Officials in Uttar Pradesh are yet to complete the relocation of stray cattle to shelter homes, even as the deadline set by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for shifting the bovines to proper facilities ended January 10.
On January 3, Yogi Adityanath had given district magistrates about a week to ensure stray cattle across Uttar Pradesh are shifted to cow shelters with fences and veterinary care.
He had issued the direction during a video-conference with the DMs, amid reports that stray cattle were destroying crops. Farmers in some parts of Uttar Pradesh had reportedly herded stray cattle into places like government schools to save their crops.
“Work is going on at all the places on war footing. All the district magistrates (DMs) are adopting innovative ways and means as per their local needs to implement the policy,” a senior official of the state animal husbandry department told news agency PTI.
He added that some of the innovative models that the department has come across are from Lalitpur, Etawah and Firozabad districts.
“Under the Lalitpur model, a cow shelter is being run and managed with public partnership. In Firozabad, funds under MGNREGA have been used for this purpose, while in Etawah district, a good mechanism has been developed to identify stray cattle, and provision made with the help of locals to arrange for fodder,” the official said, requesting anonymity.
Temporary shelters for cows have been identified at the district, village and panchayat levels. Work is going on in several areas to establish shelters, he said.
On when all the cow shelters will become operational, the official said, “This is a continuous process, and every district has its own local needs. On an average a shelter at the village or panchayat level will have a capacity to hold 50-100 cattle.”
The directives to the DMs were issued following a meeting on December 26 when Yogi Adityanath had directed the officials to make immediate arrangements for proper care of stray cows and asked the chief secretary to present recommendations within a week.
On why cattle was being abandoned, the official said, “The problem is at places where there is low productivity, and the animals have turned out to be economically non-viable asset.”
“Why are buffaloes or goats not left by their owners. In Bundelkhand, there is ”anna pratha”,(mainly during summer), in which farmers let loose their cattle, especially unproductive and pregnant cows, to graze freely,” the animal husbandry official said.
The chief minister had also told the DMs to ensure that farmers and others do not face any problems due to stray cattle. The district magistrates should impose fines on those who come to the shelters to claim their cows after abandoning them, Yogi Adityanath had directed.
The Basti district administration has started a helpline for people to report stray cattle.
“Many people narrate to me stories of stray cattle that have been left in the open by their owners. They also tell about how they (the cattle) escaped an accident or how they were hit by a speeding vehicle.
“In these circumstances, the public does not know where to call for assistance,” said Basti District Magistrate Raj Shekhar.
The ”cattle conservation” helpline is 05542-245555, he said.
The chief minister had also said that funds allotted for cow welfare — Rs 60 crore in 2017-18 and Rs 95 crore in 2018-19 — should be used effectively.
The Uttar Pradesh government also decided to levy a 0.5 per cent cow welfare cess on some public sector undertakings to help construct and maintain more cow shelters.