| A file picture of Uma Bharti kissing a calf in Bhopal
Stray animals in Madhya Pradesh are going to feel the heat of Uma Bharti’s exit.
Her successor Babulal Gaur has announced in Indore that all stray cattle would be sent to prison. Each jail would have a gaushala (cowshed) to keep cities free of stray animals.
Uma, a protagonist of a cow-based economy, was often spotted in Bhopal offering roti dipped in milk to stray dogs. The former chief minister’s cavalcade used to screech to a halt any time a cow was spotted. Uma would then step out, stroke the cow and feed it chana (gram) or sweets.
The firebrand leader has also admitted that she feeds ponies chocolates in Kedarnath. A frequent visitor to the temple town, Uma says she is struck by the ponies’ simplicity and hard work.
At home, she is a proud owner of four Labradors —Kalu, Bhura, Golu and Bhola —who live on a strictly vegetarian diet.
Soon after taking over as chief minister, Uma had come up with a development agenda built around the “cow family”. Apart from making cow slaughter a cognizable and non-bailable offence, her dream was to have the state dotted with gaushalas.
A minister of state was appointed to look into the idea of developing a cow-based economy. That was not all. Inspired by the Netherlands, she promised government-financed gaushalas along riverbanks to promote tourism.
Treatment of stray cattle is not the only area where Gaur is bringing in change. The chief minister said anybody wishing to construct a temple or place of worship would have to seek permission.
“I will not tolerate any illegal and unauthorised construction,” emphasised Gaur, who as urban development minister had earned the nickname “Bulldozer Lal Gaur”.
On the face of it, the chief minister’s stress on the need for permission to construct a place of worship is only in keeping with government policy. But in practice, the law has seldom been enforced. In Bhopal alone, several trusts and ashrams promising to build temples have mushroomed since December when the BJP came to power.
Gaur also said he would put an end to the transfer spree. “Each official will be watched for three months before he/she is shunted out. We do not want to be vindictive to anyone but strictly judge performance.”
During the Uma regime, hundreds of IAS and IPS officers were moved around and the number of lower level functionaries transferred ran into thousands. This prompted an allegation from former chief minister Digvijay Singh of the Congress that Uma’s close relatives were making a killing through the transfers.