PM and PMO keep suspense alive over promise to turn cow dung to gold

Addressing an election rally in February, PM Modi declared that he had found the perfect solution to stray cattle. Four months later, people do not seem to be aware of any

PM and PMO keep suspense alive over promise to turn cow dung to gold

Rajkumar Upadhyay

In his hour-long speech this week on completing 100 days as Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister in his second term, Yogi Adityanath made no mention of the stray cattle or the fortune that farmers were expected to derive from them. The animal husbandry minister Dharampal Singh, however, claimed that 900,000 stray cattle had been given shelter and 1.38 lakh people were being paid Rs. 900 per month per animal.

Stray cattle, estimated at 1.2 million in UP, had become a poll issue earlier this year. Following the collapse of local cattle markets, closure of slaughter houses, curbs on transportation of cattle etc since 2017 when BJP unseated the Samajwadi Party government, stray cattle had invaded farms and habitations in the state.

Irate villagers, upset that stray cattle were destroying crops and even injuring or killing people, had also herded them in government schools after driving out students and teachers. Addressing an election rally in February, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, sensing the disquiet in the countryside, declared that he had found the perfect solution to stray cattle. Because of the Model Code of Conduct in force, he declared, he was not at liberty to unveil the scheme.

But immediately after March 10, when results were due, the scheme would be announced, he had said.

Four months later, people do not seem to be aware of any scheme. What PM Modi had hinted, however, was a version of what the Congress Government in Chhattisgarh had introduced. Under its ‘Godhan Nyay Yojana’, it offered to compensate farmers for crops damaged by stray cattle at the rate of Rs. 3000/- per acre and to buy cow dung cakes at the rate of Rs. 2 per kilogram.

Rupchand Yadav vividly remembers the PM’s promise. The PM had asserted that within 100 days the new BJP government would implement the scheme. But he is yet to see anything on the ground.

Mukesh Kumar, who operates a ‘Gaushala’ in Deoria, claims that during its first term the Yogi Government had announced a grant of Rs.30 per animal per day to the Guashalas. But the payments were made only thrice in five years, he claims, and that too annually. He is also upset at officials deducting 30% of Rs.30 and paying at the rate of Rs. 22 per animal per day in fact. The state government had also offered to pay for fodder to feed the animals but the payment has not been made during the past one year.

The chief minister, apparently aware of the bottlenecks, had ordered to simplify rules and ensure regular payments. But there has been no improvement on the ground.

Nor are villagers aware of any fodder bank or bio-gas plants turning cow dung into energy. Not just the villagers but also officials seem to be clueless. Enthused by the promises to set up cattle sanctuaries, private gaushalas at public cost and bio-gas plants, many villagers have tried to set them up. But most Gaushalas are overcrowded and ill-fed and untreated cattle keep dying there.

Bipin Chaturvedi, who runs Surbhi dairy in Ghazipur, also pleads ignorance of the scheme. “Cow dung is certainly sold in the district for a pittance but since there is no major organic fertiliser plant, it is not clear who or how many are benefitting.

He is worried at the inroads made by the organised sector, bigger companies and online trading. Banks, he complains, neither provide loan to buy cattle nor to set up processing plants.

Pravin Mishra from Bareilly claims that in the wake of the PM’s promise, several villagers took loan from moneylenders to buy cattle. But most of them are finding it difficult to get remunerative prices for milk and to maintain the cattle.

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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