In role reversal, Congress panders to ‘cow politics’ in Chhattisgarh

This has put the BJP in a quandary with some of its leaders mocking it even as the RSS welcomed the scheme

Bhupesh Baghel
The Baghel government is also building day-care centres for cows, considered sacred by many Hindus | File Photo: PTI

The Congress government in Chhattisgarh on Monday (July 20) took a leaf out of the BJP’s Hindutva manual, launching the Godhan Nyay Yojana, under which the state will buy bovine waste from livestock owners to prepare organic fertiliser.

The move has put the saffron camp in a quandary with some BJP leaders mocking it even as the party’s ideological fountainhead, the RSS, welcomed the scheme.

Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel inaugurated the scheme by symbolically procuring cow dung from livestock owners at his official residence. The launch coincided with Hareli, the state’s prominent agriculture festival.

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The scheme entails procurement of cattle waste at ₹2 per kg from dairy farmers to produce vermicompost. The organic manure will then be sold to farmers at ₹8 per kg. The procurement will be done at the doorsteps of farmers and cattle owners, and payments will be released within 15 days of purchase, according to the scheme details.

The government is linking the new scheme with the Suraaji Gaon Yojana, another of its programmes related to the cow, which is regarded as a sacred animal by many Hindus. They also believe that cow urine and cow dung have medicinal properties. The BJP often uses the cow as its vote-catching lure pandering to the religious sentiment associated with the animal.

To counter the saffron party, the Baghel-led Congress government, after assuming power in 2018, virtually made the ‘holy’ animal its political mascot, launching schemes for its protection and promotion. So much so that the BJP is now mocking the state government’s cow-dung push.

Former minister and senior BJP leader Ajay Chandrakar went to the extent of suggesting that the way the state government is promoting cow dung, it should make cattle waste the state’s emblem.

Related news: How Congress is walking the Hindutva route in Chhattisgarh

Former chief minister Raman Singh termed the scheme a “hogwash”, saying the government was not able to procure paddy from the farmers and now it’s promising to buy cow dung from them.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, however, appreciated the move. It even convinced the government to increase the rate from ₹1.5 to ₹2 per kg. An RSS delegation recently handed over a letter of appreciation to the chief minister, signed by the organisation’s regional convener Bisraram Yadav.

The government had earlier decided to fix the minimum support price at ₹1.5 per kg, but on request of the RSS members, the price was increased by 50 paisa, said a government source.

The government, in a communiqué, said the scheme will be implemented through cowsheds that are being developed across rural Chhattisgarh under the Suraaji Gaon Yojana (SGY). Under the scheme, the government is constructing more than 5,000 cowsheds, billing them as the day-care centres for the cattle. Already, the construction of 2,785 such day-care centres has been completed.

Related news: Baghel slams ‘narrow-minded’ Centre as job scheme skips Chhattisgarh

The Chhattisgarh government proposes to build cowsheds in all 11,630 gram panchayats, covering 20,000 villages.

Baghel said that Godhan Nyay Yojana would not only help the dairy farmers with an extra income, but also end the problem of open grazing of cattle, and even encourage the use of organic manures, minimising the use of chemical fertilisers.

Gauthan samitis that run the cowsheds will procure cow dung from farmers and women self-help groups will prepare the vermicompost. Cow dung will also be utilised for manufacturing other products, said the government’s communiqué.

Ahead of Diwali last year, the state government had encouraged women self-help groups to make diyas (lamps) out of cow dung.

(With inputs from Abhijat Shukla in Raipur)

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