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'BJP government is doing precious little to stop cattle smuggling'

July 26, 2018 09:02 IST

'The previous (Congress) government at least did not veto provisions of the cattle laws.'
'The BJP is actively weakening the provisions.'
'The BJP government tried to export goats from Nagpur for slaughter to the Middle East.'
'The whole country was aghast and offended. We are a country of Ahimsa.'
The BJP has incentivised the butcher industry so meat export has gone up, live animal export has gone up, leather export is on the rise, smuggling has gone up.'

IMAGE: Cattle smuggling is an organised crime; to uncover the organised racket, serious investigation needs to be conducted into the forward and backward linkages in each case. This is never done, says animal activist Gauri Maulekhi. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

Animal activist Gauri Maulekhi was instrumental in getting an order passed by the Supreme Court last year stopping cattle markets from becoming illegal slaughter houses.

Maulekhi has been speaking out against cattle smugglers in various fora and says the illegal cattle smuggling business is worth Rs 1 lakh crore annually.

Post the lynching of Rakbar Khan in Alwar, the issue of cattle smuggling has once again caught the attention of the nation.

According to the Indiaspend Web site, 34 deaths from lynchings have taken place in India Since the Narendra Damodardas Modi-led government came to power in 2014.

"I was told that every year 100 police officers get killed by cattle smugglers; 50 in Rajasthan; run over, shot, attacked by acid, burnt alive. That does not make news. Talking about lynching and escaping the real issue seems to be fashionable," Maulekhi tells Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf.

 

Hiralal Nagar -- a Bharatiya Janata Party MLA in Rajasthan -- was informed by the government in the state assembly that 1,113 cow smuggling cases were registered in the last three years and 2,198 smugglers were arrested in the same time period.
If so many smugglers were arrested, how come there are more people being involved in the activity?

One has to understand that cattle smuggling is an organised crime.

The people who are getting caught are labourers/carriers, and the people who are organising this crime are the big kingpins.

To uncover the organised racket, serious investigation needs to be conducted into the forward and backward linkages in each case. This is never done.

The labourers who are transporting the cattle are the ones who are getting arrested.

There are hardly any convictions and there is practically no effective deterrent against this rampant crime.

The accused get bail in a day or two. The penal provisions of these Acts are very weak; Rajasthan's cattle Act i already very weak and is being made weaker still by removal of protection for buffaloes.

By removing protection from livestock we are draining the wealth of this country and making a drama of the implementation of the law.

These shenanigans amount to cheating the country, especially the farmers who are only looking at short term gains.

The MLA has used random figures to hide the Rajasthan government's spectacular failure in doing anything for its cattle.

Don't cow smuggling laws have stringent punishment -- five to 10 years imprisonment?

Convictions don't take place and that is the problem.

The crime is not booked correctly, and correct people are not booked in the FIRs.

No kingpin of this organised gang is going to go on the road with a truck full of cattle. This is done as a very systematic, organised racket.

The cattle smuggling business is worth Rs 1 lakh crore a year and we catch the lowest labourers who are paid only Rs 100 to transport the cattle.

There is a lot of activity to show, but no real action.

So, when these lynchings take place, are the victims cow milk suppliers or are they really smugglers?

Over a crore of cattle are transported to Bangladesh illegally every year from India. And we are not even talking of the illegal cattle slaughter within India.

Now compare that with two lynchings a day.

The law enforcing agencies have completely failed and policy-makers are not bothered.

As money has no religion, every community is a participant in this thoroughly anti-national crime.

Every single community is getting rid of their unproductive cattle in the most irresponsible manner for short-term profit maximisation, knowing fully well where the cattle is going, as the destination usually is West Bengal and from there to Bangladesh.

Repeat offenders of cattle smuggling do this over and over again.

The law provides for vehicle registrations to be cancelled and repeat offenders barred from having custody of animals, but no database of offenders is maintained by any state police, so repeat offenders are never identified.

The dairies are closely and intricately linked with such trafficking.

Only milking animals are retained and all calves and cows/buffaloes whose milk producing capacity falls, even marginally, or animals which fall ill, are swiftly sent for illegal slaughter.

What are the various BJP governments doing? The BJP is in power in Gujarat, Haryana, Rajasthan, still these crimes continue.

