Farmers in Uttar Pradesh’s Hardoi marched with stray cattle, in a protest, on January 1 as they found themselves amidst a cattle menace with an increase in stray animals that destroyed their crops and attacked villagers, as the authorities did little to avert it.
They threatened to tie the stray animals at the chief minister, Adityanath’s residence in Lucknow after the authorities did little to bring them out of the crisis. The farmers also tied the stray cattle inside schools and hospitals in protest, reported Article 14.
The farmers have alleged that due to the state CM’s vow to protect cows, cattle trade markets have collapsed and led to an increase in stray animals, forcing them to keep guard of their crops at all times. They have also reported that the animals not only destroy their crops but are also a threat to human life with an increase in bull attacks, in recent times.
Livestock census of 2019 reflects that cattle rose by 117 percent in rural UP, after the clampdown on trade, fearful of the consequences that one may face under the suspicion of slaughter.
People are afraid to trade in cattle due to a fear of the police and Hindu vigilante groups that attack people under the suspicion of cow slaughter.
“If someone is moving cattle from one village to another for the purpose of the milk trade, police stop them on the way and Gau Rakshaks show up to harass and physically assault the transporters,” merely based on suspicion, Article 14 quoted a cattle farmer, Mohanlal.
Cattle rearing also declined by 2.75 percent between 2012-2019 in UP, however it grew by 1.3 percent, nationally.
“We used to sell away the surplus of cattle in the market and earn money which used to keep us financially stable. Now markets have shut down, so when there is a surplus, we’re forced to leave them on the streets,” added Mohanlal.
The state has also seen a decline in the number of fodder crops grown by farmers as stray animals attacked fields for fodder forcing farmers to make a shift to non-fodder crops. It has also witnessed a rise in the number of stray bull attacks on villagers leaving them severely injured.
Mismanagement by the state government
The BJP led state has spent rupees 1154 cr to make gaushalas (cow-sheds) in the state but most of them allegedly do not operate properly.
“The state has made arrangements for cow shelters around 2-4 kilometers away from the village with a capacity of 500, but, most of them are not functional work with barely 10 animals due to a shortage of fodder. The management gathers photo proofs of over 100 cows in the shelter but they are left free to roam about in the streets the next day,” explained Mohanlal.
However, officials have refuted claims of mismanagement. “I don’t think it’s possible that gaushala managers let the animals out because how will they catch them if there is a surprise inspection?” asked the additional director at the state animal husbandry, Jai Prakash.
Grasslands that sustained a village’s population have also shrunk in the state. Village pastures and open forests have also declined by over 10 percent in 2000-2019, the reason for which is illegal land occupation by those with powerful connections, allege activists.