Open to amending cattle rules: Harsh Vardhan

Harsh Vardhan   | Photo Credit: V. Sudershan

Union Science and Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan has said he will consider amending the Environment Ministry’s notification disallowing the sale of cattle in animal markets for slaughter. “If at all there is a need to change some language, we will consider that,” he told The Hindu on the phone. “Right now, we are going through representations by farmers, traders, animal activists and the leather industry.” He, however, didn’t confirm whether a formal process had been initiated.

May 23 notification

The May 23 notification had said those who wished to sell cattle — bulls, cows, buffaloes, steers, heifers and camels — may do so only after they formally stated that the animals had not been “brought to the market for sale for slaughter.”

Buyers of cattle at animal markets would have to verify they were agriculturalists and declare not to sell the animal/s for six months from the date of purchase. Animal markets wouldn’t be allowed to function within 25 km of a State border and 50 km of an international border.

Asked whether buffaloes or male heads of cattle could be exempted from the provisions of slaughter, Dr. Vardhan said he had not “gone into the nitty-gritty” but there was not yet a dedicated committee looking at reviewing the restrictions.

“The Secretary [Environment Ministry] is going through representations… there have been some communication gaps and we are clear that there is no intention to interfere with food habits or business,” he added.

Sale hit

Sale of cattle at animal markets have been hit, with farmers and market managers saying that the notification was the latest in a series of steps — from demonetisation, States tightening cow slaughter laws and vigilantism by gau rakshaks — that had stoked uncertainty in farmers.

The notification, banning the sale of cattle for slaughter at animal markets under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017, follows a Supreme Court directive to the government to form an inter-ministerial committee to recommend ways of preventing cattle smuggling. The SC directive itself was in response to a 2014 writ petition by Gauri Mulekhi of People for Animals.

SC to hear plea

However, after protests in Kerala, West Bengal and Manipur in the aftermath of the notification, the Supreme Court is set to hear a petition on the validity of the notification later this week.

BJP’s problems

The BJP itself has seen internal dissent. In Nagaland, the North Garo Hills district BJP president, Bachu Marak, resigned from the party. His resignation comes four days after West Garo Hills district president Bernard Mark exited from the party on the issue of beef ban.

The Madras High Court had earlier stayed the Centre’s notification for four weeks, but the Kerala High Court turned down a petition challenging the ban. Apart from protests by State officials, beef fests were organised at various places where protesters cooked beef and freely distributed it to the public. Two such protests had become embroiled in controversy, one in Kerala and the other in Tamil Nadu.

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Printable version | Oct 30, 2020 11:29:49 PM |

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