'If you want to keep a cow and do business you can keep it in your compound or your home, but not tie them up at public places.'
News of a stray cow entering the lecture room in IIT-Bombay recently went viral over its comic value but what the memes missed out on is the stray cattle menace many parts of Mumbai are subject to.
From being tethered to pavements to wandering around aimlessly and posting a hazard to traffic and pedestrians, the cattle, and more so their owners, make the most of the present atmosphere in favour of anything bovine.
Finally, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation seems to have woken up to the problem posed by stray cattle and plans to take action against owners who let their livestock loose on unsuspecting Mumbaikars.
Fresh with cracking down on illegal car-parking through a steep hike in fines, the richest civic body in the country has now proposed to increase the penalty for tethering cows, bulls and horses to poles on roads and footpaths to Rs 10,000, up from the existing Rs 2,500.
The proposal follows a request by the Bharatiya Janata Party's Matunga corporator Nehal Shah, who highlighted that cows are tied to poles at various places in the city for passers-by to pay owners and feed the animal.
Speaking to Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com, Shah, below, says that tying up animals on the streets is tantamount to cruelty and that the steep fines will act as a deterrent. "This move will deter them from tying up animals on pavements," she says.
Why do you want to increase the fine imposed on keeping illegal cattle on the footpaths to Rs 10,000 in Mumbai?
There are lots of cows that are tied to poles on footpaths in Mumbai. And the animals are made to stand there for days on end -- be it sunshine or rain.
In this situation it becomes very unhygienic for the animal and also for people who live around the footpath. Even passers-by cannot use the footpath where these animals are tied. This is the reason I proposed to increase the fine to Rs 10,000 as these people who are keeping cows are running businesses. They milk the cows and they take the cows to temples to earn money, but don't take care of the animal.
Therefore, these people need to be fined or there has to be some law where these people need to be made accountable for their acts of not keeping the place clean as well as not taking care of the animals' health.
Will raising the amounts from Rs 2,500 to Rs 10,000 help solve the issue?
These people earn a lot of money and a Rs 2,500 fine is nothing for them.
Earlier, the penalty imposed for illegal parking in Mumbai was Rs 500, but it has now been raised to Rs 10,000 and therefore, people have stopped parking their cars at 'no parking' places.
So, I feel the bigger the fine it will be more detrimental for people because they won’t be ready to pay Rs 10,000. This move will deter them from tying up animals on pavements.
What does the law say? Can anyone just keep a cow or any other animal on the streets?
They normally have licences but who has what licence (we don’t know) and then there is a court ruling too which says cattle cannot be kept in the open within city limits.
Now, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, the city's civic body, standing committee has decided to fine the people who keep places dirty because of cattle and out of that money the BMC can keep the place clean and also take good care of the animal.
And I am more concerned about the health hazards as the place where they tie animal is unhygienic.
Is there any case of health hazard that has been reported so far?
In my area it has happened on one of the footpaths where a calf was tied to a pole. People complained to me that one of the calves was mooing away at night. Moreover, flies keep hovering around all the time and this creates trouble in the monsoon.
Do you think a Rs 10,000 penalty is enough or do we need more stringent laws?
Of course, stringent laws are needed as you cannot tie a cow on the footpaths as it is a public space. If you want to keep a cow and do business you can keep it in your compound or your home, but not tie them up at public places.
But then you see so many cows kept on footpaths near temples.
All cows tied on the footpath are illegal because people who are sitting with the cows cannot feed them non-stop. In an hour how much grass can a cow eat? Every two minutes cow cannot eat grass. It is not possible.
But cows near temples is also because of religious sentiment, how can we object to it?
I understand and I respect that religious sentiment. I, myself, as a Jain know that and in our religion it is written that if you want to do good to the cattle then you send that cattle to a good cattle shed and pay for their monthly upkeep.
That is also a way of religion.
Do you feel that is a better option?
That is the best option. If someone ties you down the whole day and feeds you every half an hour, is that the right thing to do? The answer is no. We, as humans, can revolt but what about these poor animals? That is not the right thing to do.
Is there any statistics as to how many cows are tied on footpaths in Mumbai?
I won’t be able to give you the number for the city but in my ward of Matunga there are at least 25-30 cows. People cannot walk on the footpath, and especially it is very difficult for senior citizens to walk on these footpaths.
But as corporator why don’t you speak to these cow owners and make them see sense instead of penalising them?
It doesn’t work. They don’t want to (change). They tell me, aap ka kya jaata hai? (why are you bothered?).
There is one lady who threatened to self-immolate herself if I take action against her illegal business and then I would be blamed for her death.