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IIT-Bombay set to get permanent gaushala; students question move

Updated on: 20 January,2024 04:46 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Dipti Singh |

Student collective questions cattle shelter on premises; administration says it has helped reduce man-animal conflict

IIT-Bombay set to get permanent gaushala; students question move

Cattle at the soon-to-be-inaugurated shelter on the IIT-B campus, on Friday

IIT-Bombay is set to inaugurate a permanent gaushala or cattle shelter behind the Padmavati temple near the campus’s lakeside on January 22. According to the internal event invitation, Ashwini Bhide, additional municipal commissioner, is the chief guest at the inauguration. The decision has sparked concerns among a few individuals on campus, prompting them to reproach the administration for what they perceive as a failure to maintain political neutrality.

The temporary cow shed near hostel 8 on the IIT-B campus, which was set up in 2020
The temporary cow shed near hostel 8 on the IIT-B campus, which was set up in 2020

An internal invite email by Sudhir Shantaram Bhave, on behalf of the IIT-B cattle management committee stated: “As you all can witness, our campus, streets, grounds, academic, hostel and residential areas and various other activity locations are now free from uncontrolled cattle movement. This has become possible through the dedicated efforts of the committee in collaboration with the Cattle Welfare Group (CWG) and an esteemed NGO. This initiative of the institute, creating dedicated shelters and arrangements, helped in the enhanced management of cattle movement and the mitigation of cattle-human conflict. Since December 2019, gaushala activities have been managed in temporary sheds, albeit with certain limitations. It is with great pleasure that we announce the completion of our new improved gaushala in the picturesque lakeside area behind the Devi Padmavati temple. This milestone project marks a significant step forward in our commitment to the welfare of our campus environment.” According to the email, Gopal Rai, an IIT-B alumnus, and his construction company, Dhirendra Group of Companies (DGC) helped make the gaushala a reality.

Temporary shed

In 2020, IIT-B officially established a temporary cow shed near Hostel 8, citing efforts to address the increasing human-animal conflict on campus. The shelter was formally inaugurated on July 12 that year by Subhasis Chaudhuri, the institute’s director. At the time, there were 100 cattle on campus, as per institute records.

A research student told mid-day “In 2019, a student had an encounter with a bull, which was captured by CCTV cameras, bringing attention to the longstanding problem of cattle freely roaming near academic buildings, hostels and even residential areas on campus. Human-cattle conflict on campus then became a talking point.

In response, the institute immediately formed a six-member committee led by Prof Tapanendu Kundu, the dean of student affairs and comprising both professors and student representatives. The committee determined that land near or behind hostel 8 would be allocated for the rehabilitation of cattle, with the provision of hiring caretakers for their well-being.”

As per the minutes of a cattle committee meeting held on November 22, 2019, obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act in 2022 by the Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC), a student collective, IIT-B had been paying Rs 1,80,000 in labour charges, Rs 80,000 in fodder expenses and Rs 25,000-30,000 in mess charges of Gopalaks [caretaker of cattle] every month.

The other side

“The gaushala behind hostel 8 is still there. It took us years of fighting to get the institute to provide an office for SC-ST cells to help address the issues of Dalit, Bahujan and Adivasi students. However, IIT-Bombay has had a 4,000-sq-ft area for cows since 2020,” said a student. 

Meanwhile, members of APPSC took to X to question the institute for majority appeasement. Their post read: “The institute has reportedly permitted a procession, ‘Shriram darbar shobha yatra’, happening on January 21 on campus. The director will be inaugurating a gaushala on January 22… Very recently though the institute had declared that it shall “remain apolitical in all its endeavours’.” Despite repeated texts and calls from mid-day, there was no response from the IIT-B administration on the issue.

Year student had encounter with bull

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