CHENNAI: Suresh, from Periyapalayam in Uthulottai, is to get his sister married on Thursday. With the groom having demanded a motorbike — a certain 220cc bike to be precise — Suresh decided to sell a pair of his bulls, after exhausting other alternatives to muster cash. Neither has he traded the bulls nor would the groom get his bike on time.
The Centre’s new rules banning sale of cows and bulls for butchering in open cattle markets may not translate to a blanket ban for the trade or slaughter of cattle. However, for those who converged at the cattle market in Vengal on the outskirts of Chennai, about 40km from Anna Nagar, the nitty-gritties of the rule don’t matter. The market, that usually sees almost 200 cows or oxen brought in for sale or sometimes, exchanged, saw just about 90 of these animals on Tuesday.
The reasons, according to visitors, was sheer fear and confusion. Although the Madras High Court has issued an interim stay over the ban, butchers stayed away from the market for fear of being pulled up by some saffron groups, forcing many to return empty-handed or sell them off at a crippling loss. “Over the last few days, several groups have cropped up, stopping mini trucks that we use to transport cattle and demanding money,” said Gunasekaran K, who sold none of the two bulls and a milch cow that he brought to the market on Tuesday.
“They ask for Rs 200, or sometimes Rs 500, threatening to call the Blue Cross, who they say, will come take our cattle away. We’re poor people and are unsure of what the new rules permit or prohibit, so we pay the money,” he added.
The small weekly market gets visitors from villagers, some even 20km away, including Muthapudupet, Valliyur, Pakkam, Kavanur, Poorivakkam and Vilapakkam.
Venkatesan G, a farmer from Vadamadurai, is in a fix, like most others who visit the market. His daughter’s wedding is next month, and he needs to purchase jewellery. “I sold off two of my bulls for Rs 64,000 when it would’ve easily fetched me nearly a lakh before all these new rules came into existence,” he said.
With schools to open on Wednesday, and last dates for admissions to colleges fast approaching, there were a handful, like Munirathnam M, who came to the market hoping to sell his milch cow, one that gives nearly eight litres of milk a day, to pay his son’s fees. “They’re negotiating for Rs 15,000 when it should be selling for over Rs 50,000. How can I do so?” he asked.
With butchers nowhere to be found in the market, for fear of being ‘arrested’, the spent dairy cows and toothless buffaloes will go home on Tuesday, to see the light of another day. Their owners, however, may not share their joy.
“To keep spent and old cattle at home, we have to spend Rs 200 to Rs 300 a day for food. So, with everyday that they continue to stay with us, they’re only sucking us dry,” said Dheenan D, also a farmer.
To get animals to the market, sellers pay Rs 500 as rent for mini trucks, and since most have not sold off their cattle, they will now spend another Rs 500 to take them back home.
Munnusamy E said he bought a mini truck last December, solely for the purpose of transporting cattle. “I made up to Rs 700 a day on market days. During other days of the week, owners who wanted to transport animals gave us a call,” he said.
Now, not only has his business gone down, but he’s also scared of saffron groups damaging his vehicle for carrying cattle. “For them, cows may be god, but for us, they’re how we get our next meal,” he added.
Poultry sellers making most of situation
Poultry meat sellers in the locality are all smiles, as they increasingly find that chicken just might be the next-most sought after meat for beef lovers. They sell a kilogram of chicken for Rs 240, a hundred more than usual. What with the fear of selling and buying cattle, chickens could see a hike in demand.