Creating Human Tragedy in the Name of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Vijoo Krishnan

THE Notification of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017 brought by the Narendra Modi-led BJP government is a direct attack on livelihoods of millions of poor peasants engaged in dairy farming, people who are engaged in leather industry and earn their livelihood from sale of meat. It is a well-planned attack on the poor to ensure that the corporate entities engaged in dairy, leather and meat industry have unbridled access to the market and profits. 

NOTIFICATION SEVERELY HINDERS SALE OF CATTLE

Stringent restrictions have been imposed on sale of cattle including bulls, bullocks, cows, buffaloes, steers, heifers and calves including camels in the animal market. First and foremost, hardly any farmer knew about the draft rules published by the centre in January to solicit views. They have not been widely disseminated in all national languages. Essentially, they are regulating a crucial aspect of a farmer’s life and livelihood without consulting them. Poor peasants who are into dairy farming as a coping strategy to adapt to natural calamities and falling incomes from crops will be hit badly by the move. It infringes upon the fundamental right to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business. It also hits at the food habits of millions of Indians cutting across religions. The centre has also clearly overstepped its role in a federal system thereby encroaching upon the rights of the states. The regulation of cattle markets is a state subject and there are no overarching rule making powers vested in the central government for regulating animal markets. It also constrains the right to trade in cattle ignoring the fact that about eight states do not have any prohibition of slaughter of cattle. 

The rules virtually make it impossible for farmers to sell any of the above mentioned animals categorised as cattle with restrictions and regulations like market committees to scrutinise any sale, prohibition on sale of cattle purchased from animal market etc. It bans sale of young animals, infirm cattle or any of the animals mentioned above in the animal market for purpose of slaughter. Cattle bought cannot be resold for a period of six months and officials could inspect a farmer’s premises to ensure such sale does not take place. Cumbersome processes requiring undertakings of seller and buyer that the transaction is purely for agricultural practices and not for slaughter as well as provisions to harass both the buyer and seller is put in place. Seller has to produce his address and identification proof to the market committee. Five copies of sale documents need to be filed with different authorities for future verification, authorities have power to seize animals and detain it if veterinarian deems it unfit for sale. When taken with the news that BJP government plans UID for cows with details of age, sex, height, breed etc, it promises to be a race from pillar to post for farmers and other dependants on cattle. The agenda clearly seems to be aimed at intimidating the poor peasantry to force them to quit dairying.

DIRECT ASSAULT ON LIVESTOCK ECONOMY

AND DEPENDENT LIVELIHOODS

Since the Operation Flood was launched in 1970 it transformed India from a milk deficient country to the largest producer of milk in the world surpassing the USA. In 30 years it doubled per capita availability of milk and dairy farming emerged as India’s largest self-sustainable rural employment generator. Dairy sector in India is estimated to employ 90 million people a majority of whom are women. It is also of crucial importance to small and marginal farmers as well as landless poor and a significant source of income for millions. Farmers see livestock as insurance from abject poverty. According to reports the economic contribution of livestock is today more than the contribution of food grains. Bovine population has also been growing and during 2012-13 was 205.5 million. India is also one of the largest exporters of meat. In 2015-16 it exported buffalo meat worth Rs 26,681.56 crores according to APEDA. Leather industry dependant on cattle skin is valued at US $ 17.8 billion according to an estimate. About 168 auxiliary industries also rely on meat business including pharmaceutical and manufacturing industries. Livestock economy is today estimated to be worth more than Rs 3.5 lakh crores. It accounts more than a quarter of the agricultural GDP and about 7.65 per cent of the country’s GDP.

Dairying is a source of earning additional income to complement farmers’ meagre earnings from agriculture. Small and marginal peasantry who own less than a hectare accounts for 48.4 per cent of landholders in India. While they own merely 25 per cent of land they own about 50 per cent of cattle. Move to restrict cattle trade will cripple rural economy. Farmers sell and buy cattle from animal markets and fairs which dot rural areas across India. Here sellers and buyers can freely negotiate, bargain, choose from wide options without bureaucratic hassles and encountering corrupt officials. Cattle act as a guarantee for farmers in times of crisis and farmers resort to its sale to meet contingency needs for health, education, marriages and so on. It also helps in generating money to invest in purchase of seeds, fertilisers, irrigating fields, meet labour costs and other costs of cultivation. It is estimated that sale of unproductive cattle accounts for about 40 per cent of the income of a dairy farm.

