A master ji during the day, Jaykaran Verma is a farmer by night
On chilly winter nights when most people huddle under their quilts, a teacher in Barabanki district in Uttar Pradesh heads out to tend to his farm and protect his crop from the stray cattle. He spends the night in a makeshift machan with his blanket and a torch to keep away stray cattle. Gaon Connection spent a cold January night with Jaykaran Verma on his one acre field.
Virendra Singh 3 Feb 2023 9:55 AM GMT
Nanda Purva (Barabanki), Uttar Pradesh
Jaykaran Verma is a 40-year-old resident of Nanda Purva village in Barabanki district, Uttar Pradesh. Everyone knows him as masterji in the village. He has been a teacher at Parmeshwar Inter College for seven years now.
“He is always on time and I wonder how he manages to be so efficient at his work,” Neeraj Verma, the vice principal of the institute told Gaon Connection. The reason for the vice-principal’s surprise is that though Jaykaran is a Masterji by day, he is also a farmer, who spends his nights in his farmland guarding his crops from the stray cattle. But that does not stop him from having an impeccable attendance record, the vice-principal added.
“Private school teachers are not paid enough. I cannot afford to hire labour to watch my fields. So, comfort is a luxury to me, and I have to work in my field,” the teacher told Gaon Connection.
Jaykaran owns an acre (about half an hectare) of land where he grows crops like mustard and wheat, in order to supplement his income as a teacher.
After returning home from the school at 4 PM Jaykaran has lunch, a short nap before heading to his fields. On the cold night of January 22, he made his way to his land with a torch and a stick in his hand to drive away stray cattle. Not only was the temperature hovering around a cold 10 degrees Celsius, it was also raining. A rude hut with a thatched roof and thin plastic sheet covering it was all the protection he had for the night.
Jaykaran quickly built a small fire with some dried twigs to keep as warm as he possibly could.
“The stray cattle are a constant headache. Their numbers have increased multifold. Jaada, garmi, barsaat [whether it's cold, heat or rain], I have to watch my field at night or else the animals will graze on it and my money and labour would all go to waste,” Verma told Gaon Connection.
At 2.30 AM, Verma made his weary way back home for an all too short sleep. He has to wake up again at 5.30 AM and prepare to go to school, eight kilometres away.
“I just wish I could get more sleep in life,” the exhausted farmer-cum-teacher sighed.
In India’s most populous state Uttar Pradesh, hundreds of thousands of farmers are struggling as their crops are routinely destroyed by the stray cattle. A quick look at the data compiled under the 20th Livestock Census-2019 All India Report reveals the growing problem of stray cattle in Uttar Pradesh.
Whereas the total number of stray cattle in the country has reduced by 3.2 per cent from 2012 to 2019, their population has registered a whopping 17.34 per cent increase in Uttar Pradesh in the same time period. According to the livestock census data for 2019, there were more than 1.18 million stray cattle in the state.
To address the growing problem of stray cattle, the state government has launched a series of schemes and projects. These include setting up of cattle shelters (gaushala), adoption of stray cows, levying taxes, giving stray cows to malnourished families, cow protection centres, and more.