Stray cattle have long been a bane for farmers in the state who are forced to guard their fields at all times of the day and night for fear of destruction of crops by the animals. Many have met with accidents, some even death in face-offs with the cattle, and their plight was one of the most prominent talking points against the BJP in the recent assembly election, also prompting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make assurances regarding its resolution as soon as the BJP came to power again.
The government has now kicked off work, with regular discussions being undertaken and presentations in front of the chief minister as the party would not want the issue to be discussed again in the run-up to the 2024 general election. According to the livestock census that was conducted in 2019, there were more than 1.18 million stray cattle in the state in 2019. State officials claim that about 950,000 of these have been sheltered.
One of most important plans it is working on is building cow sanctuaries in forested areas and lands owned by the forest department. A big advantage of bringing cattle here would be the naturally existing forage that they can feed on, thus solving the problem of shortage of fodder that many existing cattle shelters in the state suffer from, leading also to death of cows due to starvation. Land is being identified in districts such as Unnao, Lakhimpur Kheri, Bahraich and Shahjahanpur, a senior official at the animal husbandry department of the state told ET.
While it also plans to make 20 additional ‘vrihad’ (large) cow protection centres, to make the about 6,200 existing cow shelters self-sufficient, the government is exploring commercial uses of cow dung and urine. The department is trying to rope in private players to isolate CNG from biogas made out of cow dung and is already being approached by prominent firms, said the official. Secondly, association with women’s self-help groups is also being looked at to convert to make products out of cow dung and urine such as firewood, phenyl and panchgavya (an organic product made of five cow derived products – dung, urine, curd, milk and ghee – that is used in Hindu rituals).