For over seven weeks, two residents of Bilaspur Mungeli Road area in Chhattisgarh have followed a routine amid the Covid-19 lockdown. Buying vegetables in bulk amounts, i.e., 50 to 200 kg every alternate day, and feeding them to roving cows and their progeny. Similarly, they buy biscuits, paav and bread in large quantities and feed them to stray dogs. They do this with no affiliation to any animal service organisation and no funding. They also seem media shy and agreed to speak to News18 after some persuasion.
Vinay Dubey is an advocate and Wilson Simon a taxi operator. Both are around 50 years of age and belong to middle-class families. The childhood friends have a passion for nature and their animal-feeding routine is representative of that. Vinay says unproductive cows and bulls as well as stray dogs in the neighbourhood were previously fed by various restaurants who threw scraps at them late at night. But when the nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 25, this practice stopped as the restaurants were closed.
Wilson, who lives close to Vinay’s house, noticed that within 3-4 days the behaviour of cows and dogs changed and they seemed depressed and distressed, obviously due to lack of food. Vinay recalls that one day he had purchased some excess bottle gourd, which he fed to a cow and a bull, and Wilson brought some bread that he considered stale and fed some dogs. The satisfaction gained from this little exercise motivated them to increase their efforts, and the very next day both of them went to a wholesale market of vegetables and groceries in one of Wilson's taxis lying unused because of the lockdown.
The friends say that after a few days when the wholesale vegetable vendors realised that the duo were buying their wares for feeding cows, they began treating the two as 'privileged customers'. One of the traders, Ram Swarup, says, “Such buyers are ensuring that whatever vegetables are reaching the market get sold out, even if it at a lower price. Since the lockdown, the sale of vegetables, which are perishable items, has slowed down.”
Since then, the friends have been routinely buying vegetables, bread and biscuits in large amounts, offered to them at reasonable rates, and feeding them to bovines and dogs in their neighbourhood.
"Mother nature has given us human beings extra capability and brains to take care of other creatures on Earth. Since many NGOs have been helping migrant labourers, we thought it appropriate to feed animals," says Vinay.
“We must help the needy in this hour of crisis, even if they are voiceless animals," says Wilson. "We are simply doing our duty.”