Seen and herd: Cattle issue losing its poll sting?
Bovine challenge: Official machinery has pulled out all the stops to put over 3.50 lakh stray cattle in the cow shelters that have been arranged all over UP quickly.
Many people believed it to be an exercise in futility or even dismissed it as a laughable act when government staff were seen running amok trying to catch the stray cattle after chief minister Yogi Adityanath set a one-week deadline for the district magistrates to ensure the abandoned cattle were captured and put in cow shelters by January 10.
The action emanated from the BJP government’s desperate bid to avoid growing public anger over the stray cattle menace becoming an issue during the Lok Sabha election in the state.
The ‘futile exercise’ however, appears to have borne fruit well before polls in less than three months with the official machinery pulling out all the stops to have already put over 3.50 lakh stray cattle in the cow shelters that have been arranged all over the state quickly.
“A total 3,52,073 stray cattle have been caught and put in cow shelters in the state since chief minister Yogi Adityanath issued orders in this regard in the first week of January,” principal secretary, animal husbandry, SM Bobde said.
“Of them, 3,26,701 cattle have been put in 5,701 temporary cow shelters alone that have been erected in rural and urban areas during the last two months.”
No wonder, there is now little hue and cry hue over the abandoned bovines in most parts of the state even as the opposition parties are talking of many other issues but the stray cattle menace—the issue they were so vocal about only two-three months ago.
“Catching and putting the stray cattle into cow shelters has certainly ended problem of the herds of abandoned bovine trampling down the standing crops or causing traffic bottlenecks on roads in the area,” said Mahesh Verma of Lakheempur village under Amapur development block in Kasganj district. Only 500 metres away from the Lakheempur village, there exists a temporary cow shelter housing around 400 stray cattle.
For many other villages and cities, the stray cattle menace has been eased but it is not over. For example, in Gorakhpur city that is closely associated with chief minister Yogi Adityanath, of the total 2500 identified stray cattle, the Gorakhpur municipal corporation has so far been able to catch and shift just 800 to three kanji houses (cattle pounds) and Krishna sadan on the outskirt of the city, leaving many stray animals roaming freely at busy streets in markets like Golghar, Gorakhnath, Ghantaghar, Civil Lines etc.
Congress district general secretary Anwar Hussain, who led many protests over stray animals, said: “The BJP Government had made tall promises to take proper care of cattle by shifting them to shelter houses but nothing happened on ground as cows are either made to roam freely on roads like earlier or are left to die at kanji houses due to hunger.” He referred to Bansgaon kanji house where deaths of two cows allegedly due to starvation was reported this week following which a nagar panchayat official was booked.
While reports of death of cattle do come from shelter houses, government claims them to be natural. For example, last week there were reports of around 10 cows in the Mohanlalganj cow shelter in Lucknow with many attributing deaths to starvation. Sub-divisional magistrate, Mohanlalganj, Suryakant Tripathi, however, termed the deaths as “natural”. “No cattle died due to starvation,” he claimed.
“Cattle die mostly of common ailments like the foot-and-mouth disease even when they are kept and fed at home with utmost care,” said Verma, who is also a veterinary practitioner.
A visit to some cow shelters in Kasganj district also showed cattle being kept and fed properly though at some places they have been kept in open too. The scorching sun of the summer will present a challenge. Around 400 cattle have been kept in a make-shift cow shelter on a huge ground with some trees near the Amapur block headquarters with regular and daily supply of fodder and water by the Amapur Nagar Panchayat.
“Dozens of water tanks and around 15 quintal of dry fodder come here for cattle every day,” said Nafees Ahmad, one of the caretakers. He said the question of any cow dying due to starvation did not arise because of regular and strict monitoring.
“But I feel the government must substantially increase the fodder money from ₹30 per animal,” he suggested.
He said a few villagers came and took away an expecting cow for ₹100 after they furnished an affidavit, giving an undertaking that they would keep it well, as per government policy.
“But the number of people taking away cows is far less than those coming to abandon cattle here,” he regretted.
Some 15 km away from Amapur, there is one more cow shelter at Mohanpur, the block headquarters in Kasganj. Most houses in the town may pale into insignificance before this newly built sprawling concrete cow shelter which has two big airy halls housing around 50 cattle each. There are also three halls for keeping fodder apart from a servant room and submersible pump for round the clock supply of water.
“As you can see, cattle live here very comfortably with no shortage of fodder and water,” said Rajkumar, a caretaker.
According to Suryakant Tripathi, SDM, Mohanlalganj, the cows are provided a good diet and water for their survival, besides proper medical care at all the five cow shelters spread over five-six bighas of land.
“This is why these shelters have around 5000 cows in Mohanlalganj area”, he said. The Lucknow Municipal Corporation too is keeping 8600 cows in Kanha Upvan.
“Kanha Upvan houses over 8,600 cows and has the capacity of 10,000. Another cow shelter at Zarahara lodges 600 cows. Besides, 800 cattles are lodged at the gaushala in Janakipuram and 500 cattle are kept at Radha Upvan in Indira Nagar. The LMC has also started the process of developing 93 bigha land adjacent to Kanha Upvan for keeping cows in their natural habitat with the funds of ₹3.12 crore. Here, another 10,000 cows could be kept,” said municipal commissioner Indramani Tripathi.
“A water body will also be developed to take care of the requirement of animals,” he added.
Special secretary, animal husbandry, Arvind Singh who sends a report on cow shelters to the chief minister everyday said, “The government has successfully contained the stray cattle animal menace by catching and confining such animals to cow shelters.”
He claimed officials regularly visited cow shelters to see if cattle were being taken care of properly as per the guidelines.
“We take prompt action whenever a complaint of any laxity is received,” he said.
BJP’s Gorakhpur unit spokesperson Satyendra Sinha said, “The CM’s order to shift stray animals to shelter house and provide them better care has been complied with. The people are happy the way abandoned cows which were left to die under previous regimes are now given due respect and proper care under the BJP government.”
Congress district general secretary Anwar Hussain, who led protests demands that roads be freed of cattle menace, said: “The BJP government made tall promises to take proper care of bovines by shifting them to shelter houses but nothing happened on ground.”
He also referred to Basgaon Kanji house where two cows died recently allegedly due to starvation.
Ear-tagging scheme for livestock is another scheme on the anvil to deal with the problem of stray cattle.
The radio-frequency enabled ear-tag is a 12-digit unique identification number, like the Aadhaar, affixed as a yellow tamper-proof tag inside the ear of animals like cows and buffaloes.
(With inputs from Anupam Srivastava in Lucknow and Abdul Jadid in Gorakhpur)