul and Justice M Sathyanarayanan, Government Pleader S Kandaswami  submitted that L Anantha Padmanaban, Joint Director of Animal  Husbandry Department, has been appointed to review the maintenance of  Temple Goshalas. Accepting the submission of the government pleader,  the High Court also included Dr Sumathi of the Animal Welfare Board  of India and Radha Rajan in the committee and ordered them to submit  a report within two months after investigating the temple goshalas.  The case was adjourned for 27 October.

Background  of the Case

In  October 2013, the media reported sudden deaths of several cows at the  goshala attached to the famous Annamalaiyar Temple in  Thiruvannamalai. While donating the cows, the devotees also part with  a decent amount for their maintenance; moreover, the revenue of the  temple is huge, running into several crores of rupees. So, it is not  difficult for the HR&CE department to manage the goshala.  However, as several cows died within a short span of time, cadres of  Hindu Munnani and animal lovers resorted to hunger strike in front of  the temple. The district authorities pacified them and ordered an  investigation by an organisation called Arunachala Animal Sanctuary  and Rescue Center.

When  the veterinary doctor and other officials from the center visited the  goshala situated within the temple premises, there were a total of  105 cows in it. All were donated by devotees and local people who  could no longer care for them. Many of them had given Rs.10,000 for  the maintenance of the cows. After investigating the status of the  goshalas and health of the cows the center gave the following report:

- Cows and Calves are seriously undernourished and have lost the ability to chew well
- The caretaking is inadequate. There is only one caretaker and an assistant for all the animals.
- They are fed twice a day. Each feeding in total consists of: 25 kg of oil cake, 25 kg of black gram covers, 25 kg of bran, and hay. (They      never get green grass). That is enough food to sustain only 15 adult cows.
- There is adequate space, but no protection against rain.
- In case of acute illness, or injury, the Government Veterinary Hospital responds promptly.

While  the temple revenue runs into crores, the HR&CE department  appointed only two people to attend to 105 cows and cattle feed  enough for only 15 adult cows! If this is the condition of the  goshala, is there any surprise in the reported deaths of cows? If  this is the condition of a goshala attached to such a big temple,  imagine the status of goshalas in smaller temples.

In  this background, Radha Rajan filed a writ petition requesting the  High Court to order the government to submit a status report with  details about the number of goshalas and cows maintained therein, the  status with regards to the purchase and distribution of cattle feed,  hygienic condition of the goshalas, etc. She prayed for constitution  of a committee to investigate the goshalas. Thus, the HC constituted  the three member panel.

Pathetic  condition across the state

While  devotees donate thousands of cows and calves in the belief that they  would be taken care of well, the HR&CE department shows scant  regard to their religious sentiments and to the welfare of the  hapless animals. This pathetic state of affairs prevails across the  state. Let us see the state of affairs in a few other temples too:

5000  Cows vanished from the Goshala of famous Thiruchendur Murugan Temple

A  review by the department’s internal auditors in November 2012  showed that 5,389 cows have vanished without a trace from the goshala  attached to the famous Thiruchendur Murugan Temple. They had been  sent to private goshalas for maintenance, some of which exist only on  paper! Neither the department had records, nor did officials have any  answer!

When  the number of cows donated by the devotees exceeds the limit and the  goshala runs out of space, the department used to send them to  private goshalas; this practice still prevails. However, it was found  that the officials violated the norms, which resulted in thousands of  cows missing. It was even suspected that the cows could have been  sold to butchers by the officials themselves. (‘Dinamalar’,  30 November 2012)

The  HR&CE department has “Integrated Goshalas” in places like  Srirangam, Palani and Thiruchendur for maintenance of cows in large  numbers, as most of the temple goshalas lack sufficient space. In  October 2010, a building was constructed inside the integrated  goshala premises at Thiruchendur for proper maintenance. Veterinary  doctors were placed there for regular check up of the cattle. The  department bought one Bolero jeep for inspection purposes. However,  at present the integrated goshala is in a pathetic condition without  even a single cow. The place stands abandoned with plants and bushes  grown all over and frequented by anti-social elements. While the  officials enjoy joy rides in the Bolero jeep, they didn’t bother to  maintain the integrated goshala. The department wasted more than a  crore of rupees on this “project”.

