- NL Sena
The livelihood of millions has been snatched away within the UP government’s first 100 days in power.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath may have just marked 100 days in power but his feat has come at a huge cost for meat and cattle traders in the state. The many organs of the state have been effectively and industriously deployed by the Adityanath government to smother the cattle trade, the leather industry and its ancillaries.
Being a pastoral economy, more than 65 per cent of the population of Uttar Pradesh is dependent on agriculture and allied industry. Almost a million people are now jobless due to the state’s attack on the animal products industry.
Within hours of taking over as chief minister on March 19, Adityanath ordered a crackdown on illegal slaughter houses, a ban on illegal transportation of cattle and a ban on the sale of meat by unlicensed shops in urban and semi-urban areas. While the shutting down of butcher shops has angered many, the choking of the slaughter houses in the name of checking illegal slaughter, or by cracking down on the transport of cattle in vans and trucks in the name of curbing illegalities has gone reasonably unnoticed.
The March 24 order issued by the state government said slaughter of milch animals often leads to a breach of peace and poses a threat to communal harmony. The government specified the UP Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act (UPPCSA) 1955 and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCAA) 1960 to check illegal slaughter of animals. All district magistrates and district police chiefs were directed to ensure effective preventive action against the illegal transport, slaughter and smuggling of animals. Cows couldn’t be transported earlier but now it was getting difficult to even think of buffaloes.
The state government also asked the district officers to keep a watch on the trade in weekly, fortnightly and monthly cattle fairs in each district and also compile all information about traders involved in the cattle business. The government also asked for a close vigil on all sensitive highways and border areas.
“BJP had promised Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas and create millions of jobs every year. They have exactly done the opposite as in the last less than four months, millions of people across the state have been thrown out of jobs after Yogi Adityanath came to power,” Sudhir Pawar, a former member of the UP State Planning Commission, said.
Over 900 cattle fairs held across the state from Baghpat to Ballia in east UP, where farmers sell their unproductive cows and buffaloes, and buy new ones, are now deserted.
If the state’s eagerness to clamp down on illegal slaughter of animals was wanting, the sudden enforcement of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules (PCAR) 2017 by the NDA government has been the proverbial last straw.
The Union environment ministry notification on May 26 of the PCAR 2017 has brought activity in the cattle markets across the state almost to a standstill. The rules notified by the Union also covered the buffalo, which cannot be sold in cattle markets for slaughter.
Yogesh Dahiya, a farmer leader from Saharanpur, said: “Meat and milk are the two sides of the same coin of the rural economy. If the farmers are prevented from selling the unproductive buffalo for slaughter, then they will not be able to buy the new milch buffalo thus adversely impacting the economy of the farmers and overall rural economy.’’
Licensed slaughter houses in West Uttar Pradesh are also facing the heat of the new rules as they are unable to source cattle from the nearby markets. As per new rules, they are required to source animals directly from farmers. Most cattle sellers are least interested in what the buyers do with the animal so long as they get a decent price through bidding or negotiation.
The UP government has directed field officers to follow five rules under the UPPCSA and the PCAA, including regular inspection of slaughter houses to check for illegal slaughter and ensuring stringent action against those involved in it. Not to spare those who have a past record, the government directed the opening of the history sheet of persons who were earlier involved in the illegal transport, smuggling and slaughter of animals; even if they were not doing so now.
In his order, UP Chief Secretary Rahul Bhatnagar cited a 1994 judgement of the Allahabad High Court where the court had ruled that the seized animals cannot be released in favour of those accused of illegal transport and slaughter. This would become another millstone on farmers and cattle traders; as if their seizure wasn’t enough, the farmers won’t get back their animals either.
Rashtriya Lok Dal West UP secretary Raj Kumar Sangwan said before attempting to regulate the cattle market with stringent laws, the government should have provided infrastructure. “The rules enforced by the Union environment ministry are absurd and impossible to implement as the infrastructure required under the new law is simply not available. Instead of doing any good to the rural economy, new rules have given a huge blow to cattle markets in rural and semi-urban areas. Both buyers and sellers are scared as they fear the wrath of cow vigilantes and extortion by police,’’ Sangwan said.
Haji Fazlur Rahman, the promoter of a slaughter house in Saharanpur, said, “The rules are yet to be officially enforced in UP, but the cattle market, living in a constant state of fear, is complying with it. The negative impact on the market is visible in all districts of western UP as both cattle traders and farmers are not coming to the cattle market.”
“The licensed capacity of my slaughter house is 600 cattle per day but my plant is running at 50 per cent of installed capacity as the cattle are not available and we are incurring losses.”
But there is no one to answer Rahman on his losses.
Animal Husbandry Minister SP Singh Baghel said he and the government are aware of the situation and the hardship to cattle traders and farmers. “There are no restrictions from the government on cattle trade, the government will not allow animal cruelty and the new rules will be enforced in letter and spirit,” he said.
The meat and cattle trade industry in Uttar Pradesh is nearly extinguished now. If the rules are not reconsidered, it will leave a huge hole in the economy of the state, said leaders of farmers and cattle traders. That could also impact the chief minister and his party.