BHUBANESWAR: The ban on sale of cattle for slaughter is all set to hit small and marginal farmers hard in Odisha which is not a beef consuming State. However, it is unlikely to make any dent to the illegal cattle smuggling for which Odisha is a big market.
The farmers raise cows for milk and bullocks for agricultural works and when the time comes, they sell the cattle to overcome financial crunch. Now, with the ban coming into effect, whatever little economic cushion it provided to this community is gone. The rules that have been framed to regulate sale of cattle are most likely to push the farmers further into debt as farmers sell their barren cattle to traders for slaughtering.
A large chunk of the cattle goes to Bangladesh through West Bengal while others head for the tanneries. Illegal trading will ensure that it still continues. But poor farmers will now face a huge procedural hurdle to sell their stock as the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017 state that no one can sell the cattle without furnishing a written declaration that the animal is not sold for slaughter while animal market committees will also take an undertaking for the same.
“Farmers used to get a good sum by selling the cattle for slaughter. Now they have to keep the sick and infirm cattle as there are practically no gochar land left in the villages where the cows can graze. It will add to the financial burden,” says researcher Anil Dhir.
Cattle traders echo similar sentiments. “The farmers line up in the markets with their unproductive animals. If the unfit cannot be sold off, what will they do? Why would they take care of unproductive animals till they diet?” asked a trader Firoz Ahmed. Market insiders say the new rule would hardly impact cattle trading in the State. Cattle smuggling is rampant here despite the fact that Odisha has its own law and regulations on cow slaughter.
“No one sold or bought cattle for slaughter on record since it is banned in the State. I don’t think the undertaking clause would have any impact on trading,” he said.
Odisha has 296 regulated markets besides over 100 private markets where cattle trading is done regularly. Unofficial sources put the estimated cattle trade at a whopping `150 crore. With barely no enforcement in existence, cattle smuggling from Odisha to Andhra Pradesh and Bangladesh via West Bengal is rampant.
The cattle markets here are run by persons who bid for them. Since cow slaughter is outlawed, the State has emerged as the most profitable smuggling market. Everyday on an average, 150 truckloads of cattle are transported from the State. Though very few milch cows or strong bullocks are sold, 95 per cent of the trade is for slaughter. The track record of State Government in preventing cattle transportation and cow slaughter is poor. The district level animal welfare boards are dysfunctional. Huge payoffs are made to officials of the districts through which illegal transportation is done. Money changes hands to politicians, check gate officials, MVI and RTOs and to the cow vigilante groups too.
Besides, the Government has no official shelter house to keep and maintain old and unproductive cattle. “Odisha has hardly any State-run goshala as cow shelters are being run by a few benevolent persons with practically no Government support,” Dhir said.On the other hand, pro-ban activists believe that the new rules would check cattle smuggling and help farmers. Senior Bajrang Dal leader Subash Chouhan said the onus is now on the State Government to implement it strictly. “As 90 per cent of trading will be affected due to the ban, farmers would get bullocks or cows at cheap rate. The rule will be a boon for a State like Odisha, where 95 per cent of farmers depend on cattle,” he added.