The BJP government is doing precious little to stop cattle smuggling.

The previous (Congress) government at least did not veto provisions of the cattle laws and sat on the provision for 30 years.

The BJP is actively weakening the provisions.

The BJP government tried to export goats from Nagpur for slaughter to the Middle East.

The whole country was aghast and offended. We are a country of Ahimsa.

The BJP has incentivised the butcher industry so meat export has gone up, live animal export has gone up, leather export is on the rise, smuggling has gone up, but conviction in cattle smuggling cases is at an all-time low.

The Rajasthan home department stated that 16,428 cows were rescued from 2015 to 2017. How is it that in spite of a cow slaughter ban, around 15 cows are being rescued each day by the police from cattle smugglers?

This is awesome! Please ask them where these rescued cows are kept.

The answer is, these cows are instantly given back to butchers.

The cows are rescued by the police and given back to butchers.

Rescued and given back, rescued and given back. This goes on forever.

So this is just a stupid statement to make that they have rescued 16,000 cows because the Rajasthan government has no provision to keep these cows. They are totally dependent on NGOs to house cattle.

A vast majority of the smuggling goes on unchecked.

Where some weak cases are booked against the 'carriers', the custody of case property is given back to the accused.

The problem in our country is the unscientific and short-sighted policies adopted by the animal husbandry department at the Centre as well as state governments.

They are doing artificial insemination in fifth gear and churning out more and more cattle, while there is a total absence of any policy or scheme in any state or at the Centre for the disposal of the by-product of this industry, which are dry cattle and calves.

So what do farmers do once they are done milking the animals for profit?

Palm these cattle off for illegal slaughter or just abandon them on the roads.

No farmer is going to continue keeping dry and unproductive cattle.

The state government has no provision to house the discarded cattle responsibly or house the case property cattle.

Dairy is the most irresponsible and most polluting industry in the country and they are contributing to all this crime by not owning up any responsibility for the cattle that they are producing for profit.

So 16,000 may have been 'rescued', but where are these 16,000 cattle? They are nowhere, as cattle are instantly given back to butchers.

So what is the point of such stringent cow laws which the government is implementing everywhere in India?

That is the genesis of one's frustration, which is why lynchings take place. Not that I condone such acts.

But the law to begin with is so weak and governments are making it weaker.

The implementation of law is shabbier still. Indians have traditionally been compassionate and protective of cattle, as it is the bedrock of the economy.

If it is offensive to people that we are now turning into a butcher nation, then the government has the responsibility to do something about it.

But innocents are being lynched in the name of the cow.

Do you know how many BSF (Border Security Force) soldiers get killed due to cow smuggling?

The ministry of home affairs submitted a report in the Supreme Court last year with a list of officers killed by cattle smugglers every year.

I was conducting a workshop in Uttar Pradesh for police officials and I was told that every year 100 uniformed police officers get killed by cattle smugglers; 50 in Rajasthan; run over, shot, attacked by acid, burnt alive.

That does not make news. Talking about lynching and escaping the real issue seems to be fashionable.

In 2008, HuJI terrorists arrested for the Assam blasts admitted that their activities are funded by cattle smuggling.

The same smugglers who take cattle illegally to Bangladesh, bring back narcotics and arms. They are hardly innocent.

If the government is sitting on these facts and doing absolutely nothing about it, then it must be a larger conspiracy than we can fathom yet.

Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

Why do most lynchings happen in Rajasthan and Haryana?

In the cow belt states like Rajasthan and Haryana, a vast majority of people get deeply offended when cattle are slaughtered.

The government has the Constitutional responsibility to ensure that provisions of law are implemented so that these people do not take the law in their own hands.

I am not justifying lynchings, but one can understand the frustration of people when the government handsomely fails in doing its job.

The government is actively conniving with the violators (cattle smugglers).

The government of Rajasthan is busy weakening its own law by removing animals from the protected list rather than increasing the ambit of the law and increasing the penalty and setting up fast-track courts.

Despite making a law to protect camels, the level of apathy is such that 90 per cent of the camel population has been illegally butchered or smuggled to Bangladesh in the past 10 years.

This loss is irreparable and the government of Rajasthan has done a great disservice to the farming community of this country.

