New Delhi, July 11: Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur announced a Rs. 1.55 crore project to set up a cow sanctuary at Kotla-Barog, near Rajgarh in Sirmaur district of the state on Tuesday. The state-of-the-art project will provide a natural living environment and grazing facility to at least 500 animals, especially cows. The sanctuary will be declared as a protected area later. Spread over an area of 107 bighas, the land being developed as a cow sanctuary, was a part of the animal husbandry department was used as a grazing land by the local communities.

CM Thakur said that the idea behind building a cow sanctuary is to keep a check on the stray cattle and protect ‘gau mata’. He said that the problem of stray cattle could be solved to an extent with this experiment and more players like temple trusts, NGOs, panchayats and charitable organisations could contribute to the same.

The cow sanctuary will house a fixed number of cows and the cattle will be able to roam freely and graze unlike in gaushalas and gausadans where the animals are kept indoor and fed in-house. Commenting on the same, a senior official of the animal husbandry department said,”Since the land chosen has been a grassland and has sufficient natural fodder, there will not be compulsive stall feeding of the cows. Yet, we will build proper sheds and post caretakers, beside providing facilities like drinking water, veterinary services and develop some areas for growing fodder.”

CM Thakur further said that if the experiment regarding the cow sanctuaries turned out to be successful, then such a project will be implemented in each district of the state. He said that the land for the same had already been identified by the Deputy Commissioners. It must be noted that a local temple trust, Bala Sundri Mata Temple Trust, will be initially spending 15 per cent of the funding (as per amendments done in the HP Religious Endowments and Temple Trust Act). Later, trust is expected to find some NGO or charitable trust for running the cow sanctuary.

Apart from proposing the idea of cow sanctuary, Thakur has also announced a cow cess of one rupee on each bottle of liquor sold in the state in order to raise funds of at least 8 crore every year for such cow sanctuaries. Not just this, the Thakur government also plans to introduce free animal ambulance service for providing veterinary care at doorstep.