Explained: India’s stray cattle menace - State scenarios, cow protection & vigilantism - The Hindu

2022-09-24 02:21:29 By : Mr. Toplink Technology

File photo of stray cattle holding up traffic behind them, on Bandar Road in Vijayawada in June 2022. VMC officials reportedly moved the animals to a cattle shed of the civic body later. | Photo Credit: GIRI KVS

The story so far: Pulling up the State government, the Gujarat High Court on September 6 directed it to put forth a short and long-term plan to control the stray cattle menace. Urging the State government to set up a separate cell to monitor the stray cattle, the High Court directed the government to give effect to the Gujarat Cattle Control (Keeping and Moving) in Urban Areas Bill, which was passed by the Assembly in March but has been put on hold since then.

The Gujarat government had introduced the Gujarat Cattle Control (Keeping and Moving) in Urban Areas Bill to regulate stray cattle in eight major cities – Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot, Gandhinagar, Jamnagar, Bhavnagar and Junagadh — and 162 towns.

The draft law mandates that cattle-rearers obtain a licence for keeping such animals in cities and towns or face imprisonment. It also makes registration and tagging of cattle mandatory. If a rearer is found without a licence or cattle are found without a tag, a penalty of Rs.2,000 per cattle head will be levied. Penalties have also been envisaged for driving away cattle, sale of fodder in contravention of the Act’s provisions and keeping cattle in a prohibited area.

In April, members of the Maldhari (cattle-rearer) community launched protests across the State against the law. Several MLAs including BJP State president C.R. Paatil insisted that the existing rules to control the cattle menace were sufficient, urging Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel to reconsider the Bill.

Protests continue to rock Gujarat as it nears the Assembly polls, to be held in December this year. On September 18, 2022, more than 20,000 cattle rearers and dairy farmers held a mega gathering in Shertha near Gandhinagar, demanding that the proposed law be scrapped.

The Gujarat government informed informed the High Court that there were 52,062 stray cattle, of which 33,806 had been impounded as of August 28.

The problem of stray cattle is not limited to Gujarat. In August, the Haryana government informed the State Assembly that over 900 people had died in road accidents caused by stray cattle in the last five years. While over a lakh stray animals have been rehabilitated during 2020-21 and 2021-22 in various shelters, 3,017 people have sustained injuries.

In July, the Uttar Pradesh government set a target of providing shelter to at least 10 stray cows daily in all 75 districts to tackle its massive stray cattle issue, according to a PTI report. According to 2019 data from the Union Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Uttar Pradesh has 11,84,494 stray cattle – the highest in the nation. Currently, U.P has 6,222 cow shelters housing 8.55 lakh cattle.

Similarly, down south, as per Greater Chennai Corporation officials, there are more than 1,500 cows and buffaloes maintained by more than 100 families in each of the city’s 15 zones. Cattle rearers have also reportedly encroached upon railway land for the construction of cow sheds.

As per the 2019 livestock census conducted by the Union Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry & Dairying, the total population of stray dogs and stray cattle in the country was 203.31 lakh. The number of people killed by such animals in 2020 was 1,303 with the top five States being Maharashtra (163), Uttar Pradesh (162), Madhya Pradesh (103), Tamil Nadu (112) and Assam (100). The Centre, in a written reply to Lok Sabha, reiterated that management of cow pounds (Gaushalas) and control of stray animals came under the purview of State/UT governments and local bodies.

This issue has been raised by most parties in poll campaigns in Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Tamil Nadu. In the recently concluded U.P polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised voters that a new policy would be introduced to deal with stray cattle after the polls. Bundelkhand farmers have claimed that there has been an uptick in stray cattle entering fields and eating crops since 2017, when the Yogi Adityanath government shut down illegal slaughterhouses. Other factors, such as the collapse of local cattle markets, curbing of cattle transportation and cow-protection laws are also said to have contributed to the menace.

One of the main factors exacerbating the stray cattle issue has been the stringent anti-cow slaughter laws passed by various State governments across India. Till date, more than 20 States have passed such laws to prevent cattle slaughter.

Uttar Pradesh: The Yogi Adityanath-led UP government in 2017 passed the country’s most stringent cow protection law. Slaughtering of cows is punishable with rigorous imprisonment of up to 10 years and a fine up to Rs. 5 lakh. Illegal transportation of cows and other bovines was made a criminal offence, and the expenditure for maintaining captured cows would be recovered from the owner of the transport vehicle for a period of one year. Endangering a cow’s life by not providing food and water is punishable with one-year rigorous imprisonment, which may extend to seven years. Additionally, a fine of Rs. 1 lakh, extendable to Rs. 3 lakh may be imposed.

Karnataka: Taking a leaf out of the U.P government’s book, Karnataka, in December 2020, banned the slaughter of cows, bulls, and bullocks of all ages. It also restricted intra-State and inter-State transport of these animals for slaughter. Any Sub-Divisional Magistrate is allowed to seize cattle and confiscate the premises of anyone suspected of committing such an offence. On conviction, both cattle and premises will be forfeited to the State government. 

Assam: The BJP government in Assam too passed a cow protection law in 2021, banning the slaughter of any cattle without a certificate from a government-registered Veterinary Officer. The certificate can only be issued if the cattle is not a cow and is over 14 years of age or has been permanently incapacitated from work or breeding. The law also prohibited transportation of cattle to and from Assam without a permit, as well as the direct or indirect sale of beef and beef products except at places specified by authorities.

Much like UP’s cow protection law, cattle may be seized by police officer if they suspect that an offence was or is being committed, and the cost of its maintenance during trial will be borne by those deemed responsible under State government rules.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2022 2:52:27 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/explained-indias-stray-cattle-menace-state-scenarios-cow-protection-vigilantism/article65827558.ece