Stray cattle, sugarcane arrears leave BJP astray in western UP

AM Jigeesh Kairana/ Muzaffarnagar | Updated on April 04, 2019

Farmers allege lynching incidents have obstructed not only cattle trading but also cattle rearing in Dadri village of Uttar Pradesh

Destruction of crops by stray cattle and sugarcane dues pit farmers against the ruling party in this prosperous rural belt

Deshpal Rana has been a prominent activist of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar in Shamli since 1978. Today, he is a bitter opponent of the organisation and the reasons for that are sugarcane arrears and awara pashu (stray cattle).

Rana and his three brothers own 200 bighas of land near Shamli, which falls under Kairana Lok Sabha constituency. Talking to BusinessLine, Rana said at least 60 per cent of barley plantlets in the last two months have been ruined by stray cattle. “It is not just barley; wheat and sugarcane plants have also come under attack. We don’t know how to deal with this menace,” said Rana.

According to farmers, the problem started about two years ago, when the newly-sworn in Yogi Adityanath government imposed restrictions on cattle trading following such a step taken by the Centre. The State approximately has 2.30 crore cattle farmers. Farmers allege that the atmosphere of fear following the lynching incident in Dadri also put hurdles before not just cattle traders, but also on cattle rearing.

“We used to sell bull calves for ₹3,000–₹ 5,000. Now, no one is ready to buy them fearing attacks by gau raksha (cow vigilante) gangs. We are forced to abandon these bulls,” said Vishnu Chowdhury, a farmer from Baiswal near Shamli.

Deshpal Rana added that the prices of cows and buffaloes decreased due to this lull in the trade. “Some of us used to get at least ₹1 lakh a year by selling cows, buffaloes and bulls. It additional income. This government has stopped it,” said Rana. Farmers add that on an average they used to get ₹30,000–40,000 for a milch cow. “Now, it has dropped to ₹10,000–15,000,” said Rana.

According to a livestock census of 2012, the State has one million stray cattle. Farmers point out that this has gone up due to curbs on cattle trade. Now, farmers complain every village has at least 50 to 60 stray cattle.

Promises of relief

The BJP had promised construction of cow shelters to address this problem. The State government had also started giving barcodes to cows. But the process hasn’t reached anywhere as of now. “Two cow shelters have been constructed in the area, one each in Kairana and Saharanpur. We know it’s not enough. We will open more. The process will take time,” said Gaurav Garg, BJP spokesperson of the locality.

Farmers said they need ₹300 as expense for rearing a cow or a buffalo. The male calves are being sold not just for slaughtering, they said.

“It is being used for ploughing in the areas where tractors are costly. Bulls from western Uttar Pradesh go to Eastern UP and to other neighbouring States such as Bihar,” said Jitender Singh, a farmers’ leader.

The Opposition alleged that the BJP tried to use the issue to create polarisation among Hindus and Muslims.

The candidates of both the SP-BSP-RLD alliance and the Congress are raising the issue in their speeches.

“This is not a Hindu-Muslim issue. This is a question of our livelihood. The government is denying us a supplementary income,” said Sanjay, another farmer.

Rana, and others, had taken up the issue with district authorities. “We are fed up of their false promises. Herds of cattle have forced me to resign from BJP and stand with farmers,” said Rana, who was at forefront of the struggles for the release of sugarcane arrears.

Om Prakash Chaudhury, Rana’s neighbour, agrees with him but disagrees on the stand towards the BJP. “I lost 80 per cent of my crops due to stray cattle. But I will vote for the BJP this time too because Yogi Adityanath has ensured law and order in the area so that one can go to scare away stray cattle even at night,” he said.

Published on April 04, 2019

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