A liberal Budget of more than Rs 600 crore and a special cess on foreign liquor helped the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to speedily tame the ‘stray cattle menace’ in Uttar Pradesh before it magnified the farm distress narrative in the crucial election season.
At present, there are about 6,000 public and private cow shelters in the state, housing more than 400,000 cattle heads, while more shelters have been proposed.
In the run-up to polls, when the Opposition was targetting the Yogi Adityanath government over farm distress and damage to cash crops by abandoned cattle, the saffron party had started to anticipate a backlash in the rural constituencies.
The stray cattle menace had compounded when the Adityanath government, after coming to power in March 2017, banned illegal slaughterhouses. This resulted in large number of non-milching cattle being abandoned by farmers to fend for themselves, thus damaging crops in rural areas and spreading out on roads in cities causing accidents and traffic snarls.
Although, UP ministers, including Adityanath, always tried to downplay the phenomenon by blaming the opposition for allegedly raking up the issue disproportionately, the party soon realised the gravity of the situation, when instances of farmers’ protests against stray cattle begin to rise. In many cases, farmers even locked stray cattle in the government offices, schools and post offices, thus causing law and order problems.
Soon, the BJP government announced to hike the budgetary allocation towards cow shelters and setting up of temporary sheds by converting a portion of derelict government buildings, schools, sugar mills etc.
UP animal husbandry department director Charan Singh Yadav told Business Standard currently 5,076 temporary cow shelters in UP housed more than 307,000 cattle. Besides, there were 92 ‘kanha gaushalas’ run by local municipal bodies, which housed more than 20,500 cattle.
“Additionally, there are 434 ‘kanji house’ (stray cattle houses) operational in UP, which housed another 3,603 cattle. This way, the total number of stray cattle housed in such government supported cattle shelters is more than 330,000,” he informed.
Besides, there are 515 privately run cattle shelters in the state, which housed nearly 75,000 cattle. These units are also provided financial support to buy fodder for animals.
In the UP Budget 2019-20, the Adityanath government had proposed an allocation of Rs 247 crore for the maintenance and construction of ‘gaushalas’ (cow shelters) in rural areas.
Besides, for the ‘kanha gaushalas’ and urban cow shelters, the government has proposed another Rs 200 crore. Under the special cess on the sale of foreign liquor, Rs 165 crore would be used for the upkeep of such stray cattle in this fiscal.
“A Budget of nearly Rs 250 crore is available for the upkeep of cattle shelters and more funds would be available in coming months,” Yadav added.