The Yogi Adityanath government suspended the Maharajganj district magistrate and four other senior officials for administrative and financial irregularities in running a cow shelter under the district’s Nichlaul tehsil, Uttar Pradesh chief secretary RK Tiwari and principal secretary, animal husbandry, BL Meena said at a press conference in Lucknow on Monday. Maharajganj in Uttar Pradesh borders Nepal.
“The government has suspended Maharajganj DM Amarnath Upadhyaya and four other officers after they were, prima face, found guilty of committing gross irregularities in the running of the Madhvaliya cow shelter,” Tiwari announced. He said a departmental inquiry had also been set up against all the five officers.
“We are even considering lodging FIRs in the matter, seeing the seriousness of the issue,” he added.
During physical verification of the Madhvaliya Gau Sadan (cow shelter), only 954 stray cattle were found on the spot against the 2500 stray cattle registered in the official records, the officials said. The officials were not able to explain the huge discrepancy of 1,546 cattle not being there despite being mentioned in the records.
The other officers suspended are former subdivisional magistrate (SDM) of Nichlaul tehsil Devendra Kumar, present SDM Satyam Mishra, deputy chief veterinary officer, Nichlaul, VK Maurya and chief veterinary officer, Maharajganj, Rajiv Upadhyaya.
The DM and the SDM were the chairman and the nominated member, respectively, of the District Gau Sadan, Madhvaliya.
Tiwari said while the number of cattle in the cow shelter was found to be only one-third of the official number registered in the records, the expenditure on running the cow shelter was found to be high, indicating serious financial irregularities too.
Tiwari said the irregularities came to the fore during an inquiry ordered by the Gorakhpur divisional commissioner on a complaint about a discrepancy in the number of cattle and the charge that the cow shelter land had been given on lease to others.
“The government had transferred 500 acres of land from the forest department to the animal husbandry department for setting up the cow shelter for abandoned cattle,” Tiwari said.
“But the district cow shelter committee under the DM illegally gave 328 acres of the same land on lease to farmers and other individuals, going beyond its jurisdiction,” he added.
The chief secretary was not able to explain the possible reason for over 1,500 cattle being missing from the cow shelter. People aware of the issue, however, did not rule out the possibility of the cattle having been smuggled to Nepal for slaughter.
The Adityanath government’s decision to ban all illegal slaughter houses and animal trade fairs in the state after it came to power in March 2017 spawned the problem of stray cattle. Within a year, the problem grew to an extent that it started resulting in a public outcry as stray cattle damaged crops and caused road mishaps.
Public anger and criticism by the Opposition compelled the government to order, some 10 months ago, the catching of stray animals and putting them into the temporary shelters to deal with the problem. The government is also giving a grant of Rs 900 per animal per month if anyone adopts cattle from a cow shelter.
Currently, there are around four lakh stray cattle living in 4,000 temporary cow shelters elected in rural and urban areas all over the state.
“The possibility of similar irregularities being committed in other cow shelters cannot be ruled out,” those aware of the issue said, suggesting, “the government must conduct an audit of all the cow shelters in the state.”
Oct 14, 2019 17:53 IST