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Stray cows expose BJP's shoddy understanding of Indian agriculture

The pursuit of a divisive politics has made the BJP and its admirers indifferent to the resultant sufferings and absurdities

By The Editorial Board

  • Published 4.01.19, 8:35 AM
  • Updated 4.01.19, 3:56 PM
It is a pity that Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath remains unmoved by the sufferings of his human subjects
It is a pity that Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath remains unmoved by the sufferings of his human subjects (PTI Photo)

Cows — not chickens — seem to have come home to roost for the Bharatiya Janata Party. So much so that there are murmurs within the party itself. A BJP parliamentarian has spoken up on stray cattle — perhaps he heard about what is happening in Uttar Pradesh: farmers are locking up these abandoned beasts to save themselves from, what they insist, is the menace of wandering cows. But then New India is a strange land. In Aligarh, after vagrant cattle had been incarcerated in government buildings by irate locals, the police swung into action, offering to adopt the animals. In Rajasthan, a bandh had been called on the matter. But the BJP’s response has been characteristic: for instance, Yogi Adityanath has now imposed a cess on excise items in order to facilitate the constructions of cow shelters. It is a pity that Mr Adityanath remains unmoved by the sufferings of his human subjects. The BJP’s crackdown on the cattle trade — the party says, innocently, that it is only after illegal slaughter houses — has meant that farmers, already battling meagre returns from agriculture, are also being forced to bear the cost of maintaining unproductive cattle. Many are simply abandoning these ageing animals, which, in turn, are causing other problems. A significant number of fatalities on roads in Madhya Pradesh have been blamed on shelterless cows; they are also straying into fields with standing crops. Moreover, cow-shelters — Mr Adityanath’s cure for the malaise — are known to breed other afflictions. Is that why cattle deaths have been reported from UP and Gujarat, two states under the BJP’s watch?

Stray cattle do not just expose the BJP’s shoddy understanding of India’s layered, agrarian system. (That farmers are up in arms in New India is not a coincidence.) They are also the symptom of a deeper affliction. India’s ruling party is eager to use the cow, a figure of veneration in the country, for an expressly majoritarian agenda. The pursuit of a divisive, but electorally profitable, politics has rendered the BJP and its admirers indifferent to the resultant sufferings and related absurdities. Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of a state starved of industries, has apparently asked entrepreneurs to set up cow sheds to augment the production of bovine products. Mr Adityanath, it seems, has some competition when it comes to the surreal.

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