In Chhitaun village in Varansi district cows suffer amongst blame games.
The administration in Chhitaun village of Varanasi district failed to care and provide for about 50 cows which had been rounded up and confined by the farmers. The cattle were put in an enclosure as a measure to stop them from destroying crops. There have been around 10 deaths reported from starvation, neglect, overcrowding and possibly disease.
“I noticed the cows about a month back. They were probably there from much earlier. The farmers kept putting the cows in, a few at a time. Nobody is looking after them and around ten have died.” Said Rajesh Singh from the village as he stood outside the boundary wall. A rotting carcass lay inside amongst the livestock in the enclosure.
UP has the highest number of cattle and animal livestock. And there is a significant portion of stray or abandoned cattle in that. They cause extensive destruction to crops which require farmers to take special measures to protect the crops, thereby increasing the cost of farming. Usually, the farmers would fence them behind barbed wire or lock them inside primary schools. For years, the villagers themselves pitched in to take care of these animals but caring for stray cattle is estimated to cause a loss of Rs 60 per day per animal. A cost that a cash-strapped rural economy cannot afford it.
To resolve this, and to bolster its promise of cow protection, the government created a two-part solution. The first included social participation where administration identified people willing to care for stray cattle in exchange for a stipend of Rs 30 per day per animal. And creating temporary and permanent shelters for them. With 631 crores for cow-related schemes, the UP government has the highest budget for it. However, in Chhitauni village, there is still no cow shelter.
Manju Devi, the village Pradhan, says that the villagers were doing their bit in giving the animals clean water but they could not provide the feed consistently. “The kids from the village helped in carrying the feed and bringing water to the animals. I don’t really know what caused their death.”, says farmer Ram Ji Ram from Chhitauni. The villagers had hoped that the new processes would relieve them of the financial and physical burden of the stray cattle. “I informed the police about month ago about the cattle enclosure.”, says Ajay Gupta. “Instead of listening to me and acting on that information, they threated to file a FIR against me. I was told to call the Prime Minister to get something done about the cattle.” After much efforts, the BDO, the Veterinary Officer, the SDM and the Joint Magistrate had inspected the enclosure and assured the villagers that the cattle would be moved to the appropriate shelters soon. The reality is that the few cow shelters that are functional are overburdened.
As per Ramesh Yadav, Chhitanui’s District Panchayat Member, the administration arranged for a single truck to transport all 200 cattle to the Chhanhi Aashray Kendra but the truck returned as is because of some internal issues at the shelter. “Nobody would pack even sacks the way the poor animals had been loaded onto the truck. Many cows had been trampled to death in the confined quarters.”. The culpability is solely the administration’s, he claims. After the death of the animals, the district administration has instructed the Village Pradhan to take over the care of the animals.
The situation was poorly managed right from the beginning, with everyone refusing to take responsibility of the animals. Everyone fears repercussions because of the government’s strong stance against cruelty to cows. The villagers, who historically have always dealt with the situation on their own, were hoping to get some much-needed help from the administration. In turn, the administration was at a complete loss to provide any sustainable solutions due to lack of process and infrastructure. And it has taken the death of ten animals to manage the situation. And still the animals’ plight is far from over. Yogi government’s rallying cry to honour and protect cows has roused many emotions but failed to create a responsible system that can actually carry out this promise. In Chhitauni village, one only has to step inside the enclosure to hear the animals baying for help.