The Opposition in Uttar Pradesh Wednesday slammed the state government’s decision to levy a cess to fund temporary shelters for cattle, saying this would burden people. The BJP government decided Tuesday to introduce an additional levy of 0.5 per cent as cow welfare cess on eight profit-making public sector infrastructure companies to fund the construction and maintenance of cow shelters. The cess will also apply on travel on some expressways where motorists already pay a toll. In addition `mandi parishads, which have been giving 1 per cent of their income for cow welfare, will now be asked to pay 2 per cent. The Samajwadi Party and the Congress have criticised the move.
“It is the responsibility of the government to protect cows, but I wonder why the people are being burdened,” SP spokesman Rajendra Chaudhary said. UP Congress spokesman Anshu Awasthi said, “The BJP is in power in UP for more than 20 months, but nothing concrete has been done for the cows.” “When the farmers and others are facing immense hardships due to stray cattle, they are now trying to somehow send a message that serious measures are being taken,” he said when contacted. He said the Bharatiya Janata Party had sought votes in the name of the cow and now its government is burdening common people, invoking cows.
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The government will issue a notification within a week on the new cess under its ‘gau kalyan’ scheme, Additional Chief Secretary Awanish Awasthi told PTI, a day after the cabinet approved the scheme to set up the ‘gauvansh ashray sthals’. “Details are being worked out, and it will be implemented as early as possible,” Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath told PTI. UP BJP chief Mahendra Nath Pandey rubbished the opposition criticism, saying the “historic decision” will go a long way in benefitting farmers. He said it will prove to be “the largest scheme in the world” to help farmers save crops from stray cattle. At the same time it will help in the conservation of cattle, he added. The sale of byproducts from cattle will also help make the sheds self-dependent, Pandey said.
The cowsheds will be opened in all villages, panchayats, municipalities, nagar panchayats and municipal corporations. They will have a capacity to hold at least 1,000 animals, officials said. An official said farmers are abandoning their animals because of increasing mechanisation and the new policy will ensure care for the stray animals.
The additional 0.5 per cent cess will be levied along with the toll collected by the Uttar Pradesh Expressways Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA) and similar agencies. Also, 0.5 per cent of the profits made by some PSUs and construction agencies like UP Rajkiye Nirman Nigam and UP State Bridge Corporation will be used to generate funds for the planned cow shelters. The ‘Kanji House’ system for holding impounded cattle would also be revived, officials said. A committee will be set up at block, district and tehsil level for the implementation of the plan. The state government has been under some pressure from farmers protesting over stray cattle destroying their crops. Adityanath recently ordered removal of illegal encroachments to pave the way for fresh grazing grounds.
Over the past week, people in at least two villages in western Uttar Pradesh’s Aligarh and Firozabad districts rounded up stray cattle and locked them up in government schools, refusing to let classes run until the administration did something about the animals. In Aligarh, police stations have started sheltering stray cows after a directive from the district police chief.