A day after President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent to the Bill to ban all cattle slaughter in Maharashtra, it became clear here that neither the ruling BJP nor the Congress wanted to fan the issue that has both economic and religious dimensions — one possibly because it does not wish to distract from the development agenda and the other because it does not want the issue to become communal.
“Livestock is a State subject, so there is no question of a Central law to ban cow or cattle slaughter. Many States have their own laws,” a senior BJP Minister told The Hindu in response to a question. “However, there is an existing Central policy on export of meat, and this government has not made any changes to it. That policy absolutely prohibits the export of the meat of cows, bulls, calves… indeed of any milching bovine or any calf less than four months old. Only non-milching buffaloes can be slaughtered and their meat exported, besides goats, etc.”
Interestingly, MPs affiliated to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, such as the BJP’s Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath, are also not keen to raise the issue at this stage. Mr. Adityanath pointed out that this was the 50th anniversary of the VHP and though the organisation was holding camps around the country on the issue till Vijay Dashami, it had no intention of bringing it to centre stage. This also comes in the wake of the Congress supporting the Maharashtra government’s move to ban cattle slaughter, even as its former partner in the State, the Nationalist Congress Party, opposed it saying it would cause economic hardship to farmers.
“The Congress welcomes the President’s assent. This Bill has been pending for long with the President ... But care should be taken that this is not used as a political tool to gather support,” Leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said on Monday.
However, NCP spokesman Nawab Malik said the ruling BJP was “misguiding” the people and causing economic “loss” to the State to please a section of society. “A blanket ban will cause the biggest problems for farmers. A farmer has to spend at least Rs. 5,000 a month to take care of such animals. It is now the responsibility of the government to come out with a mechanism to take in all unfit animals and take care of them as long as they live,” he said.
There is already a blanket ban in Maharashtra on slaughter of cows; the amended act bans slaughter of bulls and calves too.
Meanwhile, Congress leaders here were non-committal on the issue of a ban on cow slaughter, saying the matter should be left to individual States. Even senior Samajwadi Party leader Ramgopal Yadav said he supported a ban on cow slaughter across the country.