In Triplicane, nearly every resident has a story to tell about nightmarish encounters with cattle on the streets. Even as the Greater Chennai Corporation claims to have intensified action to curb the menace, members of the public maintain that they can still see cows on the streets.
After an elderly person with disability was recently gored by a cow on Car Street (Theradi Veedhi) in Zone 9 in Triplicane, roughly 10 women of Brindaranya Kshethram Kuzhu and Sri Parthasarathy Adigalar Kuzhu wrote to the D3 Ice House police. They said, “Over the years, many people have been injured, especially on the four Mada Streets where more than 15 cows can be found loitering. The women are particularly worried because they often visit the Parthasarathy Temple, where many have been attacked. Many offer the cattle bunches of spinach. Those who feed the cows should go to their premises instead of offering them food on the road.”
As the women assembled close to the temple on Thursday, they pointed at the two-wheelers zooming past them while a Corporation vehicle meant for transporting stray cows and a Greater Chennai Police patrol entered the street. “Those are the cow-owners rushing to tie down or take away the cows. This is very common here,” said Sudha, a member of the associations. Another resident claimed that seven deaths from cow attacks have happened in Triplicane. The very next day, a resident of Sunkuwar Street was injured in an incident involving a stray cow.
A tough task
A cow-catcher said that catching these animals was a tough task. But after they were caught, the owners often followed and blocked the vehicles going to the Corporation cow pound in Zone 6 in Perambur. “A few plead with us to free their cows, but most of them threaten and even abuse us,” he said. According to the Corporation data, there are 25 cow-catchers employed in the city under the National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM).
Corporation Commissioner J. Radhakrishnan said the cow that attacked an octogenarian was sent to a depot at Kancheepuram the next day and a police case was booked against the owner. He said, “Recently, we caught over 10 more cows in Triplicane in both Zones 9 and 10. The exercise of removing cattle must be constantly followed up, but the civic body is also facing shortage of workers. The zonal council chairpersons and authorities have been instructed to monitor the situation.”
The issue of stray cattle is not specific to Triplicane. Complaints have come in from Koyambedu and surrounding areas like Arumbakkam, apart from Thiruvanmiyur, Mylapore, Nungambakkam, St. Thomas Mount and Ambattur.
Jayanthi has been a resident of Valmiki Nagar at Thiruvanmiyur for 30 years. “This issue has been reported often. At peak hours, around 14 cows would stand in the middle of the road. Pedestrians, especially after the recent incidents, fear walking the streets. After Mr. Radhakrishnan took cognisance of the issue, the menace has come down, compared with last year. Residents have requested small-scale cow-breeders to have their cows roam on the beach at early hours. But large-scale breeders refuse to do so.”
A resident of Mylapore said the problem plagued Mada Streets, near Chitra Kulam, and the markets around Sri Adi Kesavaperumal Temple and Sri Madhavaperumal Temple. “The main issue is that the animals defecate on the roads, which is a nuisance for two-wheeler drivers and pedestrians. The issue persists at Koyambedu, too, where one can find buffaloes... Buffaloes move at their own pace and this causes traffic jam quite often,” she said.
Plea for grazing space
Muthukrishnan, 40, a cow-owner in Koyambedu, said that roughly 400 people were rearing cattle in and around the market area. “We have to let the cows roam around, not keep them tethered all day long. I own 20 cows, which are tethered under the flyover at Kaliamman Koil Junction. Similarly, many tether their cattle near the Metro Rail station, Koyambedu Junction or even at a few places inside the market. We have requested the Corporation to allot us grazing space as we cannot afford to buy land; we can’t give up our cows either because it is our livelihood. Of the ₹50,000 I earn a month, ₹30,000 goes towards maintenance. If they [the Corporation] seize our cattle, the families of those appointed for grazing and feeding our cows will also be affected.”
“So far, we have also identified 227 repeat offenders who will be fined ₹10,000. The number will be more, but an audit has begun. Open grazing means the cows also consume plastics, besides the vegetable and fruit waste, which may affect the milk they yield,” said Dr. Radhakrishnan.
“In 2019, surgeons of Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS) in Vepery removed 52 kg of plastics from the intestines of a stray cow brought from Thirumullaivoyal on the outskirts of Chennai. We also found untreated medical issues in the impounded cows at a recent inspection,” he said.
Dr. Radhakrishnan said, “Since we have the practice of boiling milk, some harm caused by plastics could have been averted... The owners must provide their animals with shelter; otherwise, complaints will be filed against them with the police.”
Mr. Muthukrishnan acknowledged that cows do eat plastics from the waste, but want the use of single-use plastics eliminated.
Shanthi, a resident of Triplicane, said, “We can’t blame the animals for roaming freely or approaching people dumping waste. The cow owners and the officials must find a permanent solution to this long-pending problem.”