A new 2% cess on sale of liquor in Uttar Pradesh, announced by chief minister Yogi Adityanath on New Year’s Day, will be used to set up and maintain ‘Gaushalas’ or shelter for cows in the state. Alarmed at widespread resentment over stray cattle destroying crops and leading to accidents, on one reported occasion even killing a villager, UP Government wants to implement the scheme on a war footing before the crucial general election.
Yogi Adityanath’s government had earlier shut down the Mughal era ‘Kanji Houses’ maintained by panchayats and municipalities to keep old and disowned cattle. It also brought cattle trade to a standstill by closing slaughter houses and creating a frenzy over alleged sale of beef. Farmers, unable to sell old cattle, have been letting them loose and the problem has acquired alarming dimensions.
Uttar Pradesh expects to mop up a revenue of ₹35,000 Crore from the liquor trade by way of license fee and taxes by the end of March in the current fiscal year. Assuming the ‘sale value’ of liquor to be ₹100,000 Crore, a 2% ‘cow cess’ will fetch the state government a sum of ₹2000 Crore per annum.
In addition, the state government has also imposed a 0.5% cess on toll fees on state highways and on the income of Mandi Parishads. The revenue generated will be over and above the ₹360 crore which the state government has already released for setting up Gaushalas at village and Tehsil levels.
But contrary to past practices, these Gaushalas will not be managed and maintained by panchayats and local bodies. Instead, societies will be formed to look after them.
A senior bureaucrat told this reporter that no specific guidelines have been issued about the formation of societies but the onus is on District Magistrates to form societies comprising “people who love cows” and have “experience to maintain gaushalas”.
Political and bureaucratic circles see this as an open invitation to RSS and BJP workers at the village level to form societies. Manish Kumar a BJP leader from Meerut however sees nothing wrong if BJP workers are employed to protect cows. “I do not know whether only BJP workers will be selected in the proposed societies but if it is done, this will be good because only we know the importance of Gau Mata,” he asserted.
He justifies the attempt to involve RSS and BJP workers by claiming, “We know in several villages SP workers have let loose animals who destroyed crops and then the opposition blamed Yogi government for the stray animal menace. BJP supporters will be able to take care of these gaushalas properly,” he added.
Earlier, the UP cabinet had approved a Lok Kalyan Mitra scheme under which 865 people were to be appointed at the village level to popularise the scheme of the Government. The Information and Publicity Department of the UP Government was made the nodal agency.
The recruitment process started in December and this scheme too, it is alleged, is designed to employ BJP supporters.