From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : NA
Mains level : Bovine nationalism
The recent law passed by the Karnataka State Assembly on bovine slaughter is a topic of contention.
Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill (2020)
- The Karnataka state assembly passed the Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill (2020).
- It has banned the slaughter of all cows, bulls, bullocks and calves as well as it also outlaws the slaughter of buffaloes below the age of 13.
- Smuggling and transporting animals for slaughter is also an offence.
- The bill prescribes punishments of between three to seven years – which is more than the punishment prescribed in Indian law for causing the death of a human being by negligence.
- It also gives the police powers to conduct searches based on suspicion.
- Though the bill has yet to be passed by the state’s Legislative Council, the government has said it will pass an ordinance to implement its provisions.
Practice Question: The recent law passed by Karnataka State Assembly on bovine slaughter is a topic of contention. Analyze.
Muslims and farmers
- The legislation, based on Hinduism’s reverence for the cow, undermines the food practices of many Indians, for whom beef is a cheap source of protein.
- Already, Indians are some of the most malnourished people on the planet and, remarkably, nutrition standards are worsening.
- The bill also penalizes people working in the meat and leather industries that depend on cattle slaughter, many of whom are Muslim.
- The sector that will take the largest hit from the legislation is the dairy industry. India’s dairy industry is massive with an annual turnover of Rs 6.5 lakh crore – making it by far India’s largest agricultural product.
- India’s farmers earn more from dairy than wheat and rice put together. India has almost as many bovines as people in the United States with one for every four Indians.
- The problem with the bill is that that slaughter is integral to the dairy industry’s economic functioning. Dairy farming in India functions on small margins. As a result, the upkeep of unproductive animals would throw their bottom lines out of alignment.
- When a male calf is born or a milch animal stops giving milk (or yield falls), farmers need to be able to get rid of the animal. In normal times, this sale is also a source of capital for the farmer.
- In 2014, the size of the used cattle market just in Maharashtra was valued at as much as Rs 1,180 crore per year.
- Verghese Kurien, founder of Amul and the architect of India’s White Revolution, that supercharged India’s milk production from 1970, opposed any ban on cow slaughter. Kurein was clear that the economics of dairy demanded slaughter.
- The statistics produced by the 2019 Livestock Census are clear: cow slaughter laws have actually ended up harming cows.
- Between 2012 and 2019, states with cow slaughter laws such as Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh saw their cattle numbers fall (by 10.07%, 4.42% and 3.93%, respectively).
- On the other hand, West Bengal – one of India’s rare states where cattle slaughter has no restrictions – saw a massive increase of 15.18%. As a result, Bengal now has the Indian Union’s largest cattle population.
- Farmers simply let unproductive cattle loose, giving rise to the problem of large herds of feral cows which have caused economic havoc and pose a danger of citizens – a problem unique to India.
- In the countryside of many states, famished cattle herds now pose a danger to crops and cause accidents.
- Naturally, stray cattle numbers are directly linked to cow slaughter laws. States such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have seen substantial rises in their stray cow population between 2012 and 2019 while West Bengal has seen a sharp fall.
- Between 2012 and 2019, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh saw their buffalo numbers rise.
- Since the buffalo – not seen as sacred in Hinduism – could be slaughtered legally, dairy farmers were clearly preferring it over the holy cow.
- But the Karnataka bill very alarming even compared to the devastation caused by the earlier cow slaughter laws is because it even targets buffalos.
Making it worse
- Karnataka’s stringent laws against cow slaughter is part of a policy pattern that – rather than make India’s already precarious economic situation better – makes Indians worse off.
- Recent examples include demonetization, the new Goods and Services Tax as well as putting in place the world’s harshest Covid-19 lockdown, making sure India’s was the worst affected country economically during the pandemic.
- India is going through a rural crisis. With poor yields due to unscientific farming methods and lack of support structures like irrigation, the average monthly income of the Indian farmer stands at only Rs 6,427 per month.
- To make matters worse, for small farmers (defined as owning less than a hectare of land), their farming income is too low to cover their expenses and they are in debt and this describes the situation of 83% of Indian farmers.