Chhattisgarh Rajya Gau Sewa Ayog chairman Bisheshar Patel today claimed that 52 deaths had taken place at Shagun gaushala in Rajpur village of Durg district, 106 at Phoolchand gaushala and 15 at Mayuri gaushala in Godmarra and Rano villages respectively of Bemetara district.
"173 cows died in three government-aided gaushala (cow shelter) in Durg and Bemetara districts of the state in nearly seven days," Mr Patel claimed.
Taking cognisance, state Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Minister Brijmohan Agrawal has suspended nine officers of the department for "negligence in discharging their duties" and issued a show cause notice to Gau Sewa Aayog's secretary, a government statement said.
Those suspended include the department's deputy directors in Durg and Bemetara and seven veterinarians.
The minister, who is on an official tour of Israel, had sought a report from the animal husbandry director, SK Pandey, on the incident by August 19.
Based on the preliminary finding that indicated grave negligence on the part of these officers, the action was taken, the government statement said.
The minister later also sought a report within three days on the condition of all cow shelters in the state, it said.
Shagun gaushala owner Harish Verma, who belongs to the BJP and holds the post of vice president in Jamul Municipality, was arrested on Friday.
Chhattisgarh Rajya Gau Sewa Ayog had lodged a police complaint alleging lack of proper facilities and management at his facility.
The police today took into custody two office-bearers of Phoolchand gaushala and one of Mayuri cow shelter in Bemetara and they were being questioned, an official at Parpodi police station in the district said.
The chairpersons of the two gaushalas were absconding, he said.
According to Mr Patel, lack of management and proper facilities at the cow shelters led to the deaths. The cattle from these shelters were being shifted to other shelters, he said.
Meanwhile, an official of the animal husbandry department said teams of senior veterinarians were deployed in these shelters to provide treatment to the ailing animals and for their regular monitoring.
In the past two days, 152 cows were provided treatment, he said.
Besides, several cows from Shagun gaushala were being shifted in the nearby shelters, the official said. The shelter was overcrowded as 599 bovines were housed there.
Meanwhile, Mr Verma, booked under relevant provisions of the Chhattisgarh Agricultural Cattle Preservation Act 2004, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 and IPC section 409 (criminal breach of trust), was yesterday produced in a Durg court which remanded him in judicial custody, a police official said.
A group of youth Congress workers yesterday smeared ink on Mr Verma's face when he was being taken to jail from the court, a police official in Durg said. The police later arrested seven youth Congress workers in connection with the incident, he said.