Cattle slaughter ban row: Opposition, state govts, businesses, a comprehensive guide to who said what
The Union Environment Ministry on Friday modified the animal cruelty rules, making it mandatory to ensure cattle are not bought or sold for slaughtering.
The Union environment ministry on Friday modified animal cruelty rules, making it mandatory to ensure cattle are not bought or sold for slaughtering from an open market. The list of animals covered by the ban includes cows, bulls, buffaloes, heifers, calves and camels.
There has been an uproar over the issue, with parties calling this move as motivated by saffronisation politics. Export businesses have expressed concern over the impact the rule would have on their livelihoods.
Here's a list of who said what on the cattle slaughter ban:
Congress leader P Chidambaram on Monday sought to know why the central government was "poking its nose" into cow slaughter regulations, which was the responsibility of state governments.
"States make laws regulating cow slaughter — what is permissible and what is not. Why does Centre poke its nose?" asked Chidambaram in a series of tweets on his official account.
"People are entitled to choose their food, as long as that food is obtained lawfully. No government can interfere," he posted.
The CPM on Saturday termed the ban of sale of cattle for slaughter an attempt to provide a "legal cover" to its communal agenda, and demanded the notification's withdrawal. "The notification of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change that bans sale of cattle for slaughter is an atrocious attempt by the Modi government to give legal cover for its wholly communal and divisive agenda to impose a diet code on the country," the Communist Party of India-Marxist politburo said in a statement.
It said that the decision will destroy the livelihood of crores of farmers involved in animal husbandry, eliminate traditional cattle fairs, and put an unfair burden on farmers to care for useless cattle.
"This further burdens the farmers who are increasingly resorting to distress suicides due to escalating input costs. It will also impact the leather industry and the meat export industry affecting the livelihood of lakhs of people. The notification is also an encroachment on the rights of the states under whose jurisdiction such issues fall. The CPM strongly condemns and opposes the notification and demands its withdrawal," the statement said.
West Bengal: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee took a strong stand against cattle smuggling, directing the police to catch the offenders even if they were from her Trinamool Congress party. However, she also asked police and the administration not to abide by the central government's ban on cattle trade for slaughter "so long as the state doesn't pass any law" on the issue.
Banerjee's directive came during an administrative meeting at Barrackpore in North 24 Parganas district.
"Cow smuggling has to be stopped at any cost. The police should take stern action to put an end to it," Banerjee told the police officers present at the meeting.
"There should not be any smuggling of cattle, whatever the local politicians may say even if they are from my party," she said.
On Monday, Banerjee had lashed out against the Centre's order, terming it as "unconstitutional" and said her government would challenge it legally. "This is a destructive attitude to federal structure, unnecessary bulldozing, encroaching and interference to federal structure," she had said.
Meghalaya: The National People's Party (NPP) of Meghalaya on Tuesday differed with its ally BJP on the new rules governing cattle trade and slaughter and demanded that they be withdrawn.
Conrad K Sangma, the lone NPP member in the Lok Sabha, urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and direct the environment ministry to denotify the new rules in the larger interest of the people.
Sangma said in an open letter to Modi that the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017, impose a number of restrictions on cattle trade that would have serious impact on the socio-cultural and economic milieu of millions, especially those in the agricultural and related industrial sectors.
"Imposing unreasonable restriction on the fundamental right to carry on any trade or occupation under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution will not stand the test of constitutionality," the NPP chief said. Sangma said the new rules violate the basic right of a person to freedom of choice regarding his food.
Meanwhile, former Union minister and Congress MP Vincent H Pala has urged Modi to seeks views from state governments on the new rules. In a letter to Modi, Pala said that tribal states like Meghalaya should be exempt from the application of these rules.
He urged the Modi government to seek the views of all states and union territories to review the rules and allow their implementation with necessary modifications. He said only the Parliament was empowered to expand the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960.
