It is no secret that the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister loves cows, and the Yogi Adityanath-led Bharatiya Janata Party government in state has come up with a “unique scheme” with a two-pronged approach for ‘gaumata’. It involves generating employment opportunities for the welfare of stray cattle and a commission for bringing in 100 stray cattle in a month.
The scheme is part of the state government’s initiative that is said to have multiple purposes. Firstly, the aim is to reduce the number of stray cattle on national highways between Agra and the state capital of Lucknow which have turned into a major cause of accidents. The UP CM has given his nod to the scheme which also involves the hiring of a private agency to catch cows on the expressway. The award for the agency would be a sum of Rs 2,000 per cow while the monetary reward for unemployed or individuals has not been announced yet.
Interestingly, the job comes with the risky target of nabbing at least 100 stray cattle per month. If the agency fails to achieve the target, a penalty of Rs 100 per animal less than the magical number of 100 would be levied on the agency. Similarly, if its count exceeds 100, the agency will get an “incentive” of Rs 100 for each animal above the figure. Details are in the tender floated by the UP government on March 7.
This is the second such scheme that the state government came up with. Earlier, in August 2019, after the sudden rise in incidents of cattle deaths in Uttar Pradesh’s shelters, a phenomenon which had been happening for three years prior to it, there was another scheme. The Adityanath government decided to give Rs 900 per month to individuals, farmers and organisations that were prepared to take care of stray cattle. However, less than a year after the scheme was launched, several farmers and cattle experts now claim that the scheme will fail.
FAILURE OF ADITYANATH’S COW SHELTER SCHEME?
Ever since the Adityanath government came to power, cow protection has been prioritised in the state.
In May 2019, the BJP government in the state imposed a cow cess to fund the maintenance of cow shelters. A cess of 0.5% was levied on toll tax collected by government agencies. In addition, mandi cess was also increased from 1% to 2%.
The state government had also allocated Rs 447 crores for setting up cow shelters under the state budget for the financial year 2019- 20. The amount allotted included Rs 247 crores for maintenance of cow shelters in rural areas and Rs 200 crores for the Kanha Gaushala Scheme. However, when government failed to control the stray cattle menace, giving sleepless nights to farmers and leading to an increase in road accidents on the Agra-Lucknow expressway, they came up with the other scheme of giving out Rs 900 to individuals for cow protection.
Meanwhile, in a press release, the UP government had acknowledged that keeping stray cattle in government-run shelters is proving to be a major problem in terms of the upkeep of the animals.
As per 2012 Livestock Census, there are 205.66 lakh cattle in the state of which between 10 and 12 lakh are strays.
That the cow shelters still lack facilities, is evident from the fact that dozens of cows had died in cow shelters due to lightning and rains, sparking public outrage.
Commenting on the government's recent move, Rakesh Singh, a farm leader, told NewsClick that the government does not have a concrete plan to stop the cow menace and that their supposed love for the animal is a mere “show off. First, they made gaushalas where farmers could put animals they had caught but since there was no solid plan, it failed. Their next step, where they asked farmers and individuals to take care of animals for Rs 900 per month also failed as the amount was too low,” he added. Singh, a resident of Bansgaon in Gorakhpur said that with this new scheme, the “Yogi government is making fun of both farmers and the unemployed youth of the state.”
Rajvir Singh Mundet, a Shamli-based social worker and the state president of Bharatiya Kisan Mazdoor Sanyukt Union, told NewsClick that this is a mere ploy by the government “to distract the country from core issues. They are not stray cattle but animals who are no longer useful and this is the reason why neither the government nor farmers want to keep them.”
Mundet added that unemployed youth and sons of farmers get an education according to their capabilities and dream of living the good life similar to those from elite classes but “Yogi government wants them to run into jungles and catch not one or two stray cattle, but a hundred. Isn't this government making fun of poor people, farmers and unemployment youth?” he asked.
Elaborating, he added that a few years ago, the BJP government banned slaughterhouses in the state with the connivance of slaughterhouse owners so that they could avail of meat at a cheaper price. “And now, in the interest of the owners of the same slaughterhouses, the government is giving license to farmers and youth to catch stay cattle and provide them to slaughterhouse owners under this new scheme,” he added.