MUMBAI: Two months after enforcing the beef ban, the Maharashtra government has yet to set up a single cattle shelter in the state-even in the face of a looming water crisis which is making it difficult for farmers to retain their stock.

So far the state is relying entirely on private gaushalas to care for ageing bovines, which farmers earlier used to sell to abbatoirs. "We have started preliminary work, but the Aarey cattle shelter could take another two months," said state animal husbandry minister Eknath Khadse.

On Thursday, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis reiterated the state's plans to set up its own gaushalas and also a cow progeny protection board.

On March 4, the state had officially extended the existing cow slaughter ban in the state to bullocks as well. To boost the number of cow shelters, the state had said it planned to set up three of its own shelters to house 1,000 animals each. The state-run gaushalas were meant to come up in Mumbai's Aarey Colony, Amravati and Pune.

The state had asked the Centre for Rs 90 crore to fund the project, but sources say the Centre agreed to only half the sum over a three-year period. Of this, only Rs 9 crore has been approved so far.

The state, meanwhile, says it's not worried about the lack of government shelters. "After the ban on bullock slaughter was announced, we were approached by many NGOs who want to start cow shelters, especially Jain groups," said Khadse. "They do not even want money from the state, they will raise it from donations," he added.

However, even the old and well-established cattle shelters in the state say they are finding it difficult to break even. Set up in 1878, the Nasik Panchvati Panjrapole houses 950 cows and is among the largest facilities in the state. "We are running at a deficit. Government funding would be a help," says administrator Tushaar Paleja.

Report 16: The original version of this story appeared in The Times of India on 2 May 2015

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Report 7: The man with 48 borewells in drought-hit Marathwada
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