The Anti-Corruption Bureau on Friday started an inquiry against government officials for alleged negligence of duty after 500 cows died at a state-run cattle shelter near Rajasthan capital Jaipur over the last two weeks. The cows were left to die since all the 266 contractual workers at the shelter went on a strike on July 21 claiming payment dues, according to reports.

Doctors at Jaipur Municipal Corporation's Hingonia Gaushala, which is touted as Asia's best cowshed, said the animals died because of starvation and that rain also played a vital part, The Tribune reported. ACB Additional Superintendent of Police Bajrang Singh, who visited the spot after the Rajasthan High Court sought an explanation for the deaths on Thursday, told Hindustan Times the bovines were in neck-deep dung and fodder that had turned slushy. "The cows died after being trapped for days on end without food and water," he added.

The corporation allegedly did not act on time. Civic body officials, however, blamed the deaths on the ongoing workers' strike and bad weather. The state government also denied negligence and said the cows that died were probably sick. Principal Secretary of Animal Husbandry KL Meena told The Tribune that 14 veterinary doctors and 24 livestock assistants work at the shed around the clock and that there was "no lapse".

Moreover, the Congress accused the Bharatiya Janata Party-led state government of negligence. Rajasthan Congress President Sachin Pilot, state leader of Opposition Rameshwar Dudi and Jaipur District Congress President PS Khachariwas visited the cattle shelter.

Rajasthan is the only state with a dedicated cow protection department. The incident comes at a time when there has been a rise in the number of attacks by right-wing vigilantes – gau rakshaks – over cow protection across the country. Recently, four Dalit men were beaten for skinning dead cows in Gujarat's Una city.