Claims that sale of cattle for slaughter outside the markets are still legal are meaningless; the reality is that most such sale happens within market places as these are accessible, in close proximity to their residences and will save costs incurred to transport cattle over long distances. To say you cannot sell the cattle for six months from the date of purchase or cannot sell unproductive cattle will cripple the farmer in a drought situation. When farmers cannot feed themselves, government is insensitive and fails to provide relief, how does it expect them to feed infirm cattle or unproductive cattle? It is also a direct attack on the age-old tradition and village custom of cattle fairs.

Restrictions on sale have forced farmers to let the animals loose as they cannot afford expenses. Livestock Census of 2012 says there were nearly 5.3 million stray cattle in India. It would not be less than 10-12 million at present. According to the Animal Welfare Board of India there were merely around 1,850 registered shelters. Menace of stray cattle is emerging as a major cause of loss of crops and farmers are finding it almost impossible to ward off the herds of roguish cattle that come in big numbers and devour their crops. Losses to the economy every year could be to tune of thousands of crores. Everyday fodder and maintenance for a productive cow according to dairy farmers in Kolar district of Karnataka would cost Rs 300 per cow. If the centre still continues with its illogical stance and stops sale of unproductive cattle, it should make arrangements to purchase them from farmers at market rates and take care of them. Alternatively farmers may be given full cost of feeding and maintaining them. Burden arising out of such colossal stupidity cannot be dumped on farmers.

Farmers are not rearing cattle for fulfilling their religious obligations. They are purely hoping to earn from cattle and make ends meet. The absence of a guarantee that unproductive cattle will be purchased will naturally lead to their forsaking the “Holy Cow”. This is clear from the 2012 Livestock Census according to which States with stringent laws against cow slaughter had much higher percentage of buffaloes than the all India average.

HIDDEN AGENDA: COMMUNAL DIVIDE TO

PROMOTE CORPORATE PROFITS

The systematic campaign of violence on the pretext of cow protection and trying to give legal sanction for ban of cattle trade in animal markets is seeking to achieve few objectives. Firstly, divert attention from the abject failure of the BJP government, secondly, polarise the society along caste and communal lines, thirdly, push petty producers out of dairying, fourthly, promote corporate dairy farming based on contract farming model, fifthly, ensure total monopoly over beef trade and finally open up the markets to cartels in EU, Australia, USA, New Zealand and other countries for dumping milk, milk products as well as meat in India. It also opens the gates for big traders of meat to monopolise the market by evicting the small retailers. It is no surprise that the visit of Modi to Europe and renewed activity on EU-India Free Trade Agreement as well as Regional Comprehensive Economic Programme is coinciding with the notification. The fact that big traders and exporters of beef are financiers of BJP and includes BJP leaders exposes their hypocrisy.

The BJP government conspired to grab the land of farmers and resources for aiding corporate profiteering in 2014-15 through its draconian Land Acquisition Ordinance. Now it is trying to rob our cattle wealth and throw out peasantry from dairy farming. Kisan Sabha sees this as a direct attack on peasantry and rural poor, dalits, adivasis and the minorities and will build broadest issue-based unity against the assault. AIKS has already given a call to burn the notification across India on June 9. It has also built united campaign against the attacks and killing of dairy farmers, cattle traders, rearers, breeders, transporters and skinners of dead cattle. It had taken a nationwide campaign along with Bhoomi Adhikar Andolan and like-minded organisations and provided compensation to Pehlu Khan’s family as well as other victims of attack by so-called gaurakshaks. Kisan Sabha will also approach the Supreme Court by involving one dairy farmer from each of the states. On the field the Kisan Sabha will round up the stray cattle as well as unproductive cattle and take them to government offices, BJP-RSS offices demanding that they pay farmers, protect them and show their love for gau matas and their relatives. Farmers shall return the unproductive cattle demanding market price and right to livelihood. The peasantry shall take the battle to their enemy’s gate. 

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