To tackle the menace of stray cattle, the Yogi Adityanath-government in Uttar Pradesh has decided to set up ‘temporary’ shelter homes for cows across the State but the costs will be borne by the public in the form of additional ‘cow welfare cess’ on excise items.
In a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the State government decided to introduce an additional levy of up to 0.5% as ‘gau kalyan cess’ on more than half-a-dozen public sector infrastructure departments, including excise, to fund and maintain the project.
The levy imposed on mandi parishads will now be doubled from 1% to 2%, while a cess of 0.5% will be levied on the toll tax collected by the government agencies for travel on State-built roads and highways, and on profits made by the public sector enterprises and construction agencies.
Whether the excise items would include alcohol has not yet been clarified.
The Opposition in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday slammed the decision, saying this would burden the people. “It is the responsibility of the government to protect cows, but I wonder why the people are being burdened,” Samajwadi Party spokesman Rajendra Chaudhary said.
Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati challenged the Centre to impose a similar cess at the national level if the protection of cows can be ensured through such thinking of the BJP and the RSS.
The government decision comes amid reports that farmers staged protests against the growing menace of stray cattle, which raid fields and destroy their crops. Also, the Opposition parties have also regularly blamed the BJP government for the role of the animals in the vehicle accidents.
In a statement, the government said that it has decided to set up ‘asthayi govansh ashray sthal’ or temporary cow shelters in both rural and urban areas with a capacity to house a minimum of 1,000 cows and cow progeny.
These shelters would be made financially ‘self-sustainable’ through sale of milk, dung and compost.
If cattle-rearers and farmers leave their animals in public places, on roads or on the private land of other people, a fine will be imposed on them, the government said. In parts of U.P., there has been a tradition to abandon old or dry cows.
The government has allotted ₹10 crore to each of the 16 municipalities in the State to arrange shelters for destitute cows. “Apart from this, ₹1.2 crore has been given to every district for gau shalas,” said the statement last week.
Mr. Adityanath had then instructed officials to make ‘immediate arrangements’ for proper care of destitute cows in the State and ensure strict action against land mafia who have encroached upon grazing areas.
The CM also instructed officials to make functional the 750 kanji houses (cows shelters) set up at the Zilla Panchayat level, and ensure proper fodder, shed and drinking facilities for the bovines.
(With PTI inputs)