As COVID Pandemic Rages, India's Biggest State Sets Up Cow-Protection Hotline

The government of the state with the third-most recorded COVID-19 cases in India has unveiled a special helpline for cattle, a move many are condemning as the region continues to suffer dozens of human deaths a day.

Help desks are being set up in all of Uttar Pradesh's districts for people to call and report cows in need of help, the Times of India reported. Cow shelters are set to receive medical equipment like oximeters and thermal scanners for the animals.

The decree by Chief Minister Yogi Adithyanath, who is known for his directives to protect cows in Uttar Pradesh, is mandating that the state's cow shelters adhere to COVID-19 protocols, including masks and frequent thermal screening, for the safety of the animals.

The official directive, which was first reported by the Indo-Asian News Service, is not available on the Uttar Pradesh government website.

According to state data, Uttar Pradesh maintains more than 5,000 "cow protection centers," or gaushalas, where some 500,000-plus cattle are looked after. More than 400,000 cows are in the state's 4,529 shelters, and 171 large cow-conservation centers with capacity to house more than 57,000 cows have been constructed.

The Uttar Pradesh government is looking to expand its gaushalas to shelter the state's stray cattle, a state spokesperson said.

Ruchira Chaturvedi, national convener of social media and communications for the Indian National Congress, shared a report on the apparent local mandate from the Indian press, criticizing the policy made amid a devastating COVID-19 outbreak.

"These days, better to be a cow in UP, than to be a human," she said on Twitter.

These days, better to be a cow in UP, than to be a human.https://t.co/m8II67izjX

— Ruchira Chaturvedi (@RuchiraC) May 5, 2021

Official data puts Uttar Pradesh at more than 1.3 million COVID-19 cases overall with 13,798 deaths. More than 350 new deaths were reported on Tuesday in the state.

The Tribune in India reported that 700 help desks for the cows were being established, with 51 oximeters and 341 thermal scanners being distributed. By comparison, Adithyanath has added 1,000 beds to a makeshift hospital for COVID patients in Lucknow, the state's capital city.

Newsweek reached out for Adithyanath but did not hear back in time for publication.

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Help desks are being set up in all of Uttar Pradesh's districts in India for people to call and report cows in need of help. Cow shelters are set to receive medical equipment like oximeters and thermal scanners for the animals. Above, a worker sits next to cows at a dairy farm in Allahabad, India. Getty