Pala said Section 38 of PCA Act, 1960, does not authorise the central government to create new provisions, new definitions and new organisations like Animal Market Monitoring Committee and Animal Market Committee. He said Section 11(3)(e) exempts the slaughter of an animal for food from being deemed as "cruelty" to animal.
"Animals for slaughter are secured only through livestock markets. If animal trade for slaughter is banned, it will be tantamount to repeal of Section 11(3)(e) of the principal Act and also has attenuating effect on the Slaughter House Rules of 2001. "This therefore calls for serious application of mind and review," he said.
BJP leaders in Meghalaya on Tuesday threatened to quit the party if the Modi government refused to repeal the new cattle trade rules.
"Most party leaders in Meghalaya are not happy with the new rules which are directly affecting the socio-economic status of the people," BJP vice-president John Antonius Lyngdoh told IANS.
Lyngdoh said the party members went into a huddle on Monday and discussed the issue in depth. "We cannot accept the new rules on cattle trade and slaughter. We cannot go against our food behaviour besides putting the economic interest of those people dealing in cattle trade and slaughter in jeopardy," the former food and civil supplies minister said.
He added, "It will be difficult for the candidates to campaign as the electorate won't back a party which goes against the interests of the people."
BJP president Shibun Lyngdoh dismissed Lyngdoh's threat. "I would not like to comment on the new rules as it is a legal matter but those who want to leave the party are free to do so."
On Monday, BJP leader Bernard Marak said his party won't ban beef and instead legalise slaughter houses if it comes to power in the state. "In Meghalaya, most BJP leaders eat beef. The question of banning beef does not arise in a state like Meghalaya," he said.
Tripura: Tripura's Left Front government will not implement the new cattle trade and slaughter rules, as it is against the interests of the people, a state minister said on Tuesday.
"The new cattle trade and slaughter rules framed by the central government are against the interest of the people. We will not carry out the new rules," Tripura's agriculture and animal resource development minister Aghore Debbarma told IANS. "The central government is yet to send us the new cattle trade and slaughter rules. They did not consult us on this issue."
"If people are not able to sell their cattle, how will they take care of livestock when it turns unnecessary for them? How will it be determined that the cattle being purchased from the market is for slaughtering?" asked Debbarma, also the member of CPM central committee.
Kerala: Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday said that the Centre had no right to regulate cattle sale in states. Issuing a line-by-line rebuttal of the Centre's notification on the new cattle slaughter laws, Vijayan said that the BJP-led central government was ignoring the federal structure and was making an attempt "to encroach upon the powers of the states".
Vijayan was addressing the press after the state's Cabinet meeting. He said that the state Cabinet is of the view that regulating sale of cattle is outside the Centre's purview, adding that they will certainly question the legality of the new legislation in court.
Vijayan also quashed the government's argument about animal rights, adding that slaughter of cattle for consumption is permitted under the law. He said that the all that the existing laws state is that there shouldn’t be aimless pain inflicted to the cattle while slaughtering.
He said that the people in his state do not need a lesson on food habits from BJP and RSS.
He had earlier written to Modi, asking the central government to repeal the new restrictions against cattle slaughter, terming it an intrusion into the rights of states.
"I request you to kindly intervene in this matter and repeal the newly-imposed restrictions, so that the lives and livelihoods of millions of our fellow countrymen can be protected, while safeguarding the fundamental principles of our Constitution," Vijayan said in his two-page letter.
"The absence of efforts to take the states into confidence on such a drastic move with far reaching consequences is detrimental to our democracy. I am afraid it amounts to an intrusion into the rights of the states in our federal structure. The introduction of such restrictions in a hasty manner would certainly prove to be a challenge in upholding our plurality, the essence of our nation. It would also be against the principles of secularism and federalism enshrined in our constitution," added Vijayan.
State agriculture minister VS Sunilkumar said this was nothing but implementing the RSS agenda and that it would not work in Kerala. "Under the guise of 'cruelty to animals' clause, the Centre is trying to push through the RSS agenda. This is a foolish decision and we will deal with this legally," the minister said.
