LUCKNOW: Uttar Pradesh’s Yogi Adityanath-led government, grappling with a serious problem of stray cattle destroying standing crops in fields across the state leading to a backlash from farmers, has now come up with a new scheme for stray cattle that it says will generate employment opportunities too.
The state government today approved the Mukhya Mantri Be-sahara Gau-Vansh Sahbhagita Yojana. In Phase 1 of this scheme, the government says, over one lakh cattle currently in government-run shelters will be handed over to willing farmers or other people willing to take care of them after due process. The person who takes over will be paid Rs. 30 per animal per day, every month via direct bank transfer, which works out to be about Rs. 900 per month.
In a press release, the UP government acknowledged that keeping stray cattle in government-run shelters is proving to be a headache. The government said there are 205.66 lakh cattle in the state, according to a 2012 census, of which there are about 10-12 lakh estimated stray cattle in UP at the moment. The government says there are 523 registered gaushalas or cow shelters in the state at present and more are being built.
This new scheme will cost the government Rs. 109 crore in the first phase. In the press release, the government has claimed the scheme will lead to the eradication of the stray cattle problem and increased employment opportunities.
In the 2019-20 budget, the state government allocated an unprecedented Rs. 600 crore for cattle welfare as opposed to the Rs. 500 crore earmarked for improving the infrastructure of primary and higher primary schools. It included Rs. 250 crore for the construction and upkeep of cattle shelters in rural areas, besides an additional Rs. 200 crore for the same work in urban regions. A liquor cess was expected to generate additional revenue of Rs. 165 crore to feed the bovines.
However, the numbers don’t seem to add up on the ground. Images of dead cows in state-run cattle shelters across Mirzapur and Ayodhya in July sparked outrage, forcing the government to suspend eight officials and issue warnings to others across Uttar Pradesh.