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Fauna first, humans next

New Delhi, June 19: In this new government of the people, blessed are those that walk on four legs.

Maneka Gandhi may be the cabinet minister for women and child development, but the welfare of animals remains a top priority for this long-time animal rights activist.

Sources confirmed that Maneka met health minister Harsh Vardhan yesterday to request him to take steps to stop the use of the hormone Oxytocin, used to enhance milk production in cows and buffaloes, as it reduces the lifespan of the animals.

Her concern for bovines also had a human angle to it. “The hormone dissolves in the milk which is consumed by humans and could have severe health issues,” said a health ministry source privy to a letter Maneka has written.

If one of Maneka’s priorities as child development minister is increasing the number of adoptions, she has also been busy promoting adoption of strays through her patronage of the Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Centre.

“She is very passionate about animals and it is great that she is doing so much for them. There are not many people in this country who do this work for animals,” said an official close to the minister.

Maneka has been a minister under four governments and was instrumental in creating the animal welfare ministry, serving as its first minister. As minister for animal welfare, she banned the use of bears, primates and big cats for public performances, formed an animal welfare institute and replaced municipal killing of homeless dogs with a sterilisation programme.

Today, in a letter to transport minister Nitin Gadkari, Maneka voiced concern over the “smuggling” of animals. “Specially designed trucks should be used to transport animals to ensure that they don’t get hurt,” she wrote, saying only such “designed trucks” should get the licence to transport animals. “Reduce the smuggling of cattle for illegal slaughter. Bring more revenue through registration of such trucks,” she wrote.

She also asked Gadkari to ensure that rules framed under the law for prevention of cruelty to animals are followed while transporting animals.

Maneka also said the transport ministry would “reduce” the loss of livestock in transit due to “strangulation, exhaustion and overwork” if the rules were followed. She requested Gadkari’s “personal intervention” in the matter.

On June 13, Maneka had written to Rao Inderjit Singh, the minister of state for planning, statistics and programme implementation, asking him to provide more funds for the “rescue and rehabilitation of homeless animals”.

Sources in Singh’s ministry said they had received the letter in which Maneka said that since most of the work done for such animals was by a “handful of animal welfare organisations” that build shelters and gaushalas, the ministry should give them more funds as well as “animal ambulances”.