At a time when the Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government has failed to tackle the increasing instances of cow vigilantism and lynchings in the name of alleged cow slaughter, it has introduced a 'cow cess' on certain items under the excise department.
On Tuesday, January 1, the Uttar Pradesh cabinet cleared a proposal to levy a 2% 'cow welfare cess'. At a cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Adityanath, a proposal was ratified to open cowsheds in all districts, gram panchayats, municipalities, municipal corporations and other local bodies. The sheds will be constructed under the MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) for which the government has sanctioned Rs 100 crore to local bodies. To be referred as the 'cow welfare cess', the tax will facilitate construction of shelters for about 1,000 stray animals in every district.
A government official told mediapersons that in every district, both in urban and rural areas, a cowshed with a capacity of minimum 1,000 animals will be built and for this a total of 2% "cow welfare cess" will be imposed on excise, mandi parishad, profitable corporations and others.
Even though Adityanath has time and again spoken about his concern for cows since he took charge of the state in March 2017, this decision outmatches everything in the past. The UP government's proposed "cow cess" comes in the backdrop of recent incidents of attacks on the police by cow vigilantes. Three incidents have taken place in the last one month, wherein a police inspector Subodh Kumar Singh was killed by a Right-wing mob which gathered to complain about police inaction against cow slaughter in Bulandshahr.
Shadab, a farmer from Siddharthnagar district told NewsClick, "Any policy cannot be successful unless it can help the common people. Opening one shelter in every district will not help, as there are more than 10,000 stray cattle in my district and the situation is same in every district. If you really have a concern for cows, then at least 7-10 shelter houses are needed in every district and 20 people to look after the cows and two-three doctors for medical check-up. But the government does not have any plan to tackle this.”
When asked about the kinds of problems they face when stray cows destroy their crops, he said, "People remain awake the entire night in this chilling weather to guard against cows entering the fields. Some people have made thatched shelters in their fields in order to maintain all night vigil. But after working so hard, our pain is being ignored and our pleas are just falling on deaf ears. The government can provide us 'solar fencing' or 'electric fencing' to protect our fields as the farmers cannot afford such equipment. However, the government is hardly interested in solving our problems.”
Sympathising with the farmers, Samajwadi Party (SP) spokesperson, Abdul Hafiz Gandhi, said: “In the longer run, no government would be financially capable of maintaining cow shelters. We have seen this in the recent past in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, where we found too many dead cows in government-maintained cow shelters. The government should give financial allowance to farmers to take care of unyielding cattle which are abandoned by their owners. These cattle are wreaking havoc in rural areas causing much damage to crops."
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