The Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh seems to have once again acknowledged the serious stray cattle issue across the state by allocating a massive budget for cow welfare pegged at over Rs 500 crore. This is at least two times more than the corresponding allocation by the state government last year.
Of the Rs 613 crore allocated for cow welfare in UP Budget 2019, Rs 165 crore (from a special cess on liquor sales) will be used for maintenance of destitute cattle of the state. Another Rs 248 crore will be used for maintenance and construction of gaushalas or cowsheds in rural areas while Rs 200 crore have been allotted for the same activity in urban areas.
In 2018-19, just Rs 5.16 crore were allocated under the head 'strengthening of gaushlas', and Rs 17.52 crore were allocated for stray cattle management. Another Rs 92 crore were given for the establishment of cow protection centres in Bundelkhand area while Rs 20 crore were given for the setting up of a Gau Seva Aayog . The total budget for these activities was Rs 136 crore.
In the last few months, farmers across the state have been up in arms over a massive stray cattle problem. Farmers say stray cows are eating up their crop in the fields and leading to massive losses. In the last two months, desperate farmers have locked up cows in schools and other government buildings in villages, in some cases physically preventing classes from taking place.
The Yogi Adityanath government responded by asking for police FIRs against anyone locking up cows in schools or government buildings, but a report in the Indian Express says the police have started closing cases against farmers after facing huge public resentment and anger.
The chief minister had directed all government district magistrates to ensure stray cattle across Uttar Pradesh are shifted to cow shelters with fences and veterinary care by mid-January, but anecdotal evidence from different districts suggests the problem still persists. Heading into an election year and facing angry farmers is a situation the BJP does not want, say party sources, and hence the significantly marked up budgetary provisions.
Since the Yogi Adityanath government took charge in UP last year, it claims to have come down hard on cow smuggling and illegal slaughter-houses. While there are no figures available, anecdotal evidence from various districts suggests ageing cattle are being abandoned by villagers across the state.