The opposition parties in Uttar Pradesh slammed the Yogi Adityanath government’s decision to levy a .5 per cent cow welfare cess to fund temporary shelters for cattle. The opposition said the Bharatiya Janata Party government was indulging in “extortion” and imposing additional burden on the common man.
As per the proposal endorsed by the state Cabinet on Tuesday, the funds generated by the cess will be used for the construction of cow shelters in all districts at villages panchayats, municipalities, municipal corporations and will have a capacity to hold at least 1,000 animals. A budget of Rs 100 crore has been sanctioned to the local bodies to construct the shelters under MNREGA scheme.
As per the proposed policy, in urban and rural areas of every district, a cowshed will be opened with a minimum capacity of 1,000 cattle and for this the Excise department will levy a cow welfare cess of .5 per cent.
In addition mandi parishads, which have been giving 1 per cent of their income for cow welfare, will now be asked to pay 2 per cent.
Samajwadi Party spokes-man Sunil Singh Sajan said the BJP government had imposed the tax for serving its political agenda. “I wonder if the funds collected will ever go for cow welfare. I can smell corruption in this move,” he said.
Drawing a parallel, Sajan alleged that just like the funds allocated for cleaning the river Ganga were misused, this time too, the tax for cow welfare would be utilised by the party leaders instead. “I can smell corruption brewing. The BJP is using emotional issues like the river Ganga and the cow to extract money from the common man,” he said.
Slamming the move, Congress spokesperson Anshu Awasthi said the government was resorting to “wasooli” (extortion) in the name of cow politics.
“The Yogi government failed to develop and implement policies for the welfare of cows in one-and-a-half years of its rule, then why are they suddenly levying a cess on excise for the holy animal?” he said.
Accusing the government of trying to extract “liquor money” in the name of the holy animal, Awasthi alleged that the entire project was a sham. “This is ridiculous. If they are so concerned (for cows) then why don’t they allocate funds in the annual budget instead?” he asked.
BSP president Mayawati challenged the Centre to impose a similar cess at the national-level, “if the protection of cows can be ensured through such thinking of the BJP and the RSS”.
In December last, farmers in several districts were annoyed at stray cows destroying their standing Rabi crops, and had driven them away and locked them up in government buildings and primary schools especially in Iglas and Khair tehsils of Hathras and Aligarh districts. Similar incidents were reported from Mathura and other districts. Schools in Aligarh had to be closed as farmers had turned the compounds into temporary cow shelters.
An official said farmers were abandoning their animals because of increasing mechanisation and the new policy would ensure care for the stray animals.
The additional 0.5 per cent cess will be levied along with the toll collected by the Uttar Pradesh Expressways Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA) and similar agencies. Also, 0.5 per cent of the profits made by some PSUs and construction agencies like UP Rajkiye Nirman Nigam and UP State Bridge Corporation will be used to generate funds for the planned cow shelters.
Uttar Pradesh government spokesperson and Cabinet minister Shrikant Sharma said, “The decision to levy cow welfare cess had been taken to find a solution to the problem of stray cattle in the state. A committee would be set up at block, tehsil and district levels for the implementation of the plan.”