Yogi grants crores for cows
The Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh has given Rs 10 crore to each of the state’s municipal corporations to construct sheds for stray cattle, drawing fresh criticism that the ruling BJP was trying to milk cow protection for political gain.
The amount of Rs 160 crore for the 16 nagar nigams (corporations) is in addition to the Rs 1.2 crore that each of the state’s 75 districts have got for building new shelters for cows and oxen.
Last year, 69 of the 653 urban local bodies in the state had been chosen for construction of new cowsheds and funds of Rs 10 lakh to Rs 30 lakh had been released to each of these bodies.
But only two districts — Lucknow and Bareilly — have been able to complete constructions within the one-year deadline, according to government reports.
“BJP MLAs had recently informed the chief minister that stray animals, particularly cows and oxen, were damaging standing crops across the state. They were also a major reason for road accidents. The chief minister took a fresh decision on Monday to release more funds to protect stray cattle,” an officer of the animal husbandry department said, requesting not to be named.
Chief secretary Anup Chandra Pandey, who held a videoconference last week with divisional commissioners and district magistrates, had briefed them about the government’s plan and asked them to ensure that cattle were not harassed. He had also sought a block-wise report on plans to protect cows and oxen.
A source in the government said that besides the fresh initiatives, rural development commissioner Nagendra Prasad Singh had a fortnight ago written to each block asking the local officers (BDOs) to arrange for cowsheds and grazing grounds, adding that Adityanath would reward blocks that were doing a good job of protecting cows. Uttar Pradesh has 823 blocks.
Adityanath’s latest moves come at a time Opposition parties have alleged that the BJP government was focusing more on cows than on human lives.
Actor Naseeruddin Shah too had said in a video last week that in many areas the “death of a cow is more significant than that of a police officer”. The actor was referring to the December 3 Bulandshahr violence when a police officer and a local youth were killed by a mob after cow carcasses were found in a village field.
One of the main accused, Yogesh Raj, the district convener of the Bajrang Dal, and some others are still at large. The police have, however, been focusing on who slaughtered the cows.
Sanjay Sharma, a BJP MLA, said: “The cow is directly related to our religion. It must be protected.”
Dwijendra Tripathi, spokesperson for the Uttar Pradesh Congress, agreed that cows should be protected. “But humans cannot be killed in the name of cow protection. There were already defunct cowsheds in the state. The government should have renovated them instead of constructing new cowsheds for political mileage,” Tripathi said.