August 17, 2019 07:37 AM NPT
By: Arjun Oli
NEPALGUNJ, Aug 17: With a federal minister evincing interest in the management of stray cattle in Nepalgunj city and allocating a budget for the purpose and the local government facing criticism from animal rights groups for failing to manage these strays, the issue has come to figure in city politics.
Minister for Urban Development Mohammad Istiyak Rayi’s initiative has piled pressure on Mayor of Nepalgunj Sub-metropolitan City Dhawal Shamser Rana, who had initially tried to tackle the problem.
After herds of abandoned cattle entered Nepal from India through the open border, the city set up sheds for them and these were expanded last year after the cattle numbers continued to grow.
According to city officials, about 500 cows are being accommodated at the sheds, or nearly 10 times the capacity.
When some of the cattle started to die of hunger and neglect, local animal rights groups and social media users started giving the city officials a piece of their mind. The rights group also arranged fodder for the cattle for a period.
In an apparent move to cash in on these sentiments, Minister Rayi announced he would provide Rs 10 million to the city to care for the cattle. He also handed over Rs 50,000 of his own to a local animal rights group.
Given his political rivalry with Rayi, who won the parliamentary election from Nepalgunj defeating Omprakash Ajad of the Kamal Thapa-led RPP, Mayor Rana, who is also RPP general secretary, has reacted cautiously.
Rayi, however, has denied any political motive behind his concern from stray cattle. He claimed that he was only acting out of a sense of responsibility toward the national animal.
However, the matter has taken on political overtones as the cow is also linked to the election symbol of Rana’s party. It has become the talk and tweet of the town. “He (Rana) won his election using the Hindu religion and the cow. But he is now letting cows starve in the sheds,” Nepali Congress (NC) leader Rabindra Hamal said. “This has raised a question over the very agenda of his party.”
Meanwhile, locals have linked the influx of stray cattle with the discouraging of cow slaughter in contiguous Uttar Pradesh after the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party government of Yogi Adityanath.
Mayor Rana said that he will bring up the issue at the district coordination committee meeting, adding that the city alone cannot take responsibility for all stray cattle in the area.