Beef Parties: Parties without reason

Recent prohibitory orders from central government on cattle trading for meat production have created a controversy. Beef parties are being organized to protest the same. Opposition is also up in arms against such notifications. Madras high court has also stayed these notifications for some days.

In reality, this notification was issued to keep a check on cattle smuggling. Cattle smuggling is a fast growing trade with pan India presence. Lakhs and lakhs of cattle’s, which are smuggled across Bangladesh border, are butchered in slaughterhouses there.

In April 2017, A standing committee of Home ministry submitted its report on International border in the Parliament. This report went in length on this problem and expressed its concern over the same. Committee recommended a strong and holistic penal action to check this cattle smuggling. Therefore relevance of this Notification needs to be looked from the context set up by standing committee. Interestingly chairman of this standing committee is none other then senior congress leader and ex home minster Mr. P Chidambram. It is a different matter now that his own party is now opposing this notification.

We should try to understand this issue by putting a perspective, based on facts pertaining to cattle smuggling, in place. In its recent report, standing committee of home ministry clearly mentioned 3 most important factors fueling illegal cattle trade:
1. Dense population in 300 villages along Bangladesh International Border.

2. Auctioning of cattle’s confiscated by BSF. However the network is such that these cattle’s end up in the hand of same smugglers.

3. Locals along international border have a strong hand in this smuggling network.

Unfortunately there is no credible data available with government depicting the number of cattles which fall pray to this illegal trade. However the number of smuggled cattles confiscated by BSF is good enough to indicate the enormity of this problem. Following are the numbers of cattles confiscated by BSF in recent years

1. 1,20,724 in 2012

2. 1,22,000 in 2013

3. 1,09,999 in 2014

4. 1,53,602 in 2015

5. 1,46,967 till October 2016

As per standing committee report, this smuggling network spans across Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal. Local agents in these states transport cattles illegaly to Assam and West Bengal. Dhubri in Assam and Nadia, Murshidabad, Malda, South Dinajpur, North Dinajpur, Raiganj and Siligudi are the hotspots of this trade.

Standing committee expressed its displeasure over the fact that since 1st September 2003, West Bengal government is violating its own notification. As per this notification, Within 8 kilometers of international border there should be no animal shade. But no other than the chief secretary of West Bengal informed standing committee that there are 15 such animal shades in the proscribed area. Of them, the one at Murshidabad is the only one which has been transferred so far. In these circumstances, opposition to central government notification by west Bengal government only goes on to show that west Bengal government neither wants to follow law itself nor allows other laws to be in place. It is anybody’s guess who benefits from this shoddy approach.

BSF in its assessment has clearly articulated that the presence of such animal shades act as a catalyst to animal trade as there are no retractions to take cattle’s till those shades. And that is it. There is open smuggling going on taking advantage of the same. Therefore state government must be questioned as to why all such shades are not being closed. If the state government, custodian of law, becomes the biggest violator of law, who can then stop smugglers?

Standing committee recommended West Bengal government to cancel the licenses of illegal animal shades near international border. State Government’s silence on this issue is worrisome. Standing committee went further and increased the span of proscribed area from 8km to 15km. Standing committee made one more recommendation to West Bengal state government. It asked state government to take stern action against locals who are hand in gloves in illegal cattle trade. Committee concluded by saying that the network of cattle trade is very big and strong, and therefore needs to be nipped in the bud. This is what central government probably intended to do, but by giving political color to this issue opposition has managed to stall any progress on this matter, at least for now. On top of that, organization of beef parties is an inkling to the fact that how an “Elite” section of society, which consider itself Liberal, without even verifying facts is opposing moves to ban illegal cattle trade. Probably, such “liberals” are insensitive towards helpless cattles and therefore have no interest in stopping the smuggling of cattles.

-Arun Anand

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