Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath on Tuesday directed officials to make immediate arrangements for proper care of stray cows. In a meeting with senior officials in Lucknow, the chief minister said the government has sanctioned Rs 10 crore to each of the 16 municipal corporations to arrange for sheds for stray cows, and Rs 1.2 crore to every district for setting up new cow shelters, PTI reported.

Adityanath told officials to set up a committee to suggest measures to provide better shelter facilities for stray cows, and ordered Chief Secretary Anup Chandra Pandey to make recommendations in this regard within a week. The chief minister also ordered that encroachments on grazing land be removed immediately.

Adityanath also asked officials to make 750 cow shelters at the zilla parishad level functional. He told them that proper fodder, sheds and drinking facilities should be provided to the bovines.

The chief minister’s decisions came after some Bharatiya Janata Party MLAs told him that stray animals, particularly cows and oxen, were damaging standing crops in the state and were a major cause of road accidents. Defending Adityanath’s decisions, BJP MLA Sanjay Sharma said: “Cow is directly related to our religion. It must be protected.”

But these directives came in for sharp criticism from Opposition parties. “There are already defunct cowsheds in the state,” Uttar Pradesh Congress spokesperson Dwijendra Tripathi said. “The government should have renovated them instead of constructing new ones for political mileage.” He added that humans cannot be killed in the name of cow protection.

Samajwadi Party legislator Sunil Sajan said his party is not “opposed to cows”, but is against the atmosphere which has been created in the name of saving the bovines.