From  Temple to Beef stalls – One way ticket for Cows in Srirangam

Hundreds  of cows have vanished from the goshala of Sri Ranganathar Temple,  Srirangam, which is the first Vishnavite Divya Kshetram and one of  the most famous temples in the world. Tamil weekly ‘Kumudam  Reporter’ (27-12-2007)  ran a detailed ‘cover story’ with photographs exposing that,

As  the number of cows donated by bhaktas keeps increasing, some are  deliberately allowed to die without food. Then they are accounted as  ‘death due to disease’ and sent for burial. They are cut into  pieces at the burial ground and transported to beef stalls in and  around Srirangam. On an average, two or three cows are transported in  this fashion every day. Many cows do not find a place in the “death  list” either!

The  internal audit report noted the disappearance of 105 cows in a single  year, thereby confirming the weekly’s cover story. This writer is  given to understand that the sad story of cows’ death continues  even now in Srirangam, the Chief Minister’s own constituency.

Mysterious  Pazhani Goshala

Pazhani  Murugan Temple is a famous temple bringing crores of rupees revenue  for the Tamil Nadu government. In 2008, the HR&CE department  established an “Integrated Goshala” here in 240-acres at  Seemanampatti, 40 kms from Pazhani town. The main purpose was to  bring cows from the various temples and maintain them with adequate  food and water and vast grass lands. But, when this writer and his  colleagues from Vedic Science Research Center visited the integrated  goshala on 4 March 2014, there were only 9 cattle (3 bulls, 2 cows  and 4 calves). Though there are 20 staff on the payroll to attend to  the cattle, only one was present on the spot. The ‘Cattle Officer’  had gone out. We spent more than three hours there but the ‘Cattle  Officer’ did not return.

The  area suffered severe water scarcity and the locals said they couldn’t  find water even at 1200 feet. We could find only two small tanks  filled with water and only two mounds of haystack. There was no  semblance of any other cattle feed. When asked, the available staff  said that green grass and fruit skins (left over from fruits used for  preparing the famous ‘Panchamrutham’) used to be brought from  Pazhani, but we couldn’t see any of them.

An  organisation called ‘Pazhani Temple Protection Council’ has taken  up various issues concerning the temple with the concerned  authorities. A member of the organisation said that hundreds of cows  donated by devotees have died in the last two years. We were given to  understand that the HR&CE charges Rs.1000/- for maintenance of  each cow donated by devotees and that 300 cows were sent to Women  Self Help Groups without proper official procedures like  notification, government order, etc.

If  temple authorities are sending cows donated by bhaktas to Self Help  Groups, why should they charge the devotee Rs.1000/- for maintenance?  Are there proper accounts of the money collected and for which other  purpose is the money being used? What are self help groups doing with  the cows - are they maintaining them or selling them? Does the  department keep track of those cows? If the cows are being sold by  the self help groups, why is the department giving the cows to them?  Has the department taken any action against groups which have sold  the cows?

So  many questions arise! But there was no responsible official in that  240 acres integrated goshala to give proper answers. Ironically, the  department spent Rs,1,39,27,176/- for this goshala between 2008 and  2011!

Blatant  violation of rules

When  the HR&CE department sends cows to private goshalas for proper  maintenance, it is supposed to follow certain rules and regulations  in this aspect:

- The department can send the cows to only goshalas which are recognized and approved by the Animal Welfare Board of India. Those private goshalas must take care of the cows properly.
- Each and every cow must be insured in the name of either the Joint Commissioner of the department or the Executive Officer of the      concerned temple. If an insured cow meets with death, 70% of the insurance amount must be given to the goshala and the balance 30% to      the temple.
- The concerned goshala must duly inform the Joint Commissioner and      Executive Officer about the death of cows which are sent by the      temple.
- HR&CE officials must inspect the cows at the concerned goshala at least      once in two months.

These  rules are violated at will. The officials knowingly send the cows to  unrecognized private goshalas; they do not inspect the cows and  goshalas, and do not maintain proper accounts. Thus, slaughter houses  serve as the final destination of these poor cows. No wonder people  allege that officials are making money out of such an evil practice.

Pathetic  condition of cows in Rameshwaram Temple

At  the following You Tube link one can see the pathetic condition of  cows in the goshala of the famous Rameshwaram Temple, which shows the  attitude of HR&CE officials for cow protection  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDAbRDVHbX4)

In  the first week of this month (Sept 2014) this writer visited goshalas  in five famous temples in Thanjavur and Kumbakonam, and found all in  sordid condition.

