In Uttar Pradesh, it is increasingly clear that it is better to be a cow than a human being. On Monday, while the nation watched with keen interest the Gujarat election result, the UP government keenly proceeded with this most important agenda of looking after its cows. It announced that every district would have a Gau Sanrakshan Samiti
(Cow Protection Committees) consisting of the District Magistrate, the SP, the District Development Officer and two "cow lovers" chosen from cow-loving associations.
Imagine the plight of these poor officers, already burdened with maintaining law in order in unmanageably large districts, 33 of them with populations above 3 million. In fact, the biggest districts in UP have populations that exceed that of New Zealand; and the crime graph in UP is constantly moving upwards. Even RSS Chief Mohan Bhagat criticized the law and order situation in the state when he met Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in September. Now, in addition to maintaining some semblance of law and order and spearheading development programmes, these three key officers of the district will now be additionally be burdened with protecting cows, maintaining cow shelters and marketing (!) cow produce, such as incense sticks and mosquito coils!
If this weren't poison enough, they will be subject to the constant supervision and nagging of these two "cow lovers" on the committee who will presumably soon want a car with a driver and peon and a siren and a blue light to efficiently perform their duties. After all these are jobs for the "boys" who helped the BJP come to power.
All this would be funny if it weren't so tragic. UP is amongst the poorest states in India with one third of 210 million+ people below the official poverty line (and that line is pretty low in itself). That's a whopping 70 million people (more than the population of the UK) who don't earn enough to feed and look after themselves in a manner befitting a human being and yet, they must take second place to cows!
And they are. UP, which has a huge informal sector that produces handicrafts, has already suffered huge setbacks because of demonetization and GST, putting the livelihood of millions at stake. Shouldn't the government have made efforts to support and market those products, rather than pushing cow dung?
While the government crusades on about protecting cows, it conveniently forgets that the Indian cow is the least efficient producer of milk, and the milk it produces does not match the quality or quantity of buffalo milk. And where there are cows producing abundant milk, they are from imported or cross breeds and not that delicate India cow, which presumably is sacred because of the milk it gives us. In UP, buffaloes provide 70% of the milk, a much higher proportion than in the country as a whole. So if the government were doing something for buffaloes, at least there would be some economic reason to the move.
And talking economics, the economics of cattle-rearing and breeding also involved selling off the older stock. Now they can't, and since they can't, farmers don't want to keep cows because they don't recover their investment just by milking cows. They make money when cattle is sold. Now that owners cannot sell them, they release them, creating a huge uncared for cattle population.The Times of India
reported that as a result, in Jaipur, the gaushalas
were overwhelmed with double their capacity at 14,000, costs of Rs 3 crore a month, and 8,000 cows died of malnutrition. That's more than Rs 2,000 a month per cow. To put that in context, the central government's National Old Age pension Scheme provides for Rs 200 per month. Obviously, the elderly are less important than cows in India.
It is completely ridiculous that UP, which is one of India's most backward, least developed and maladministered states, is willing to burden its already overwhelmed bureaucracy with schemes that do not benefit the electorate but meet some religious goal post. It is unacceptable for the UP government to divert scare resources from a poverty-struck populace.
The UP, and other cow belt, state governments should carefully watch and see if milk production starts to fall as less farmers are willing to add to their cattle. If that happens, it will be a tragedy, as milk production provided marginal farmers and rural India a means of livelihood. India's white revolution should not be reversed by saffron road blocks.(Ishwari Bajpai is Senior Advisor at NDTV.)Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.