Will farmers’ frustration over stray cattle reflect their voting choices? - Hindustan Times
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Will farmers’ frustration over stray cattle reflect their voting choices?

ByBrajendra K Parasha, Lucknow
Apr 17, 2024 05:26 PM IST

In the nearby village of Ahmedpur Khera, many farmers stay awake at night to protect standing crops from roaming herds.

In the Chak Prithvipur village, situated within the Bakshi- Ka-Talab development block just 30-km from the state capital, an over-crowded government-run conservation centre houses destitute bovine.

Stray cattle had emerged as a significant issue during the 2022 assembly polls, attracting the attention of PM Modi (SOURCED)
Stray cattle had emerged as a significant issue during the 2022 assembly polls, attracting the attention of PM Modi (SOURCED)

In the nearby village of Ahmedpur Khera, many farmers stay awake at night to protect standing crops from roaming herds of hungry stray cattle that graze and destroy their fields.

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As the countdown begins for the state’s crucial first phase of voting for the Lok Sabha elections on April 19, farmers in several such villages across Uttar Pradesh are grappling with a persistent issue of stray cattle wreaking havoc on their crops.

That is why perhaps, many of them admit that their choices remain unclear as despite the state government pulling out all stops to contain the menace to avoid it being a poll issue like in 2022 assembly elections, ground reports suggest that the stray cattle remain a major concern in rural U.P.

A mere mention of the stray cattle issue upsets farmers.

“Stray cattle are a true nightmare” lamented Laeek Ahmad, a former pradhan of Ahmedpur Khera village panchayat. “We work hard all season only to see our efforts trampled and devoured by these stray cattle,” he added.

He said that a nearby cow conservation centre in Chak Prithvipur village has also reached its capacity of 1500 animals and was now refusing to take any other stray cattle.

Echoing similar frustration, Sujeet, another farmer in the fareast Ammarpur village under Bansgaon block in Gorakhpur district said: “Despite the government’s best efforts, there is no letup in the stray cattle menace in our area. The herd of 20-25 stray cattle ravage entire fields overnight before disappearing in the day.”

Shalu Sharma, a former pradhan of Bhagwanpur village under Faridpur block in Aonla Lok Sabha constituency of Bareilly district said: “Widespread presence of stray cattle not only ruin crops but also pose safety risks by attacking people and disrupting traffic.”

Mahesh Singh of Ghansupur Bamaniya village under Amroha block in West UP, acknowledged some improvement in the situation due to government’s initiatives but emphasied that the roaming cattle wreaked havoc on wheat fields these days.

“All this often forces farmers to guard their fields at night by remaining awake,” he said.

Himansu Sharma, an advocate and farmer of Tikri village in Hathras district had similar tales of woes to narrate.

The government contends that following an extensive statewide campaign lasting over three months the stray cattle had largely been eradicated.

“At present, very few stray cattle are seen wandering in the state as we have successfully caught and housed around 15 lakh such animals in the government-funded cow conservation centres across the state,” said Dharampal Singh, minister for animal husbandry and dairy development.

Singh accused those raising alarms about stray cattle of having political motives to discredit the government.

Data from the government’s animal husbandry department shows that 2,65,667 new stray cattle were captured and moved to cow shelters during a statewide drive that started on November 1, 2023, and concluded on February 15, 2024, two months ahead of the commencement of the first phase poll from April 19.

During this extensive campaign, 543 new makeshift cow conservation centres were set up, and 874 more were added to accommodate the rescued cattle.

Since the Yogi Adityanath government initiated strict enforcement against cow slaughter in December 2018, there was a surge of stray cattle and subsequent public outcry.

The total number of such cattle housed in conservation centres has reached a staggering approximately 14.50 lakh in the state.

The government spends 50 per cattle per day solely to meet their feed expenses.

Stray cattle had emerged as a significant issue during the 2022 assembly polls, attracting the attention of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

During his rallies in Bahraich and Barabanki, Modi sought to address voters’ anxieties on the subject. Addressing one such rally in Bahraich, Modi had said he had found a solution to the issue of ‘chutta jaanvar’ and added that the plan would be implemented post polls.

“On March 10, after the model code of conduct ends and a new government is formed, we will implement all those new schemes under chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s leadership,” he said. Stray cattle have since become a top priority for the U.P. government, which has implemented various measures to address this menace.

The question is whether the palpable resentment among farmers will impact their voting preferences or if the government claims of having contained the problem prevent it from becoming a major election issue in 2024?

Answers to such questions are yet to come. The Samajwadi Party (SP) in its manifesto released on Wednesday promised people the right to protect their fields and lives from stray cattle.

For now, farmers in villages like Ahmedpur Khera continue to wait anxiously for a resolution to their plight and relief from the constant threat of stray cattle.

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