NEW DELHI: Even as horrific reports of cows starving to death in gaushalas hits the media headlines, the Army is now worried about the fate of at least 25000 high quality cows and bulls it has to get rid off following the impending closure of its dairy military farms across India.

The Ministry of Defence is in touch with the Ministry of Agriculture, and related departments to work out a ‘plan’ for the cattle that will be impacted by this closure.

The cow ban enforced by lynch mobs, and of course the BJP governments, has created a huge crisis as cattle is now starving, with the gaushalas started amidst pomp and fanfare running out of fodder and money in no time at all. The Indian Express has carried detailed reports of at least two cow shelters with hundreds of carcasses and starving cows crying plaintively. At least one of these is run by a BJP local leader Harish Verma who has now been arrested, but has accused the state government of not releasing the funds to feed the cattle.

The Army, in the process of closing its military farms started by the British to ensure a regular milk supply for the soldiers, is now worried about the fate of the cattle in these. It has over the past 30 years spent Rs 800 crores to produce a high yield cow, the Frieswal breed that has been developed by cross breeding the Holstein Friesian cow of Netherlands with the local Sahiwal. These farms have calves, bulls and high milk yielding cows that have become a major problem for the military that is working overtime to develop a secure plan for the rehabilitation of the cattle, and more so without attracting the mobs, or for that matter the trolls.

The 39 military farms are over a 100 years ago. These are spread over 20000 acres of land, and although a decision to close these was taken about five years ago, it did not move forward because of the employees and others worried about alternate jobs. It is not clear if this problem has been resolved during these five years, but now instead of a phased shut down as initially proposed, all the farms will be closed over the next three months.

The cattle is proving difficult to manage. And the Army is running from pillar to post to ensure their safe rehabilitation. The Department of Animal Husbandry has also come into play, but so far a final plan for the cows has yet to emerge. More so, this special cattle has been kept in military comfort, and is now going to be thrown into civilian chaos.

The military now is keen to redevelop the land that will be released from the farms for housing and other use. The farms have been been perceived as a hotbed of corruption with cases under investigation even currently. More so since these expanded from dairy to fodder, fertilisers and other produce. A great deal of money has been pumped into the cattle project, with sources pointing out that this is redundant as there is no scarcity of milk for the Army, unlike the situation before Independence.

(Cover Photograph: Army dairy military farm at Jalandhar)