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'Modi Govt Betrayed us, Didn't Resolve Stray Cattle Menace,' Allege UP Farmers

Farmers in Uttar Pradesh say stray cattle damage their crops worth lakhs of rupees every year.
Stray Cattle in Uttar Pradesh

Representational image. | Image Courtesy: PixaHive

Lucknow: Farmers’ unions, including Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), which was at the forefront of the farmers’ agitation against the now-scrapped farm laws, accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre and Yogi Adityanath-led state government of failing to fulfil the promise to solve the stray cattle menace. The government promised farmers to resolve the issue during Assembly elections. Now, the farmers have threatened to launch an agitation if it is not resolved soon.

The farmers alleged that the government is not paying heed to their problems. Stray animals damage their crops, including potato, wheat, barley, vegetable and mustard, worth lakhs of rupees every year, they said. Alleging that the BJP had gone back on its words in UP, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) UP general secretary Mukut Singh told NewsClick, “The promise was to make a new policy to free the farmers from the menace of stray cattle as the hordes of animals are devouring crops. But today, the farmers of the entire state are suffering from the problem of stray animals. The plight of farmers can be gauged from the fact that if they do not stay awake all night to guard their fields, stray animals will ruin the whole crop overnight.”

Responding to the stray cattle menace, which threatens to blunt the BJP’s narrative among farmers during Assembly elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised voters in Uttar Pradesh that after March 10 (election result), a new policy would be introduced to deal with the issue.

“We are taking the problems faced by the farmers due to stray cattle very seriously. I have already found a solution. We will roll out a policy to get rid of the stray cattle problem after the election results are announced on March 10, and a government under Yogi Adityanath’s leadership takes over,” PM Modi had said in Bahraich.

“Despite PM Modi having promised to resolve the issue in March, no concrete steps have been taken on the ground. The stray cattle are destroying wheat, pulses and mustard crops. The local administrations have no permanent solution to curb this menace. PM Modi only offers lip service. Thousands of crores of rupees were spent in the name of ‘gaushalas’, but it was a matter of concern and pity that cows have been dying of hunger at these government cowsheds. The stray cattle menace could only be stopped if the government gives the farmers a certain amount to keep cows at home and make gaushalas on their own,” BKU leader Rakesh Tikait told NewsClick.

There have been several incidents in the past where agitated villagers rounded up stray cattle and locked the animals inside college or school premises as authorities failed to rein in the problem despite tall claims of having built cow shelters or gaushalas.

“We want to draw the government’s attention to our plight. The costs of farming have become unsustainable. If the stray cattle menace could not tackle seriously, the farmers in rural areas who are solely dependent upon farming will die by suicide,” Ramashrey, a farmer leader in Ballia, told NewsClick.

“I have five acres of land and seven members in my family. Women take care of crops after doing household chores during the day, and men guard the crop against stray cattle at night,” Bhagat Verma, a farmer from Barabanki, told NewsClick. He added the menace of stray cattle has even forced many farmers to change crops.

He said that till a few years ago, he used to cultivate various crops, including gram peas and pigeon peas, in large quantities, but these crops are easily ruined by stray cattle.

“Farmers are now opting for wheat, sugarcane and paddy only because agriculture farming is fast turning into a loss-making business,” he further added. Meanwhile, farmers’ leaders have threatened to organise a massive movement over the stray cattle issue in the state capital Lucknow.

According to Uttar Pradesh Animal Husbandry Minister Dharampal Singh, the state currently has 6,222 cow shelters housing 8.55 lakh stray cattle.

While stating that 66,000 shelter-less bovine animals have been rehabilitated in the state since April this year, he said that huge cow shelters are being built at the block level where 400 animals can be kept.

There are 225 such shelters in Uttar Pradesh, and the plan is to take this number to 280 by the end of this year, the minister said. He added that the work is being done on a war footing as every district has been assigned a target to rehabilitate at least ten stray bovines daily.

According to 2019 data from the Union Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Uttar Pradesh has 18.4 lakh stray cattle, the highest in the country; out of these, about 8 lakh are either in shelters or adopted as part of a state government scheme.

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