At this cow shelter in UP, crows nibble into flesh and eyes of near-dead cows
In January, the Yogi Adityanath government decided to open cattle shelters and had allocated Rs 200 crore for the purpose. However, in just six months, the shelters have fallen into disorder. Thousands of cattle have either died or have been let go of. Most cattle shelters have no proper shades, neither is there a provision for sufficient fodder or waterm
Arvind Shukla 19 July 2019 5:48 AM GMT
Arvind Shukla/Diti Bajpai
The ambitious programme of the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh for the welfare of stray cattle is, ironically, causing the death of thousands of them. Rising temperature and hunger caused by the lack of proper facilities at the temporary cattle shelters ordered by the government to be opened across the state have been taking a toll on the animals.
The state government issued a directive on January 10 to open cow shelters in every district following outrage from people due to the problems caused by stray cattle – they destroy crops, forcing farmers to spend sleepless nights in fields, and slow down traffic on busy roads. The state government's crackdown on illegal slaughter houses and the attack on cattle traders worsened the situation.
The Yogi Adityanath government decided to open cattle shelter at the block and nyaya panchayat levels in each district to take care of the animals and allocated Rs 200 crore for the purpose. The aim of the scheme was to capture stray and destitute cattle and keep them in shelters created by fencing waste, infertile and grazing land parcels in village panchayats with barbed wires. The shelters were to be provided with fodder and water for the cattle and the captured cattle were to be tagged to keep a count of them and bulls were to be sterilized/castrated to ensure there is no deterioration in the breed quality.
However, in just six months, the shelters have fallen into disorder. According to villagers in many districts, thousands of cattle have either died or have been let go of. And since the shelters are fenced, the cattle have no way to escape.
"There are many problems plaguing the cattle shelters," says a senior animal husbandry official not wanting to be named. "In April, the temperature had hit 45 degree Celsius. Most cattle shelters had no proper cover, neither was there a provision for sufficient fodder or water. The cattle must have suffered from hyperthermia and dehydration. That is why we are getting reports about their deaths."
The government allocates Rs30 per cattle by levying a cess on agriculture markets (mandi), liquor and toll collections to provide fodder for the cattle and maintain the shelters. This is the main reason why the ambitious programme is faltering. From officials in the animal husbandry department to the village pradhans who create facilities for the cattle shelters, all are unanimous in saying that the amount is too little.
"A cow shelter needs a roof. There should be a bore for water. Now, there is not even a hand pump. Rs 30 for a cattle is too little," says Vivekanand Yadav, the head of the association of pradhans in Mau district. "Also, the money is not made available on time. For a while, the pradhans tried to manage the shelters by shelling out money from their own pockets. They then started letting the cattle go," he says. "This is injustice to the cattle. It is better to let them go instead of making them suffer this high temperature. They are bound to die."
"The DPR (detailed project report) of the scheme itself was flawed," says a senior official requesting anonymity. "How can you take care of a cattle with just Rs30? Who will take care of the cattle in the shelters? Who will offer medical assistance to those that are ailing? The lack of sufficient allowance for caretakers and medical assistance is the reason for the deaths of the cattle."
The third budget of the current government had allocated Rs 612.6 crore for the protection and welfare of cattle, besides for temporary shelters in villages and 'Kanha Gaushala' and 'BesaharaPashuAshray' in urban areas. According to the government, Rs 248 crore has been given to villages.
"Sixty-eight districts in the state were given Rs1 crore each, while the seven districts in Bundhelkhand were given Rs 1.5 crore each," says Charan Singh Yadav, director, administration and development, animal husbandry, Uttar Pradesh. "Till April 30, Rs 33.41 crore has been distributed to these districts. This amount was collected from Mandi Parishad."
Despite crores spent, the problem persists. A survey done by the animal husbandry department said that the state had 7,33,606 stray cattle as on January 31, 2019. A later report of the department said as on April 30, 2019, 3,21,546 cattle were "protected" (housed in temporary shelters). This means there are still about 3 lakh stray cattle. And the poor conditions of the shelter are not helping.
