By ARUN PRATAP SINGH
DEHRADUN, 30 Mar: During his address to the nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked the state governments to ensure that the stray animals did not starve during the 21 day lockdown currently in operation in the country. Following the address of the Prime Minister, Animal Welfare Board of India had on 23 March itself written to the state governments to ensure that transport of animal feed was treated as essential item and its supplies were not disrupted during the lockdown. The Board also directed the state governments to coordinate with the NGOs and animal welfare organisations in feeding the stray animals including the stray cattle. Following this, Secretary Animal Husbandry, Government of Uttarakhand Meenakshi Sundaram also wrote a letter to all the district magistrates, to the Director Animal Husbandry department and to Chief Veterinary Officers of all the districts to do the needful. However, the fact is that despite the orders and not many government officials are seen working on ground to help the people and the NGOs in feeding the stray animals. People are spending totally from their own pockets to feed the animal with no help seen from the officialdom. Speaking to Garhwal Post, Additional Secretary Animal Husbandry DK Tiwari asked this correspondent to speak with Director Animal Husbandry in this regard. Speaking to Garhwal Post, Director Animal Husbandry Dr KK Joshi informed that so far there was no provision in the budget for feeding the stray cattle or other stray animals. Hence, the department officials were coordinating with the animal welfare organisations and other individual animal welfare activists in feeding the animals with the funds spent by private individuals from their own pockets. He was however unable to quantify the effort made by the department officials. He claimed that to the best of his knowledge, animal welfare organisations and individual activists were managing the crisis rather well and there were no reports of stray animals starving anywhere in the state! He added that in the initial days of the lockdown, the supply chain of the animal fodder was affected leading to shortage of fodder in some parts of the state but that had now been taken care of.
Speaking to Garhwal Post, Chief Veterinary Officer of Dehradun, Dr SB Pandey admitted that so far no funds had been issued by the district magistrate towards feeding the stray animals and he further admitted that no funds were available with the department for stray animal food. Hence all the activities of the department were focussed on coordinating with the animal organisations like People for Animals, SPCA, Rahat and other individual activists and to ensure that the supply chain of the fodder and other animal food was maintained. He admitted that some fodder wholesalers and retailers were over charging the customers but the department had with the help of District Magistrate been able to curb the overcharging by the dealers. He added that some pet shops were closed in Doon following lockdown but the department had ensured that the pets for sale were removed from the shops and sent to homes of the dealers so that they did not die of starvation. The question is if everything has to be done by the activists and the animal welfare organisations only, then what is the role of the department in ensuring that the stray animals did not starve? It is also strange that funds have been released to the district administration for dealing with any contingencies developing because of spread of Corona virus as well as due to the lockdown, but the need of the stray animals was totally ignored so far leaving everything in the hands of the people and the animal welfare organisations only!