Indian aged care residents to live alongside stray cattle in pilot project to improve wellbeing
The program will pair elders with cows otherwise destined for a “gaushala”, or cow shelter (Reuters: Shailesh Andrade)
When it comes to aged care, it’s probably fair to say cows don’t top the list of requirements.
- The idea has been suggested as a way to stop animals, and the elderly being neglected
- Stray cattle will also be placed in special hostels under the animal welfare blitz
- Cows are a sacred animal in India, and have even been used to justify mob attacks
But a planned pilot facility in the Indian capital New Delhi is taking a novel approach to the sector, pairing some of the megacity’s thousands of stray cattle with senior citizens in a bid to improve wellbeing.
“When a cow dries up, people leave her and she ends up in a gaushala [cow shelter],” local development minister Gopal Rai told local media.
“Similarly, humans too are abandoned and sent to old age homes, even by rich families.”
Mr Rai said the “helpless elders” would take care of the cows and “lead their lives happily”.
It’s not the first time animals have been used to combat loneliness within aged care.
A program using chickens was introduced to an aged care home in Casino, NSW. (ABC North Coast: Samantha Turnbull)
The animal welfare policy, announced by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), will see neglected cows housed in special hostels, as well as introducing birth control measures for monkeys and electronic chips for cows and pets.
More than 12,000 stray cattle were recorded across Delhi — and more than 5 million nationwide — according to a 2012 livestock census.
‘Cow politics’ nothing new in India
Cattle are considered a holy animal in India, and the slaughter and consumption of cows is banned in most states.
The animal’s status has grown in significance since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP claimed power in 2014.
“Cow politics” has been part of India’s political fabric since the 19th century, and sentiments run high at the mention of the cow by either Hindu and Muslim communities, according to the Australian National University’s South Asia Research Institute.
“The cow often becomes a pretext for pubic vigilantism by right-wing Hindu groups,” director Meera Ashar said.
“[They] have appointed themselves the protectors of the cow or Gau-Rakshaks as they call themselves.”