CHANDIGARH:In a first, the municipal bodies of Punjab will introduce cow cess, to protect cows and rehabilitate them at the ‘gaushalas’ (cow shelters). Out of the 156 municipal committees in the state, 32 have already passed resolutions in this regard, while four municipal corporations have given their nod. There are 10 municipal corporations in Punjab, of which the cess has been levied by Bathinda, SAS Nagar and Phagwara municipal corporations.
To ensure that its success, the corporations have introduced different slabs. While, Rs 1,000 will be charged as cow cess on registration of four-wheelers, Rs 200 will have to be shelled out while registering a two-wheeler. Not just that, Rs 100 will have to be paid for every round of oil tanker in city limits and Rs 1,000 will be charged as cow cess while booking an AC marriage hall, while the rate for a non-AC hall will be Rs 500. People drinking will have to pay Rs 120 as cess for foreign liquor and Rs 60 for Indian liquor. The state government has also imposed a cess of Rs 1 for a bag of cement and 2 paisa per unit for power consumption.
The state government also plans to provide free water and electricity to all cow shelters. Items purchased by cow shelters will not be covered under VAT.
Kimti Bhagat, chairman of Punjab State Gau Sewa Commission, told The Sunday Standard that the government will construct 22 cow shelters across the state on 25 acres each. “There are 472 cow shelters run by non-governmental organisations, where 2.69 lakh cows are rehabilitated. Around 1.06 lakh cows are still straying across the state. With the government’s initiative, 2,500 of these stray cows will be sent to each gaushalas.”
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has allotted Rs 2.50 crore for the cow shelters, and Rs 13 lakh has been given to the Deputy Commissioner of each district to construct their boundary walls. “The state government will release Rs 1 crore per shelter for its maintenance. This is besides the cow cess which the municipalities are imposing,” said Bhagat.
Cow cess falls under Section 7 of the Punjab Prohibition of Cow Slaughter Act, 1955. “If all the 156 municipal committees and 10 municipal corporations impose this cess, Rs 50 crore can be collected annually,” Bhagat said.
There’s, however, another reason behind introducing the project. “There have been 147 cow deaths in the last couple of years in the state in road accidents. It has become a big traffic hazard,” Bhagat added.
There have also been instances of cattle destroying crops and NGOs getting into a war of words with farmers. “Some cows died because of this. Building cow shelters will stop these problems,” Bhagat said. He warns that strict measures will be taken if any case cattle smuggling is reported. “As per the Punjab Prohibition of Cow Slaughter Act, 1955, there is complete ban on cow slaughtering in the state and on their sale for slaughter outside the state. So, if any such complaints come, we will take strict action,” he said.
The Union government will give Rs 18 crore to the state for cow welfare. “We will use this money for breeding and promoting the Sahiwal breed of cows. If someone buys that cow for Rs 60,000, there will be a subsidy of Rs 30,000 on it. As per government records, there are only 1,200 cows of this breed in the state,” Bhagat pointed out.