Furthering its cow protection agenda, the Yogi Adityanath government has mooted the concept of ‘cow safaris’ in Uttar Pradesh to make stray cow shelters economically viable.
UP animal husbandry and dairy development minister Chaudhary Laxmi Narayan has directed officials to identify suitable land across the state for setting up ‘cow safaris’, and to forward the proposals for vetting and approval.
Akin to any wildlife or animal safari, the ‘cow safaris’ would be set up over sprawling compounds in the select districts, with the cow allowed to graze freely, while the people could visit such spots.
In UP Budget 2019-20, the government had allocated nearly Rs 600 crore for setting up and maintaining cow shelters. Besides, a special cess has been imposed on beer and foreign liquor apart from 2% ‘mandi’ cess to create a corpus for cow protection.
Earlier, the chief minister had also espoused the idea of developing ‘cow safaris’ in all the major cities. However, now the state government is set to take concrete steps to take the idea forward towards fruition.
Reviewing the progress of projects for the conservation of stray cattle, the minister instructed officials to involve private trusts, non-government organisations (NGOs) and community entities in the task of cow protection and their shelter.
Meanwhile, the minister expressed displeasure on the sluggish pace of progress and warned officials for expediting the pending works. He further directed officials to ensure that each cow shelter being set up has the capacity to accommodate about 400 cattle.
At present, there are nearly 6,000 public and private cow shelters in UP, housing more than 400,000 cattle heads even as more permanent and temporary cow shelters have been proposed to increase the composite accommodation capacity.
While, there are 5,000 temporary cow shelters having roughly 300,000 cattle, there are 92 ‘kanha gaushalas’ run by state municipal bodies, housing nearly 21,000 cattle. Besides, 434 ‘kanji house’ (stray cattle houses) are operational in UP, which have more than 3,600 cattle. In this manner, the total strength of stray cattle living in government supported cattle shelters stands around 330,000.
Besides, there are 515 privately run cattle shelters operating in UP, having roughly 75,000 cattle. These private entities are also eligible for the state sponsored cattle fodder aid.
The Adityanath government has been exploring several many ways to make these cow shelters self sustaining and economically viable.
For example, the state is working closely with the union petroleum ministry for setting up greenfield biofuel plants across all the 75 districts. These plants, which are proposed to be integrated with the stray cattle shelters, would utilise animal, agricultural and solid waste for producing biofuel.
The state government has also promised to pay Rs 900 per cow per month for fodder to small farmers taking care of stray cattle.