New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government Monday told all states to ensure that medical help for animals is treated as an essential service, which does not get suspended during COVID-19 lockdowns across the country.
While several states announced lockdowns Sunday in a bid to arrest the spread of the deadly disease in India, they did not include veterinary services in the list of essential services that would be exempt under it.
In a letter addressed to all chief secretaries dated 23 March, the Centre said, “It is requested that veterinary hospitals and dispensaries in the state, including private veterinary clinics, veterinary pathologies, animal shelters etc. function in the normal course and the veterinary services be considered in the list of ‘Essential Services’.”
The letter, written by the joint secretary of the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Upamanyu Basu said, “It is necessary to ensure continuous emergency services in the animal husbandry and veterinary sector, especially in emergent animal health issues situations.
“These May include but are not restricted to, emergency services like disease diagnosis and treatment, monitoring of any emergency livestock and poultry diseases, immediate disease reporting, etc.”
However, the government has urged veterinarians and other related officials to ensure strict personal hygiene and avoid public gatherings.
‘Animals and birds should not suffer during lockdown’
On the same day, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) wrote another letter to all states emphasising that all law enforcement agencies ensure that animals and birds do not suffer due to hunger during the lockdown due to COVID-19.
“This is a valuable service consistently provided by compassionate individuals and the absence of it may cause a large number of animals and birds to suffer and die and carcasses of the dead animals and birds may further spread different diseases amongst community which will be difficult to control,” Dr O.P. Chaudhary, Director of the AWBI has written.
“The situation is quite alarming,” BJP MP Maneka Gandhi said. “In some places, food is being stopped…No animal grains and chara is being allowed to come to Haryana from UP. Even pedigree from Hyderabad is being stopped by Mumbai,” she said.
“Animals and birds cannot be allowed to starve in the country in this manner.”