Isn’t gaushala spend also freebie?

Isn’t gaushala spend also freebie?

Former Deputy Chief Minister of Gujarat Nitin Patel was leading the Har Ghar Tiranga rally in Kadi town of Mehsana district in August when a stray cow took part in the procession. This left Patel behind, who fell and suffered a minor fracture in his left leg. Last month, charitable trusts that run gaushalas, or gaushalas, freed hundreds of cows in Banaskantha and Patan districts, leading to traffic jams. These trusts were protesting the Gujarat government’s failure to release the Rs 500 crore they had promised to look after the mostly abandoned cows.

Television can be used to manipulate people’s minds. But it can also be used to beneficially influence social attitudes. For example, exposure to cable television reduced women’s acceptance of husband-wife abuse and preference for sons and increased their autonomy in Tamil Nadu. These benefits were the result of Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’s 2006 decision to distribute color TV sets to the poor for free, as found by academics Robert Jensen and Emily Oster in their survey there.

The contrasting photos above underscore that state governments’ spending on gaushalas or distribution of television sets to people can be seen as a symbol of what Prime Minister Narendra Modi calls “Revdi culture” – or people getting votes. Free gifting culture. In fact, the distribution of TV sets was a one-time affair, but the expenditure on cowsheds will be there forever—and will continue to increase as stray cattle increase and cowsheds provide shelter to them.

Pavitra KM of the Factly website analyzed the 20th Livestock Census Report, which shows that the number of stray cattle at the national level declined from 52.88 lakh in 2012 to 50.21 lakh in 2019, a decline of 5 per cent. Yet, during the same period, the stray cattle population increased from 9 percent to 65 percent in Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. These are the states where the slaughter of cows and their offspring, including bulls and bulls of all ages, is banned. Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the true cradle of Hindutva, accounted for around 66 percent of the stray cattle population in 2019.

The media has reported that stray cattle are destroying farmers by grazing their crops. An RTI inquiry revealed that between February 2018 and March 2020, around 241 people were killed in road accidents involving stray cattle in Haryana. The problem of stray cattle had become severe after Modi came to power in 2014, when vehicles carrying cow progeny and at times, drivers and traders were killed in a Hindutva storm. Buying cattle for slaughter became a risky business proposition. In order to turn some of the cows into milking cows for sale, they were abandoned by farmers.

Hindu farmers were no less religiously devoted to the cow before 2014. But he balanced economic pragmatism and religiosity, selling cows and pretending ignorance about his fate. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s insistence on following the sanctity of the cow turned the farmers into self-conscious Hindus who were unwilling to commit sin or sin by selling the cows. New gaushalas were needed to house more number of abandoned cows than before.

Uttar Pradesh allocated Rs 40 crore for the maintenance of stray animals in 2017, the year Adityanath became chief minister, and this amount increased to Rs 447 crore in 2019. An India Today report reveals that the Vasundhara Raje government spent Rs 240 crore on gaushalas. in 2018-19, and his successor Ashok Gehlot in 2020-21 Rs 565 crore.

It is not that the expression of religious sentiments should not be respected and subsidized by the state. Or the old, weak cows should be sent to the slaughterhouses. Nonetheless, bankrolling state cowsheds has all the qualities of a freebie. Most of the cows are owned by families who raise them for milking or selling them in the market or both. The upbringing of non-lactating cows is their responsibility, as they have made profits in the past by selling the milk of their cows.

The BJP knows that the farmers will not or cannot bear the cost of keeping the cows which have stopped giving milk and hence the state takes the responsibility. Karunanidhi is not much different from gifting TV sets to those who cannot afford them. Politics over cows and gaushalas has also become a powerful electoral weapon, evident from Congress leader Kamal Nath’s efforts to neutralize the BJP’s gains on this score when he was the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh. In the sole budget of Nath during his 18-month reign, Rs 130 crore was earmarked for gaushalas in 2019-20.

Freebies are often defined as subsidizing or offering free public goods that do not promote the productivity of a society. By this criterion the expenditure on cowsheds is meaningless, there is no economic value for the cows. Their dung and urine cannot sustain the cowsheds. Should economic utility be the only criterion for estimating the value of state expenditure? How do we categorize Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal’s promise of giving Rs 1,000 per month to women if he comes to power in Gujarat? In fact, one leader’s idea of ​​a freebie is another leader’s sense of social responsibility.

The author is a senior journalist

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The views expressed in this column are those of the individual and do not represent the views of the paper



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