Shillong: The Meghalaya Assembly on Sunday unanimously passed a resolution opposing the Centre's notification banning the sale and purchase of cattle at animal markets for slaughter and demanded its withdrawal as it would ‘impact the economy of the state and the food habits of its people’.
Cutting across political lines, the members of the Assembly supported the resolution tabled by Chief Minister Mukul Sangma.
"This House takes a strong note of the shortcomings and infirmities in these Rules (Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Regulation of Livestock Markets Rules, 2017), as notified and resolves that the same may be withdrawn by Government of India with an immediate effect, so as to maintain the federal and secular character of our Constitution or be faced with a situation where the law prohibits some activity, while the everyday-life practices it on a large-scale due to harsh economic realities, a situation surely to be avoided at all costs," the resolution read.
The notification, it said, "travels way beyond the scope and object as set out in the Preamble of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960", thus infringing the rights of the states to regulate the items enlisted in the State List (List-II of VII Schedule to the Constitution of India).
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had issued the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017 on May 23. Sangma, introducing the resolution, alleged that the notification was ‘designed to affect’ the people of the north-east in general and Meghalaya in particular.
It suffered from ‘serious shortcomings and infirmities’ and could have an ‘adverse impact on the economy and culture’ of the state of Meghalaya, he added.
The chief minister said beef was an ‘integral part’ of the dietary habit of the tribals of Meghalaya and its demand in the state in 2015-2016 was 23,634 metric tonnes. Beef production in the state was only 12,834 MT and 10,800 MT was purchased from outside, he added.
Sangma told the House that to balance the demand and supply of beef, the government had put in place the Meghalaya State Livestock Mission for 2017-2022 to augment the livestock production.
The prohibition on the sale and purchase of cattle at animal markets for the purpose of slaughter would affect the livelihood of over 5.7 lakh (79%) households, which were currently involved in cattle-rearing, he added.
"It will also affect the right of the people to have food of their own choice and celebrate the religious, cultural and social ceremonies in practice since time immemorial," said Sangma. Referring to the India Health Report on Nutrition 2015, which surveyed under-nutrition in children (the national average is 38.7%), the chief minister said, "The prevalence of stunting in children under five years of age is rampant in Meghalaya at 42.9 per cent."
The state, he said, was addressing the issue of nutrition security by providing a mixed diet in the mid-day meals in schools, which as of today lacked non-vegetarian food. The Rules were in contravention of section 38 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 as they went ‘beyond its scope’.
They were also in contravention of section 28 (of the same Act), which contemplated the killing of certain animals, subject to the provisions of the Cattle Preservation Act, said Sangma. Referring to rule 8 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017, which prohibited the functioning of an animal market within 25 kms of a state border or 50 kms of an international border, the chief minister said Meghalaya shared a 443-km-long international border with Bangladesh and an over-800-km-long inter-state border with Assam.
"This will result in large-scale disruption of the economy, including livelihoods at the border areas, since Rule 2(e) specifically defines 'cattle' to include bovine animals, bulls, bullocks, cows, buffaloes, steers, heifers and camels," he added.
Referring to Rule 22, which placed restrictions on the sale and purchase of cattle and prohibited bringing of cattle to the animal market for slaughter, Sangma said it was a "major embargo crippling the economy of a predominantly tribal society" with an over-85-per cent indigenous population.