The Uttar Pradesh government recently announced projects such as a cow sanctuary to address the increasing menace of stray cattle in the State, but farmers are using innovative methods such as Closed Circuit TV (CCTV) cameras and electric fences to protect their crops. The stray cattle in some villages are as big as groups of 400 to 500 non-milching cattle and bulls and they not just eat or damage the crops but also result in accidents on the streets.
Rajveer Lawaniya, president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union’s Agra district committee, recently installed CCTV cameras around his 150-acre potato farm, a part of is his own and a part is on contract. He also built wired fencing around the farm, spending around ₹5,000 per acre. “I and some of my neighbouring farmers have installed CCTV cameras to track the movement of stray cattle. Some people are also erecting electric fencing around their farms. It is an additional expense for us,” he said.
A critic of the present BJP regime at the State and the Centre, Mr. Lawaniya says the issue has worsened since the BJP came to power at the Centre and at the State. “The government opened some cow shelters after farmers put pressure on it. But these shelters are not functioning properly. The government is giving just ₹30 for a stray cattle. It is a cruel joke. We spend around ₹500 per day for a cow. So how will these shelters function with this paltry sum?” he asked.
‘Situation is bad’
Vinay Singh, a farmer near Firozabad bought a Jhatka machine, an equipment that functions using direct current to scare the stray cattle away. “ Jhatka machine is a dangerous one. Farmers, agriculture workers or their family members may themselves get injured due to this. It is also costly. One machine costs between ₹3,500 and ₹5,000. But we have no other way. Farmers either have to employ someone in the night to protect our farms or keep a vigil by themselves in the night. The situation is very bad,” Mr. Singh said.
Farmers say that there will be at least 400 to 500 stray cattle in one village. “They start roaming around in the fields in the night. There were a number of accidents too due to stray cattle. According to our information, more than 100 people have died in Agra in the last few years due to accidents due to stray cattle,” Mr. Lawaniya said.
The situation is not different in other parts of the State. Farmers have urged the State and Central governments to take effective steps to curb this menace. “The government should give subsidy for fencing for farmers. Neelgais damage even these fencings. The Goshala (cow shelters) model is a failure as of now. The government should make efforts to improve the system of cow shelters. Fencing is the only alternative at the moment. More than what they eat, cattle damage the crops. It is a national loss. Wheat and vegetables and other soft crops are their main target,” said farmers’ leader from Shamli Jitender Singh Hudda.