Thirunageswaram  Shiva Temple:  This is “Raagu Stal”, one of the famous Navagraha temples. There  were only 2 cows and the shelter was in a pathetic condition. One  could not see any cattle feed or even an haystack!!! No staff was  seen taking care of the cows, which were tied near the Annadhana  Hall.

Oppiliyappan  Venkatachalapathi Temple:  Only 3 cows seen in the vegetable garden, which had very little  vegation. Only haystack was available in the badly maintained  shelter. Here also no staff was seen taking care of the cows.

Sarangapani  Perumal Temple:  There were 20 Cows (14 Cows and 6 Calves) and the single shelter was  not sufficient to hold them. Some masonry works were going on there.  HR&CE has solicited donations for providing cattle deed through a  Notice Board which states that the goshala has 32 Cows. Only one  staff (Gopalan) was there to look after 20 Cows. The cows are not  given bath on daily basis, but only on auspicious days or when he has  time. Only haystack was seen and no other cattle feed. Though Gopalan  said the cows were fed with other cattle feed such as oil cake and  bran, he showed just a little quantity of oil cake which would not be  enough for a single cow. The shelter was badly maintained.

Patteeswaram  Durga Temple:  Total 10 Cattle (6 Cows and 4 Calves) were there. The milk is being  used for pujas and abishekams by the temple itself. The shelter is  badly maintained. There is also space for nandavanam, which is not  used for cultivation of green grass or other cattle feed. Two staff  (Mohan and Gopal) are taking care of the cows, but only Mohan was  there during the visit. One HR&CE staff was seen taking count of  the Cows. Mohan said they take counts regularly and veterinary  doctors visit regularly. He said the department doesn't arrange any  cattle feed apart from the haystack.

Swamimalai  Murugan Temple:  Though I was given to understand that the famous Swamimalai Murugan  Temple has a goshala, I couldn’t find one when I visited. On  enquiry, I learnt that a goshala functioned till two years back. When  I visited the place where the nandavanam and goshala existed, I saw a  lot of construction underway, such as toilets, hall for Annadhanam  and kitchens. One building for lodging government staff was also  there apart from Mobile toilets.

All  these five temples are huge and famous and bring lots of revenue for  the government. In spite of that, the cows and goshalas are badly  maintained. This status of temple goshalas after the constitution of  a panel by the High Court reveals the seriousness shown by the  government and the HR&CE Department not only to cow protection,  but also to the Judiciary.

Destruction  of Cattle Wealth and government’s indifference

On  one side, temple cows are allowed to die and sent to slaughter  houses, on the other side lakhs of cattle are trafficked from and via  Tamil Nadu for meat and leather. The Tamil Nadu government is the  culprit on both counts. It can easily streamline the temple goshalas  utilising the temple revenue and it can end cattle trafficking by  instructing the authorities to strictly implement the transportation  rules.

But  the government is just not bothered and allows all sorts of  violations to happen. It doesn’t seem to realize that depleting  cattle wealth will have a lasting long-term negative impact upon our  agriculture and environment.

Worse,  there is not a single mention about cow protection in the HR&CE  Department’s “Policy Note” for the year 2014-15 submitted under  Demands (no:47) for grants in accordance with the budget. In fact,  the word “Cow” is not to be found in the entire Policy Note! Even  during her speech under Section 110 in the Assembly, the Chief  Minister made no mention about Cow Protection and Temple Goshalas,  while she waxed eloquent on things such as constitution of  committees, appointment of trustees, regularising encroachments, and  renovations, et al.

Court  of Law is the last resort

In  this kind of disgusting and dreadful scenario, it is heartening that  the High Court understood the plight of the hapless animals and  constituted a committee to investigate the temple goshalas and submit  a report. It gives confidence that the High Court will give requisite  directions and pronounce orders for the proper maintenance of  goshalas with clear systems in place, thereby ensuring the welfare of  cows. The onus lies on the government to respond positively to the  High Court’s orders and directions.

2. http://www.dinamalar.com/news_detail.asp?id=833228
3. http://www.dinamalar.com/News_Detail.asp?Id=595054
4. Tamil Weekly ‘Kumudam Reporter’ dated 27-12-2007
5. http://tinyurl.com/prw8n72 from www.vsrc.in
6. http://cms.tn.gov.in/sites/default/files/documents/hrce_e_pn_2014_15.pdf

First published Click here to view

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