animal welfare board india looks like cow protection society gau figure The lion may be the proverbial king of the forest, but in both the urban and rural landscapes of India, it is the cow that gets the royal treatment. We have extraordinary laws to protect cows, we have vigilantes killing people over cows, and we even worship cows. To top things off nicely, the government’s Animal Welfare Board now has a decisive cattle-based agenda.
According to reports, the Animal Welfare Board (AWB) – a statutory board that was established in 1962 under Section 4 of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, in fact, the main agency for framing laws for the protection of animals – has made a rapid gau-turn, with seven out of eight independent board members associated with cow research and cow shelters, including those who have been vocal about cow protection.
Apart from the independent members, the board also consists of eight directors from the government.
How did this happen?
The AWB has four principal functions, namely recognition of animal welfare organisations (AWOs), providing financial assistance to the recognised AWOs, making suggestion about laws and rules about animal welfare issues, and raising awareness about various animal welfare issues. In its 55-year old history, the AWB has always been chaired by persons outside the government, including veterinarians, animal welfare activists and retired judges. But not anymore.
Differences developed between the Centre and the AWB after Prakash Javadekar-led environment ministry came out with a notification that allowed Jallikattu to happen in Tamil Nadu. The AWB, following this, moved the Supreme Court against the environment ministry. Immediate ramifications came in the form of the resignation of the AWB chairman, retired Major General RM Kharb.
Consequently the Centre replaced all 22 members of the board at the end of their three-year-tenure by not reappointing any of them. For the first time, not one old member was reappointed, bringing into force an entirely new board.
A trend of government interference
The Modi government has been, ever since its rise to power, interfering with statutory bodies and academic instituitions. These are places that have an agenda very different from the conservative BJP government. Last year, the government, through a panel headed by Narendra Modi, appointed BJP vice president Avinash Rai Khanna as a member of the National Human Rights Commision.For the NHRC, a body that is supposed to be an independent and powerful statutory instrument to hold all governments accountable for upholding human rights, having a BJP member on the board is not a good sign at all. There was also the appointment of BJP’s Gajendra Chauhan as the head of Film Technology Institute of India, a thoroughly liberal academic and arts institution, that raised eyebrows.
Most recently, there was the appointment of Braj Bihari Kumar, the 76-year-old editor of Sangh-inspired quarterly journals Dialogue and Chintan Srijan, as the new chairman of the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), the apex body of social science research in the country. The man’s views on matters like origin of caste oppression in India in medieval invasions, influence of Marxism and left-liberal secular schools of thought on India’s higher education easily reflects the degradation of an esteemed body — owing to the shadow of the Sangh influence.
The gau-tilt of the animal welfare board is as scary as it sounds. In an age when cow vigilantes are given a free reign and incidents like lynching by gau rakshaks continue to take place without any condemnation from the Centre, a statutory board with a set agenda is all that was needed.
The way things are progressing, by the next year, we’ll probably end up with the cow as our national animal.
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