Saturday, 19 May 2012

Varanasi has history of sensitivity towards animals

VARANASI: The old dwellers of the holy city were very sensitive towards animals, specially cow and ox. Traces of co-existence of human beings and animals can be found in old parts of the city. The earthen and cemented, traditional water tanks kept at a number of crossroads, tea stalls, temples and other eating joints were prepared by natives of the city exclusively for the stray animals and cattle like cow, ox, monkeys, dogs and birds.
However these traditional tanks, which once quenched the thirst of stray animals, are now either broken or being used as dustbins in Old City areas.
Surendra Barman, a shopkeeper at Malviya Market, showing one such water tank-turned-dustbin said: "Since the handpumps are drying up, the tanks are also lying without water. Hardly anyone has time to refill these tanks on a regular basis, so people who are not aware about it often mistake them for dust bins."
According to Saichan, a fruit seller in Suraiyya area of Bulanala, "very recently, a thief took away an years old water tank which was built by the shopkeepers of the area. Since the area is crowded with cattle, we installed a water tank some eight years ago, but it has been missing for the past one week," he said.
According to Pammi, businessmen of saris in Chowk area, 'pukka' (cemented) water tanks called 'hauda' were kept in front of every house as per the traditions of the city. "In fact, most of the houses were constructed with a permanent 'hauda' outside the house, near the main door. Animals like monkeys, cows and oxes, who ventured out freely in the gullies and roads of the city, used to come and drink water from the haudas," he informed.
According to additional municipal commissioner Sachidanand Singh, years ago some cemented water tanks were also constructed by the Varanasi Nagar Nigam (VNN). However, no action was taken by the VNN to preserve or construct more drinking water tanks for stray animals.
Some shopkeepers and residents in the Old City areas and posh residential areas have taken the onus upon themselves to provide drinking water facility to stray animals of the city and revise the traditional system.
While the traditional haudas fixed or kept adjacent to a tap or handpump can be easily seen in Lohatiya, Sankatha Gullie, Ram Ghat, Thathery Bazaar, Sonarpura, Pandey Haveli, Ramapura, Luxa and many parts of Old City, a number of new style earthen pots, bowls and containers can be seen near the community water taps in many areas and outside the houses in posh colonies like Sigra and Gurudham.
"Since we were taught to serve animals since early childhood days, so we keep these earthen bowls of water in front of our house so that any animal or bird can get relief from the rising temperature," said Shyam Shankar Agrawal, a businessman.
"The tanks at most of the water taps and handpumps are missing. Residents of our area have contributed and kept two-three earthen bowls near the community taps. Whenever the water in the bowls gets finished, it is refilled by anyone who notices it first," informed Deen Dayal, a local of Ram Ghat.
Stray cattle may soon have a new address
Varanasi: It seems that controlling the menace of stray animals and managing them is beyond the capabilities of the Varanasi Nagar Nigam (VNN). Perhaps mainly due to this reason, the VNN is planning to take help of a private 'gaushala' to shelter the old cows and oxes that are caught during the special drives of the VNN.
According to additional municipal commissioner Sachidanand Singh, a first phase meeting with the owners of the gaushala has already been conducted. "Soon things will finalise and we will shift the cattle from Kanji House at Nakkhi Ghat to the gaushala at Rameshwar.
It may be mentioned here that VNN has a Kanji House at Nakkhi Ghat where stray cattle which are catched are kept, and whenever an owner of the turns up, cattle is given back to him after giving a fixed amount of fine.
"Most of the owners for cows turn up but the hybrid oxes lie useless at the Kanji House. It is not appropriate to let them loose because they can be smuggled. The VNN was having difficulty in looking after them, so this decision had to be taken," informed Singh.
It is noteworthy that, with the two animal catchers installed to catch stray animals, the VNN is able to catch three-four animals on a daily basis. "Most of the animals caught are cows and dogs. The stray dogs are left outside city area, specially in village areas. We do not catch monkeys because they come under the forest department," said Singh.

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