The Uttar Pradesh government has set a target of providing shelter to at least 10 stray cows daily in each of the 75 districts of the state where roving herds of cattle was a potent issue during the recent Assembly election.
According to Uttar Pradesh Animal Husbandry Minister Dharampal Singh, the state currently has 6,222 cow shelters housing 8.55 lakh homeless cattle. While stating that 66,000 shelterless bovine animals have been rehabilitated in the state since April this year, he said huge cow shelters are being built at the block level where 400 animals can be kept.
There are 225 such shelters in Uttar Pradesh and the plan is to take this number to 280 by the end of this year, the minister said, adding that the work is being done on a war-footing as every district has been assigned a target to rehabilitate at least 10 stray bovines every day.
”Livestock is considered above any other possession in Indian heritage. Even among livestock, cows come before any other animal or even gold or property. We are working to provide the safety and respect that ‘gaumata’ deserves,” Dharampal Singh told PTI.
According to 2019 data from the Union Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Uttar Pradesh has 11,84,494 stray cattle, the highest in the country.
Besides posing a threat to commuters on roads, these roaming animals also damage crops. So acute is the problem that it had given the opposition ammunition to attack the BJP government in the state in the recently concluded assembly polls.
The government has identified 65 lakh hectare of pasture lands across the state, most of which has been encroached for private farming or other activities. A process is underway to clear such lands and make those available for growing cattle fodder, the Uttar Pradesh minister said.
”We are working to rehabilitate more and more stray cattle in cow shelters across the state and are working to make these shelters self-reliant,” Singh said, adding the state government constructing cow shelters in every district and block.
”Close to 90 per cent of the work for rehabilitating stray cattle in the state has been completed and the remaining will be done by the end of this year,” he said.
Asked about arrangements to feed such a large number of animals in the shelters, the animal husbandry minister mentioned a two-pronged strategy of buying fodder from the market and receiving donations from the people.
”Fodder banks have been set up in every district where people can donate fodder. We are also purchasing fodder from the market for these shelters,” he said.
The state animal husbandry department, in collaboration with the local administration, has arranged 3,38,996.1 tonnes of fodder since April. Of this, 2,91,409.4 tonnes has been bought and 47, 604.3 tonnes received by way of donation. About long-term arrangements, Singh said, ”We have identified 65 lakh hectares of pasture lands in the state. Most of this land has been encroached upon for private farming or other activities.
”We have started the process of clearing these pasturelands of encroachments and use them exclusively to grow cattle fodder,” he added.
The department has also started a scheme where a person can keep stray cattle at their house or farm and is paid Rs 30 per animal daily.
According to data from the animal husbandry department, a total of 1.38 lakh stray cattle are currently accommodated under this scheme.
”A good number of stray cattle are of low milk yielding species which can be given to poor families who can care for them and get milk,” Singh said.
About the long-term plans, he said, “The plan is to build bigger shelter homes, at least one in each district, where 2,000 or more cattle can be kept. These shelters will be made self-reliant, using animal products.” The department aims to set up a plant to make CNG from cow manure and process milk and urine for sale in the market, the minister said.
A senior official of the Animal Husbandry Department said several big private firms have shown interest in setting up CNG plants or processing units at these shelters.