The programme is doing well in places where the local bodies and village pradhans are actively involved in the scheme along with the animal husbandry department. The Kalyanpur gaushala in Lalitpur and another in Basti district are considered model 'gaushaalas'. There is meaningful work happening in some other places too. But, in most places, the shelters are in disarray.
Take, for instance, a shelter in Utrawan village of Mohanlalganjthesil, about 40 km from the Uttar Pradesh Assembly. It had about 400 cows, calves and bulls when it opened. The count is now down to about 20, with three of them in their deathbeds and two calves already dead.
The animals turn weak battling heat and hunger and fall to the ground, attracting crows, which nibble into their flesh and eyes. "It would have been better to send this cow to a slaughterhouse. At least, it would have died in one chop instead of suffering this slow, torturous death," says an elderly person passing by the shelter and looking at a dying cow, anger apparent in his voice. "Many cows die such a painful death here everyday," he says, not wanting to be named.
The shelter has water and cattle fodder, but, except for some trees, it offers no protection from heat. It doesn't even have a caretaker to look after the cattle. The area has pits dug up by JCB machines at many places. It is said that the cattle are buried after their death in the shelter itself.
Children from the village play at the shelter and pluck small raw mangoes. "About 4-5 cattle die here every day," says an eight-year-old boy. He says there is no one to take care of the animals. "There were 400-500 cattle here earlier. At least 100 have died. Many others were shooed away by the pradhan and labourers," he says.
He also points to many spots where dead cattle have been buried. "Even these will die soon," he says pointing to a cow struggling to stay alive in the heat and blood oozing from both its eyes.
Similar is the condition in Girar-Dagdagi villages, in Madawra tehsil of Lalitpur district, about 450 km from Lucknow. A shelter spread over 26.5 acres in the region with a capacity to accommodate about 3,000 cattle is fast becoming a burial ground, say the villagers.
In Imliya village in the same tehsil, Bhan Singh, 32, says, "About 15-20 days ago, 10-20 cattle were dying here daily. The bodies were taken in a tractor and dumped in Dhasan river and canal. Villagers had stopped collecting mahua because of the stink of the bodies. The river had become polluted."
In Sitapur district's Maholi, too, there is no one to take care of the Kanha shelter. When Gaon Connection tried to enter it, the watchman stopped the reporter saying he has been ordered by the district officials not to let anyone in. But when he allowed after a lot of persuasion, Gaon Connection found the cattle inside were being fed just straws. There was no proper facility for their fodder or for them to live.
Animal husbandry officials, responsible for ensuring the welfare of these cattle, complain they are not allowed to do their job. Veterinarians, for instance, are made to do election and other duties, they say.
Read Also in Hindi: यूपी में धीमी मौत मर रहे लाखों गाय-बछड़े, जिंदा गायों की आंखें नोच रहे कौए
"If the cattle are to be taken care of, then veterinarians should be removed from other duties (school inspection, MNREGA, cleanliness)," says UP Veterinary Association president Rakesh Kumar. "There should be a budget for medicines at the cattle shelters – not under MNREGA but as a separate fund. Also, practitioners should be made to stop private practice and made to work in three shifts to take care of the animals."
Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of cattle in India. But the number of veterinarians is far too less to take care of them. "There should be one veterinarian for every 5,000 cattle," says Rakesh Kumar. "But in UP it is one for more than 30,000 cattle. In Karnataka, the state with the lowest cattle population in India, it is one veterinarian for every 7,000 animals. In Uttar Pradesh, over 6,000 graduate veterinarians are jobless."
The government says it is looking to improve the conditions of the shelters. "We recently formed some teams, which have 18 officials of the animal husbandry department. The teams will visit 18 mandals and take stock of the shelters," says Anand Solanki, secretary of GausevaAyog, formed to safeguard cattle and monitor the shelters. He admits the situation now is a cause for concern. "I had visited a shelter in Muradabad recently, where cattle were being fed only straw."