Modi government's ban on sale of cattle for slaughter will hit farmers in the stomach

What the Centre could have done is to make arrangements to procure the animals and ensure their welfare.

 |  7-minute read |   26-05-2017
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The Ministry of Environment and Forests on Thursday (May 25) notified new rules under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, which bans sale of cattle for slaughter in open markets across the country.

A gazette notification — Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017 — by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change states that no one can bring cattle to an animal market unless he or she has furnished a written declaration that the animal will not be sold for the purpose of slaughter.

Further, upon sale of the cattle, the animal market committee will take an “undertaking” that the animals are for agricultural purposes and not for slaughter. Cattle buyers will now have to give an undertaking that the animals are not for slaughter and the market committees will have to check the buyers' bonafides and keep records of all sales.

The records should be preserved for six months, said the government notification which is effective from today (May 26). The new rule also says cattle buyers cannot sell the animals outside the state without permission.

cattlesale_052617083700.jpgThis has every potential for the self-proclaimed protectors to unleash violence and it may pose a serious security threat to the farmers.

The notification is likely to have a major impact on cattle slaughter across the country even though it does not ban slaughter itself. It requires cattle trade at animal markets to take place for agricultural purposes only. And the definition of cattle includes bulls, bullocks, cows, buffaloes, steers, heifers, calves and camels.

Farmers’ unions see the new rules as an assault on agriculture because in times of distress, sale of cattle was one important option through which farmers could overcome financial difficulties. Enacting such stringent rules to regulate sale of cattle will push farmers further into debt.

The following are the provisions that govern the sale of cattle under the new rules:

1. No person shall bring to an animal market a young animal;

2. No person shall bring a cattle to an animal market unless upon arrival he has furnished a written declaration signed by the owner of the cattle or his duly authorised agent —

i. stating the name and address of the owner of the cattle, with a copy of the photo identification proof;

ii. giving details of the identification of the cattle;

iii. stating that the cattle has not been brought to market for sale for slaughter;

3. Every declaration furnished to the Animal Market Committee shall be retained by it for a period of six months from the date on which it is furnished to them and the Animal Market Committee shall, on demand made by an inspector at any reasonable time during that period, produce such declaration and allow a copy of it or an extract from it to be taken;

4. where an animal has been sold and before its removal from the animal market, the Animal Market Committee shall —

i. obtain the expenses incurred for each animal, as approved by the District Animal Market Monitoring Committee, so as to provide the basic facilities for animals and people;

ii. take an undertaking that the animals are bought for agriculture purposes and not for slaughter;

iii. keep a record of name and address of the purchaser and procure his identity proof;

iv. verify that the purchaser is an agriculturist by seeing the relevant revenue document;

v. ensure that the purchaser of the animal gives a declaration that he shall not sell the animal up to six months from the date of purchase and shall abide by the rules relating to transport of animals made under the Act or any other law for the time being in force;

vi. retain such record for a period of six months from the date of sale;

vii. produce such record before an Inspector on demand being made by him at any reasonable time during that period and allow a copy of it or an extract from it to be taken.

The rules are the result of a Supreme Court direction last year. The court, acting on petitions filed by animal rights activists, asked the Centre to regulate cattle trade.

The rules do not ban slaughter of all cattle per se. Rather, it only regulates the sale of cattle in markets. In case someone wants to sell the cattle for slaughter, he/she can do so legally outside the markets subject to slaughter rules implemented the respective states.

However, it is not clear what are the other locations where sales can take place outside animal markets.

According to a report by the now-dissolved Planning Commission for 2007-2012, there are about 3,900 licenced slaughterhouses in the country authorised by local bodies. In addition, there are around 26,000 unauthorised slaughterhouses.

As per the 2012 livestock census, the total cattle population in India is 190 million. Animal markets have traditionally acted as a channel between the farmers and the slaughterers.

Cow slaughter is banned in most states, except in the Northeast and Kerala, but the slaughter of other bovine animals such as buffaloes is much more common.

Ever since the BJP came to power at the Centre in May 2014, there have been several incidents of cow vigilantes indulging in violence against those suspected to be selling cows or eating beef.

The new rules notified by the central government have not gone down well with farmers’ unions, which feel that such tough regulations on sale of cattle will cripple the rural economy altogether.

In times of drought, selling of cattle was an important way through which the farmers could manage financial distress. While the government may say that sale of cattle for slaughter outside the markets are still legal, but in reality most such sale happen within the market places as farmers may not have the means to transport cattle over long distances.

The rule saying that one cannot sell the cattle for six months from the date of purchase or cannot sell infirm cattle could further aggravate the distress of farmers in drought-like situations.

In most of the states, restrictions on cow sale have forced farmers to abandon the animals as they could not afford fodder in times of distress. For instance, Tamil Nadu is facing severe drought. How can one expect farmers to feed old and infirm cattle when they find it difficult to feed themselves.

The best the Centre could have done — if it wanted farmers not to sell their cattle — is to make arrangements to procure (the cattle) and ensure their welfare.

The new notification also adds a large amount of paperwork for every transaction involving cattle at animal markets, expecting numerous records and five copies of the proof of sale, each of which is to be handed to various authorities. Authorities also have the powers to seize the animal and detain it in a separate enclosure if the animal is found to be unfit for sale by a veterinarian.

This has every potential for the self-proclaimed protectors to unleash violence and it may pose a serious security threat to the farmers.

Obliquely, the new rules could only lead to an unofficial ban on slaughter.

After the Yogi Adityanath government took over the reins in Uttar Pradesh in March, many slaughterhouses were temporarily shut for not following regulations.

The idea behind such regulations was to protect cattle transported illegally. But in the final rules, the rights of the farmers were being taken away.

Also read: 10 reasons we should have a national ban on cow slaughter

 

Writer

Praveen Shekhar Praveen Shekhar

The writer is Associate Producer, TVTN.

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