LUCKNOW: The UP government has introduced a “gau kalyan” (cow welfare) cess, a 0.5% additional levy on excise items, which could include alcohol apart from toll tax, as well as several public sector infrastructure companies, to fund construction and maintenance of cow shelters across the state.

The UP cabinet cleared the policy on Tuesday. In the past week, there have been at least three incidents of farmers locking up stray cattle in schools and police stations in the state to protest against the stray cattle menace.

The state is staring at a severe stray cattle problem, aggravated after the government cracked down on illegal slaughter houses. After several cases surfaced of people suspected to be smuggling, transporting or consuming cow meat being lynched, ageing cattle are simply being abandoned across the state. In rural UP, farmers have reported massive losses after cattle strayed into farm land and destroyed crops while cattle along roads have led to several accidents.

The new cess may raise alcohol prices in UP. The excise department will soon decide which items will be included in the cess. A senior official said the cess will start being levied from this week itself.

Excise minister Jai Pratap Singh said he was against including alcohol under the new cess. “I’m not in favour of having this cess on alcohol as it will lead to illegal sales. A meeting will be held very soon to discuss which items could be covered under the cess,” Singh told TOI.

A cess of 0.5% will be levied on toll tax collected by government agencies such as the UP Expressway and Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA), and on profits made by public sector enterprises and construction agencies such as UP State Construction and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited, UP State Bridge Corporation Ltd, UPSIDC etc. Mandi parishads, which contribute 1% of their income for gau saurakshan (cow protection), will increase this amount to 2%.

Under the new policy, temporary cow shelters will be constructed in each rural and urban local body, down to the nagar nigams. Each district is to have capacity for a minimum of 1,000 cattle.

The state animal husbandry department will supervise and their construction will be funded through MNREGA and MLA and MP funds.

Those caught abandoning cattle after these shelters are up and running can expect to be penalised with fines. Local police and administration are to ensure cattle for which there is no use are taken to the shelters and those who abandon cattle are fined.

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