State minister for local self government KT Jaleel said every state has its own eating habits. "This new law is not going to be accepted, as people will generally accept only if they feel they are doing a wrong."
State PWD minister G Sudhakaran said this was the latest in the series of fascist acts of the Modi government. "These things can't be put out simply through an order. Has Parliament taken the states into confidence or has there been any discussion with them? These things won't work out in Kerala," said Sudhakaran.
State Congress president MM Hassan said the order was unconstitutional and infringement of the basic rights of people. "The BJP is trying to bring to Kerala the strategy of 'cow politics' as they did in Uttar Pradesh. Here cow slaughter is not banned. We will oppose this tooth and nail," said Hassan.
State BJP president Kummanem Rajasekheran, however, said that a section of the media here was presenting the new order in a twisted manner, as there was no ban at all. "It's most unfortunate that MM Hassan went to the extent of saying that this order was issued on the eve of Ramadan," Rajasekheran said.
Tamil Nadu: DMK working president MK Stalin led a protest on Wednesday against the ban. The party also hit out at the K Palaniswami government in the state for "keeping mum" on the issue when the neighbouring states of Kerala and Karnataka have opposed it.
The DMK said the fundamental right to choice of food given by the Constitution has been "snatched away" by the Centre.
Quoting media reports, it said trade was hit at the Anthiyur cattle shandy in Tamil Nadu due to the curbs.
Stalin will lead a protest at the district collectorate against "the Centre and sate governments" on the issue, it added. Chief minister Palaniswami had on Saturday said he will comment on the Centre's ban on cattle sale after going through the related notification.
The Rajasthan High Court on Wednesday told the Centre to increase punishment for cow slaughter to life imprisonment and said that the Centre should make it the national animal. The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court stayed for four weeks the operation of new central government rules on cattle trade. The court issued notice to the central government asking it to file a reply within four weeks.
Exporters and businesses:
Senior members of Council of Leather Exports, CLA Tanners Association, and Indian Leather Products Association claimed that the decision was "legally null and void" as live cattle belonged to powers bracketed under the state list according to the Indian Constitution.
"The Centre should have discussed the matter with the state governments first. How can they come up with a unilateral notification on a state subject? We demand the Centre immediately withdraw or amend the notification," CLA Tanners Association general secretary Imran Ahmed Khan said.
"If the Centre does not, we will approach the court, and also hit the streets, as it has handed a death certificate to the industry, which will be hugely hit," said Council of Leather Exports' Eegional Chairman (east) Ramesh Kumar Juneja.
Khan alleged that the Centre's decision was a fresh effort to finish off small industries and instead give a boost to multi-nationals and big companies. "The small sector will be hit the hardest. Only big companies and multinationals will gain," he said.
Industry leaders said the ban will rob 35 million people involved with the industry of their livelihood in the country, while exports would be halved from $7 billion to $3.5 billion.
Complaining that the industry was yet to overcome the crisis it faced after demonetisation, exporters said the latest decision would "finish our industry entirely".
"After demonetisation, our business declined by 15-20 percent. We did badly during Christmas. And the latest decision will finish our industry entirely," said finished leather exporter Mohammed Zia Nafis.
Charging the Centre with "intentionally targeting" the leather industry, Khan said hides of animals like cows and buffaloes are used in large scale by the sector. "And these animals have been kept under the ambit of the notification. The Centre now claims that the decision was meant to stop cruelty to animals. Then why have they not mentioned animals like goats in the notification?"
Nafis alleged that the Centre's decision would only help Bangladesh, which has already eroded India's grip over the sector.
"After demonetisation, Bangladesh gained considerably at our cost. The latest decision would further strengthen Bangladesh's position," he said.
Turning to West Bengal, industry leaders said 200 tanneries in the state would be shut down because of the ban. "We will chief minister Mamata Banerjee's intervention," said Juneja.
According to an Economic Times report, international brands such as Zara, Marks and Spencer, Hugo Boss and Armani representatives have contacted suppliers in India, inquiring if they would be able to meet their commitments.
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