Earlier this month, the UP government announced a 0.5% ‘gau kalyan’ (cow welfare) cess on liquor and road toll collections. It also doubled an existing 1% levy on the incomes of wholesale produce markets, and the proceeds are intended to fund the construction and maintenance of new shelters for cows.
The chief minister had also ordered the district authorities to move all stray cattle to cow shelters.
What actually happened was that in some districts, the rare school and health centre turned into cow shelters. A lot of financial and administrative resources are being taken to promote cow welfare in a state known for its poverty, poor governance and disregard for human rights.
Yogi Adityanath has only created the problem of upkeep and maintenance of cows and bulls by banning their slaughter and stopping slaughter houses from working.
He is now deploying the state administrative machinery and using its resources in the most unproductive ways to solve the problem.
In a state that makes poor budgetary allocation for the health and education of people, and which ranks near the bottom even within the country on most Human Development indices, resources are being raised to take care of cows.
Farmers, who are unable to look after cattle after their productive age is over, are now letting them loose in the village or on the streets.
Some of them have left them in nearby public health centres, schools and other government buildings.
It is not just the ban on slaughter that has led to the surge in cattle population on UP’s streets. Mechanisation of farm-related activities like tilling and irrigation and the spread of artificial insemination have made bulls mostly redundant.
Keeping cattle beyond their productive age strains the budget of farmers, who are even otherwise hit by drought and other natural calamities, low price for their produce and the high cost of loans from money-lenders.
Yogi Adityanth has tried to deal with the disruption of the farmers’ economy with a measure that would disrupt the state’s economy.
At least 25 lakh cattle retire in UP every year and the state will have to take care of them. Very soon, the state will have more cow shelters than schools and hospitals.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath may have thought he had done another service to the cause of cow protection by imposing a new cow cess on the state, but it has now become a hard hitting fact that he has actually done a disservice to the cows, the farmers and the state’s economy.