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UP: 2 Farmers Die in Biting Cold, Guarding Crops From Stray Cattle at Night, Allege Families

The aggrieved families blame UP government’s ban on use of barbed wire for fencing fields and backtracking on promises to tackle menace for the deaths.
stray cattles

Representational use only.

Lucknow: A 54-year-old farmer, who had been staying up nights in his field in the freezing temperature to guard his crops against stray cattle, is suspected to have died of cold in Uttar Pradesh's Shahjahanpur district. However, the Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) has denied cold as the cause of death.

On Wednesday night, Satypal Kushwaha was sleeping on a charpoy in a thatched hut in his field in Mohamadpur Guleriya of Mirzapur area. When he did not return home late at night, his wife rushed to the field and found him unconscious. He was immediately rushed to the community health centre in Zarinpur, where the doctors declared him dead.

Meanwhile, the deceased’s family alleged they had informed the Lekhpal but no official from the district administration visited them. On this matter, SDM Kalan Durgesh Yadav claimed that he had received information on the phone that the farmer had died of cold. But a team, led by Naib Tehsildar investigated the matter and found that the deceased was suffering from some illness and died due to some unknown disease.

"The family did not allow the administration to conduct the post-mortem, due to which the cause of death has not been clarified. Therefore, the administration is not liable for any compensation," the SDM told the media.

However, the deceased family members alleged that Kushwaha's body was frozen cold and the administration was trying to “hide its failure to tackle stray cattle menace.”

The issue of stray cows and bulls is turning into a nightmare for farmers in the state. The stray animals had damaged crops and also injured many people, a few of whom had succumbed to their injuries, they alleged.

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

Notably, people have been expressing their anger for long over the lackadaisical attitude of officials in addressing the problem. It was also a major issue in the recently held state bypolls.

"We have been complaining about the stray cattle menace but no action has been taken. My husband would have been alive if it was not for the stray cattle problem," Shayama Devi, the deceased’s wife, told NewsClick. 

The late farmer is survived by six children, including three unmarried daughters. The family was dependent on him.

According to Kushwaha’s family members, he used to often spend his time in the fields to protect the crop from stray cattle at night.

Read Also: UP Polls: Stray Cattle Issue Treads on the Heels of BJP as Polls Move Eastwards

On Wednesday evening, Kushwaha came home for dinner and went back to the field at around 3 a.m fearing the stray cattle might destroy his wheat crop. When he did not return till morning, the family rushed to the field where he was found lying unconscious. "He collapsed due to the bitter cold. If it was not a stray cattle menace, my father would have been alive," his son Anurag, who works a daily wage labourer in Delhi, told NewsClick. 

In a similar case, on Thursday, a farmer in Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh also allegedly died of cold, as per his family members. Nanha Lodhi (52), a resident of Lalta Kheda Majra of Devara Kalan panchayat of Unnao tehsil, was dependent on farming for livelihood, due to which he went to his farm at midnight to save his crop from cattle even in the harsh winter, his family said. He died there.

The deceased farmer’s relatives informed the police and the body was sent for post-mortem. After this incident, the local leaders informed the authorities about the incident and demanded financial help under the Farmers Accident Insurance Scheme. However, the revenue department officials stated the cause of death was tuberculosis (TB).

Srikant, the deceased's son, told NewsClick: "My father was chasing stray cattle that entered our field late at night while they were grazing our crops. Chasing them, he did not know he was running after death. I wish he left the animals to graze the whole crop and did not run behind them in the biting cold. He would have been among us today."  

He said farmers have to keep round-the-clock vigil and keep themselves armed with lathis to chase away the stray bovines. 

Ironically, Newsclick learnt that both the farmers have not got a house under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana despite running from pillar to post. 

Meanwhile, Nupur Goyal, SDM Sadar told NewsClick that the cause of death can be both cold and his disease TB. "The death of an old farmer is unfortunate, whatever the reason. However, a compensation of Rs 4 lakh is being given to the deceased farmer’s family under natural calamity and Rs 1 lakh and other benefits under Chief Minister’s farmer’s accident."

Farmer leaders NewsClick spoke with said that in this cold weather, farmers were compelled to spend the nights guarding their fields to protect their crops from herds of stray cows and bulls. After a day’s toil in the fields, they had to keep awake throughout the night, leading to grave risk to their health.

"After toiling in the fields throughout the day, how is it possible to remain awake in the night to guard our crops,” some farmers said. "Farming is already a losing proposition in the present times for various reasons. The onslaught of stray animals has dealt a further blow to us", a farmer in the hinterland told NewsClick. 

Some farmers said the damage by stray cattle had broken them economically as wild animals break through the fences and trample crops. 

It may be noted that 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 stray cattle issue.

However, the majority of the farmers feel that the ban on slaughter of cows has compounded the problem. People free their non-productive cattle to graze crops in the village which causes trouble for farmers. Besides these two cases, farmers have also reportedly committed suicide in shock after stray cattle destroyed their standing crops, as documented by NewsClick earlier.

Read Also: UP: Stray Cattle Menace Allegedly Pushes Farmer to Suicide

In urban areas, this poses a safety risk to commuters, particularly at night, when stray cattle are not visible. Furthermore, bulls which were earlier used to draw carts and till fields, have also become redundant as farmers now rely on machines.

"The state government had imposed a blanket ban on barbed wire fencing to prevent animals from entering the fields. How can a farmer protect his crop under such circumstances''? said Naresh Tanwar, a farmer leader in Meerut.

The Bharatiya Kisan Union’s leaders, who had raised the issue during their protests in different districts of the region, have warned officials that they will tie these animals on their office premises if the problem is not addressed soon. 

Read Also: UP: Farmers Remind PM Modi of His Promises, Warn of Delhi-like Protest in Entire Country

Prem Singh, a farmer associated with the Humane Agrarian Centre in Banda, told NewsClick that farmers have lost hopes of their demands being met. "Hopeless farmers have now stopped demanding from the government as no promise made by both state and Central governments has been fulfilled in seven-eight years. The farmers of this country have accepted their destiny. It is unfortunate that even after 75 years after Independence, not a single political party in this country has seen those who are concerned for farmers. So many policies have been made by the government but someone else is taking advantage of it, not real farmers."

Singh alleged: "Not only did these two farmers die of cold guarding crops at night from stray cattle but several farmers have committed suicide in Bundelkhand region due to stray cattle menace," adding that the government banned the use of barbed wire but left the farmer to die.

"We cannot use barbed wire to protect our crops from stray cattle and if anyone is found doing so, he is put behind bars. Now, the only option is night vigil in the cold. If an officer spends one night in the field, he will understand how farming is done," Singh added.

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