The former bureaucrat runs his own cow shelter in Haryana.
New Delhi: Months after completely revamping the Animal Welfare Board of India by packing it with members who have worked on cow welfare, the government has finally appointed a new chairperson as well – a retired IAS officer who runs his own cow shelter and is reported to be close to the RSS.
The statutory body advising the government did not have a full-time head for a year and the appointment of S.P. Gupta on 6 December is being seen as a welcome move by some.
But a section in the board is not happy with the choice. Gupta, they claimed, has no track record in animal welfare, and may have been appointed because of his political connections.
Gupta, who was appointed a member and the chairman of the board through a gazette notification on 6 December, runs a cow shelter in Mewat, Haryana.
“It is a charitable organisation converted from a family house,” Gupta told ThePrint.
After a 35-year career as a bureaucrat, Gupta was re-employed in 2015 and made the director-general of the Haryana Institute of Public Administration (HIPA) by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.
Khattar and Rao Inderjit Singh, now a union minister of state in the NDA government, had also announced that they would give Gupta’s cow shelter Rs 21 lakh and Rs 11 lakh respectively.
However, the former bureaucrat said he never received the funds even though the announcement was indeed made.
“We run the shelter on our own by god’s grace, people are free to donate, but we don’t depend on grants from others,” he said.
While Gupta is reported to have strong connections with the RSS, he said he was only associated with the Sangh during his childhood.
On top of his agenda as chairman is to increase the funds granted to the board for welfare activities, he said. The budget of the board, which has been slashed every year since the BJP came to power, is at an all-time low of Rs 1 crore in 2017-18.
The AWBI was in disarray after it fell out with the government over the Jallikattu controversy in 2016, which led to the dissenting body being revamped. The government filled the board with eight new members earlier this year, seven of whom have worked on cow welfare.
Yet, despite their shared interest in cow welfare, not all members of the board are thrilled about Gupta’s appointment.
“He is just a retired IAS officer, with no track record in animal welfare,” said one board member who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“This government has not done anything for cows,” said Mohan Singh Ahluwalia, another board member who runs ‘Gwala Gaddi’, an organisation that works against milk adulteration and cow slaughter. “I am an RSS worker, but not a blind one. Never have so many cows died in Haryana before.”