The number of stray cattle in the country has marginally come down to 50.22 lakh in 2019 from 51.88 lakh in 2012 — a decline of 3.2 per cent — according to the latest data of the 20th Livestock Census released by the Ministry of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries on Thursday.
While the data shows a decline at the national level, there is substantial increase in stray cattle population in states such as Uttar Pradesh (17.34 per cent), Madhya Pradesh (95 per cent), Rajasthan (34.48 per cent), Gujarat (17.59 per cent), Chhattisgarh (33.93 per cent) and Punjab (38.69 per cent) in 2019 in comparison to 2012. However, in some states, a sharp decline has been registered in the stray cattle population. These include Odisha (86.68 per cent decline), West Bengal (73.59 per cent), Bihar (66.54 per cent) and Tamil Nadu (23.95 per cent).
The sharp increase in the number of stray cattle in Uttar Pradesh shows that efforts to control the problem have not yielded desired results. The Yogi Adityanath government had imposed special duty on liquor in its last budget to raise Rs 165 crore for maintenance of stray cattle. It also allocated Rs 247.60 crore for construction of gaushalas (cow shelters) in rural areas and Rs 200 crore for Kanha Gaushalas to house the stray animals in urban areas. But the increase in the stray cattle population shows no relief on ground.
The number of stray cattle is additional to the total cattle population in the country, about 19.34 crore in 2019 — 1.3 per cent up from 19 crore in 2012.
West Bengal has the highest number of cattle — 190 lakh in 2019 from 165 lakh in 2012. Bengal has become the state with the largest cattle population during the tenure of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. In the same period, the number of cattle has also gone up in other eastern states, such as Bihar (from 122 lakh to 153 lakh) and Jharkhand (from 8.7 lakh to 112 lakh).
On October 16 last year, the ministry had released provisional figures of the 20th Livestock Census. However, at that point, the number of stray cattle was not known. The government had started collecting information about stray cattle from the 19th Livestock Census in 2012.
According to the 20th Livestock Census, the information on the approximate number of stray cattle was collected from a single source in the village or ward such as sarpanch or a panchayat member or a patwari.