May “Acche Din” be back for Animal Welfare Board of India

Pashu Sandesh, 13th April 2019

Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) an Apex statutory body responsible for the control and regulation Animal Welfare in India is now shifted from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF & CC) to the Animal Husbandry Department under Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers welfare. The government of India issued a notification in this regard on 04 April 2019. The move cited by the Government is for better Administrative management of the Animal Welfare activities.

Following release of the Gazette notification many Animal Rights Activists have started making a hue and cry over the move of the Government. N. Jayasimha Director of the Humane Society International (HSI) an NGO working in the field of Animal Welfare and an ex-member of AWBI in an statement has said that the move by the Government is unfortunate and they may appeal to the court to stall transfer of the Administrative control of Animal Welfare from MoEF & CC to the Ministry of Agriculture. Gauri Maulekhi an Animal Right activist and trustee of the Union minister Maneka Gandhi-led People For Animal (PFA) also disagree with the Government and is of the opinion that, the Department which controls the Dairying, Poultry and Fisheries from the economic point of view cannot effectively regulate its own activity from the Animal welfare point of view as both are contradictory.

When we analyse and go by the opinions of the Champions of the Animal Rights then our headline of Acche Din for the AWBI stand in stark contrast. How come there would be Acche Din for AWBI with the transfer of administrative control to Animal Husbandry Department? The answer lies with anyone who is closely monitoring the functioning of the AWBI over the decades. AWBI has been in disarray and totally neglected in terms of fund allocation for the Board. It always remained a Cash strapped Body often struggling to meet out its day to day expenses. Many of the office bearers are honorary and are struggling to keep the morale and mandate of the AWBI high.

Many people would not be knowing that the AWBI was initially under the Ministry of Agriculture from 1962 to 1990, Ministry of Environment and Forest 1990 to 1998, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment 1998 to 2001, Ministry of Culture 2001 to 2002, Ministry of Statistics mid 2002 and again Ministry of Environment and Forest end 2002 till 04 April 2019 during which the AWBI withered and often found itself loggerheads with the Government over sensitive issues. Its sort of homecoming with the shifting of the Administrative control to the Ministry of Agriculture.

The apathy and mismanagement of the whole Animal Welfare issue can also be judged by the neglect meet out to the National Institute of Animal welfare (NIAW) Ballabhgarh Haryana at which the current office of the AWBI is operational. A decision to establish the institute was made at a meeting of the Standing Finance Committee held on 16 January 1999. The Ministry of Environment and Forests has entrusted the task of implementing the education and training programmes at the NIAW to Educational Consultants India Limited (Ed.CIL). One look at the NIAW official page at MoEF website is enough to tell about the sorry state of affairs at NIAW. The mandate of NIAW establishment was to cover the need to improve animal welfare through research, education and public outreach. Where is Research? Where is Education? What is the mechanism of enrolment of the candidates? Another objective was to create an enabling environment for the fulfilment of the statutory requirements as laid down in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. Have they created the environment? NIAW was also mandated to provide training and education on various subjects related to animal welfare including animal management, behaviour and ethics. The eight-acre campus of NIAW is presently in shambles.

With the shifting of the administrative control of AWBI from Ministry of Environment to the Ministry of Agriculture would pave way for the better control and management of AWBI and its mandate. Agriculture Ministry being an important ministry has the provision of better funds for its subsidiaries. It has under its control the Institutions like ICAR and IVRI which are managed and run by scientists and seasoned administrators. Now AWBI can have the same scientific outlook and vision as these premium institutes. Already most of the states do not have proper and functional Animal Welfare Boards and the decisions pertaining to Animal Welfare lies with the Animal Husbandry Departments. Following the change of administrative control, AWBI can now assert itself better with strategically placed Animal Welfare Boards at State level in coordination with the State Animal Husbandry Departments.

The argument that the Regulators cannot be regulated stands weak, as all over the country Vets of the State Veterinary services are responsible for the Health of Animals at the Gaushalas, Veterinary Hospitals, Animal Shelters and Abattoirs. That means the Veterinary Officers and State Animal Husbandry Departments are as such directly and indirectly responsible for the Animal Welfare. So why not the AWBI should be under Animal Husbandry Department?? Why not Animal Welfare be the mandate of those who have learnt about the Animals, their behaviour, their sufferings, their treatment throughout their professional life and beyond ?? Of course, AWBI can always have independent members who are from different fields with common compassion for Animal Welfare. In this way, there could be a balance between scientific and social outlook for the cause and welfare of the Animals.

Under the new ministry, the AWBI should be reconstituted, revitalised and recharged along with the restoration of the National Institute of Animal Welfare to fully utilise its potential. Then its truly be the “Acche Din” for the Animals of this country.