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Known for punitive policies, Yogi govt fails to solve 'enormous' stray cattle menace

By Sandeep Pandey* 

The problem of stray cattle is so severe in Uttar Pradesh that the new Chief Secretary in his first press conference asked the District Magistrates to run a special drive from January 1 to 10, 2022, to catch all stray cattle. Realising that ten days period was not enough for this purpose he extended it by a week.
A farmers’ organization, Socialist Kisan Sabha, had been running a campaign in Hardoi, Unnao and Barabanki Districts for a year to take cattle from the villages to Lucknow to tie them at Yogi Adityanath’s residence. Every time villagers would start marching towards Lucknow from these neighbouring districts the police and administration would intervene and bring vehicles to transport the cattle to nearby gaushalas.
This campaign had intensified towards end of December 2021 and villagers in many villages of Bharawan Block of Hardoi had gathered cattle numbering anywhere from 20-25 to 250-300 in the hope that administration will take them away. On January 1, 4 and 5 villagers from different villages started marching towards Chief Minister’s residence.
The Hardoi district administration was caught off-guard. They were simply not prepared to handle the number of cattle that had been collected by people in different villages. The officials started making empty promises. Ultimately the pressure was brought upon the lowest level people’s representative, the Gram Pradhans, to start temporary gaushalas in their Panchayats.
In 2021 after the campaign on stray cattle was launched by SKS, the Sub Divisional Magistrate of Sandila Tehsil had taken a decision to create permanent gaushalas in seven Gram Panchayats – Saiyyapur, Mahuadanda, Danda, Jajupur, Baheria, Sagar Gadhi and Jagsara. However, the Land Management Committees of these GPs refused to pass a resolution to this effect as the Gram Pradhans were reluctant.
Pradhans do not trust the administration when it comes to receiving funding to run these gaushalas. Gram Pradhan of Sahangwa, Mohammad Saeed, shares his experience of how he had to spend from his pocket to run the gaushala before the district administration decided to compensate only a partial amount.
The Pradhans feel that once they take up the responsibility of setting up a gaushala and do not receive sufficient government funding, the cattle would be starved. Nobody wants to take a blame if cows die in gaushalas.
The State government advertises that Rs 30 will be sanctioned for every stray cattle for a day but the funding is elusive. The fact is if a farmer goes with his unproductive cattle to a gaushala he may be asked to pay a bribe of Rs 200-500 to deposit his cattle there. The people employed as caretakers of these gaushalas do not receive their honorarium regularly.
As a result they have no option after sometime but to release the cattle so that they can fend for themselves. This cattle then moves around devouring the crops of farmers. The farmers are a harassed lot. They have to keep awake all night to save their crops. Some had put a bladed wire fence around their fields which was banned by the U.P State government.
The Yogi government is known for its punitive policies. Instead of trying to solve the problem of stray cattle they decided to punish the farmer by imposing a penalty on them for putting up bladed wire fence.
As soon as the Yogi government came to power the intention of the state to protect cows was declared letting loose cow vigilantes who would attack anybody moving with cows assuming that they were being taken to slaughter houses. The cattle trade came to an abrupt end and the stray cattle became a menace for farmers even in 2017.
The Rs 6,000 Kisan Samman Nidhi being given to famers annually in three installments may be viewed as a compensation for the damage being caused by the stray cattle. However, the actual compensation would be much greater. Considering that 18-20 quintals of paddy or wheat may be grown in an acre, at the Minimum Support Price, the farmer should be compensated at the rate of Rs. 40,000 per acre. The Kisan Samman Nidhi is merely safety valve to keep farmer’s anger in check.
Existing gaushalas are running to full capacity, the stray cattle would be dropped in the middle of nowhere
When the farmers started marching towards CM’s residence with stray cattle in big numbers, the administration would bring vehicles and load the cattle on them but with nowhere to go as all existing gaushalas are running to their full capacity, the cattle would be dropped in the middle of nowhere, thus merely shifting the problem from one village to another.
The magnitude of the problem is enormous. By one estimate on the border of Hardoi-Sitapur districts near the banks of Gomti river thousands of cattle are roaming free. In a hopeless situation the farmers have left their fields fallow. The government simply doesn’t have enough space in the gaushalas to keep all the stray cattle and neither does it have the resources to build so many gaushalas.
The entire point of the bringing to halt the cattle trade was to stop cow slaughter. But the cows are dying of starvation in gaushalas and by accidents on highways. On January 8 three among the hundred cattle collected by people in Mohammadapur village died, under the watch of government veterinary doctor, as the ferocious among them had attacked the weaker in a closed space.
On January 12, 35-40 cattle were found dead on the banks of Gomti river near Terwa Ghat who were quickly disposed off by the police of Atrauli Police Station, lest it became a controversy. The Hardoi district administration claimed that these dead cattle had come floating in river from upstream. The cause of death remains a mystery.
The Yogi government has failed in its prime objective of saving the cattle. Instead it has created a monstrous problem for the farmers. The problem is unmanageable for the government. The officials are reluctant and resources are scarce.
The only way to give relief to the farmers is to either directly compensate at the rate of Rs 30 per cattle per day through Direct Bank Transfer or open the cattle trade. For the offenders the government may use the law against cow slaughter. But in the name of protecting cows the farmer cannot be allowed to suffer further.
---
*Magsaysay award winning scholar-activist, General Secretary, Socialist Party (India)

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