How the govt’s inaction over cattle trade rules allowed cow vigilantism to thrive

Govt was warned about the violent effects of cattle trade law regulation 15 months in advance. Their interference in animal trading laws emboldened cow vigilantism to thrive in India.

Cow Vigilantes
New Delhi: In May 2017, the Centre prohibited sale of cattle for slaughter, including buffaloes, at livestock markets across the country. The prohibition was a part of the ‘Regulation of Livestock Markets Rules,’ 2017, that were notified by the environment ministry. The Rules were formulated on orders of the Supreme Court, primarily to prevent illegal cattle trade and to regulate livestock markets.
Due to severe backlash on how the regulation was unconstitutional and violated federal fundamental laws like right to livelihood, right to eat and other civil liberties, the regulation was modified and deleted the word slaughter from the regulations for Animal cruelty. The modification was complete by October 2017.
“The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Market) Rules, notified on May 23, 2017 banned sale of cattle for slaughter in animal markets, it was later withdrawn in October 2017, and subsequently revised, after a discussion headed by a Group of Ministers headed by Union Minister Nitin Gadkari,” reported Indian Express.
An RTI query filed by The Indian Express with the MoEF revealed that the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) was questioned as early as June of 2016 over its jurisdiction to draw up federal guidelines to regulate animal markets.
The report said, “… the said Rules are within the purview of State List. Further, since each State is competent to formulate rules and regulations as per their requirement for cattle, is Central Government competent to make Rules under State List?” noted a letter written to then chairman of the AWBI by joint secretary Anil Sant at MoEF’s Animal Welfare Division.
“The Rules were framed following a writ petition filed in 2014, where the Supreme Court passed an order on July 13, 2015 to frame guidelines to prevent animals from being smuggled out of India for the Gandhimai Festival held in Nepal. The SC also directed that rules with regard to Livestock Market be notified. On July 12, 2016 the Supreme Court directed the Ministry to frame rules under Section 38 of the PCA Act, 1960,” reported The Indian Express.
Many state leaders had warned the centre that the new regulation would create tension in minorities and lead to violence. The rise of cow vigilantism, mob lynchings and attacks on people involved in the dairy farming, leather and slaughter industry, who are primarily Muslims and Dalits, has only increased in the last four years.
It is anybody’s guess why the centre allowed the law to be framed in the first place. It was in BJPs manifesto in 2014 general elections, to protect cows. Clubbing the slaughter industry with the Animal Cruelty Laws was a masterstroke to justify and pacify Modi’s cow-belt voters’ propaganda.

“The livestock economy is a significant contributor to farmer incomes and if the proposed rules are not modified they will lead to a collapse of the dairy trade besides hurting buffalo meat exports,” said Fauzan Alavi, spokesperson of the All India Meat and Livestock Exporters Association in a report by Livemint.
“Buffalo meat is among India’s largest export commodities but the trade is being impacted due to restrictions on the movement of animals,” Alavi said, adding, “If the government is serious about improving farm incomes it should actually incentivise the dairy and meat industry… However, we have been repeatedly kept out of government consultations,” the report said.
State CMs had issued warnings
After the final notification had been sent out in May 2017, the Prime Minister’s Office received nine representations from different Indian states, concerned about the law and order situation that will arise out of this regulation. “One each from Chief Ministers of Kerala, Karnataka, and Puducherry, one each from then Governors of Kerala and Meghalaya, one from Kerala Assembly leader of opposition from the Congress party and three Members of Parliament from Revolutionary Socialist Party, Indian National Congress and National People’s Party sent their representation,” reported The Indian Express.
Both Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan and then Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah wrote a year later that states should have been consulted while framing the rules.
“Information with MoEF reveals that the controversial Rules were framed under sub-section (2)(1) of Section 38 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. However, Siddaramaiah in his letter noted that the Rules were violative of PCA Act, 1960,” the report said.
A letter by Karnataka government in August last year said that “a sudden ban on this activity (trading of animals) may lead to unrest in the farmers community besides affecting their right to choose.”
“Karnataka said precautionary measures suggested under the new rules mean that all established markets in the state will have to be built anew. It said that under the new rules the definition of cattle includes all forms of livestock and that a total ban on slaughter may lead to “health care issues in extreme circumstances”—because culling is required to prevent the spread of deadly diseases,” reported Livemint.
It further added that “In November last year, the state of Mizoram wrote in, saying restrictions on cattle trade should be “deleted” as “India is a vast country where many groups of people with different culture, traditions and religions are living together peacefully”. The proposed rules, it said, “will definitely hurt the sentiments of various groups of people.”
Kerala in its letter also said that sometimes a farmer sells an animal as a last resort to meet financial requirements and that the rules will make it difficult for farmers whose livelihoods depend on dairying.
“The rules will lead to non-availability of meat to the common man, adversely affect livelihood of lakhs of people” and “compel farmers to give up dairy farming as it will be impossible for him to sell the unproductive animals,” the Kerala government’s letter said.
In August 2017, the Union territory of Chandigarh wrote to the centre, objecting to the fact that the proposed rules will not allow those without agricultural land to purchase cattle “which is against the basic right of a human being”, adding that “dairy farming is a source of income for some families.”
The centre did not consult any state representative before forming the legislation.
Knew regulation was unconstitutional, yet went ahead with it?
Cattle slaughter is allowed through legislation in states like Kerala, Manipur, West Bengal, Nagaland, Goa and others. “The Union has no business butting into what is essentially a legislative territory of the state, in accordance with local customs and traditions,” reported DailyO.
“The Centre’s backdoor entry into something that’s essentially a state matter through the PCA 1960, in which both the Union and the States have joint oversight, is extremely regressive and opens a Pandora’s box of constitutional conundrums. Given that Section 11 (3)c of the PCA 1960 allows slaughter permitted under other laws, the impact of the new ruling would be to curtail the scope of the parent legislation itself,” it reported in 2017.
“Meat traders rightly fear that meat supplies would come to a halt, and beef violence would escalate as a result of these patently unfair and, in a way, illegal rules. In addition, these rulings tend to give an air of righteousness to the cow vigilantes, making transportation of cattle for even agricultural purposes a life threatening activity,” it reported.
“Because the Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals Act (1960) is a Central Act, with both the Union and the States having a say and oversight, using PCA to bring in an effective ban on cattle slaughter is a breach of federalism. As argued above, it’s a direct threat to the right to livelihood, right to eat and civil liberties accorded by the Constitution of India,” the report said.
This ‘minor confusion’ on the centre’s part has cost real human lives across the country with a sharp rise in lynching cases in 2017. This time again, politicians legislated a policy for political gain while ignoring the fiscal and social reality of a country dependent on animal husbandry, slaughter and export for its GDP. Although it was redacted and modified after backlash, how much time will it take for Modi to espouse the cause of bovine animals to garner votes from the cow belt, a geography where murdering traders and animal farmers is a collateral damage and not a serious crime? 




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