Very soon, our cows and buffaloes will all be fed to foreign nations, but who thinks beyond five years?

The Rajasthan police impounded 1,051 vehicles which were used in cattle smuggling in the last three years. On an average that is one vehicle per day. What happens to these vehicles?

These vehicles are released the next day. And no data is available with the prosecution.

They do not have any data to apprise the court that this vehicle was caught multiple times for cattle smuggling.

Not a single registration of any vehicle is cancelled for cattle smuggling.

The law exists, but we get excuses instead of implementation.

All this is happening in BJP-ruled states. You are an animal activist of repute, don't you try to apply pressure about these issues on the government?

If I put more pressure, my eyes will pop out of their sockets.

What else can I do? I can only lynch these people (laughs).

And as the song goes, Hum bolega toh bolega bolta hai.

What do you do when there is such an excess of cattle?

There is a certain principle in law that the polluter has to pay.

This is an industry which is highly profitable.

Every state has a profitable livestock development board and they are producing cattle in big numbers through artificial insemination.

Tomorrow, suppose, I start a factory and then throw my garbage on the roads and say that I don't have any responsibility for that garbage and it is the municipality's job to pick it up, I will be penalised.

I have to set up my own facility for clearing my factory byproduct in a proper manner.

In the same way, how can dairy industries leave unproductive cattle on roads or dispose of them irresponsibly?

Why do dairy industries produce so many cattle when they do not have any retirement plan for these cattle?

The department of animal husbandry dairying and fisheries in the ministry of agriculture has been warned to the heavens, but they simply refuse to take the onus for welfare of the animals that they milk, or for the animals that they discard.

India imports chemical fertilisers worth over Rs 1 lakh crore every year, while we are sitting on the world's largest livestock population.

Why don't we use the manure for agriculture in a systematic manner?

Chemical fertilisers are the leading cause for failed farming in Punjab and severe agricultural damage during droughts in Maharashtra.

If we manage our livestock scientifically, by treating our cattle responsibly, then we can live sustainably, but the government has failed to make a policy to that effect.

If you see the basic economics -- the cost of an unproductive cow is zero. It is for free.
Cows are roaming on roads and all that a cattle smuggler has to do is transport it to the butcher house and he can make some money. So this trade is very lucrative from their viewpoint.

Exactly, this is absolutely true.

The milk industry is making money and just chucking off the by-product on the roads by handing it over to smugglers.

Officers of the animal husbandry department and the quacks that they are generating go around artificially impregnating cattle with no regard to the future of dry cattle and calves.

How can one department be the genesis of a problem and take no onus for the nuisance that they are creating?

Most dairies, however, don't abandon their cattle on the roads, they sell them to butchers or smugglers for illegal purposes, and at a very high profit margin.

A dry buffalo sells for up to Rs 40,000, for meat, leather, bones, blood and random offal.

Photograph: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters

India shares a porous, 4,096 km-long international border with Bangladesh. How is it possible to stop cow smuggling?

The Supreme Court has ordered that these borders need to be fenced.

I have been to these places and fencing can be done only when we have proper marking of the border.

The landscape is such that the rivulets meander in places.

No patrolling is possible and the BSF is totally helpless in the face of tens of thousands of cattle being made to cross the border at times.

It is like 10 elephants in a room, but we refuse to see them.

By 2017, 109,999 heads of cattle were seized from the Bangladesh border, and still cow smuggling has not stopped. Is there no fear of law?

This figure of 109,999, is simply on paper.

The government has not spent even one rupee on the upkeep of discarded or case property cattle.

All cattle are simply returned to butchers, sometimes by auction, sometimes simply for free.

Are we then seizing cattle from cattle smugglers for no reason?

The whole exercise of returning the rescued cattle to the butcher or auctioning them is bizarre and a total waste of time.

The BSF has established that if an animal gets caught at the border, it is auctioned and bought by the same smuggler again.

Smuggling to Bangladesh is so profitable that even if it is caught 10 times and he has to buy it back at auction 10 times, he would still make a profit.

The Government of India makes a profit as well. The auction proceeds amount to some Rs 14 crore (Rs 140 million) per annum.

With any shame, at least this money could have been used to make gaushalas for case property cattle!

Why is this happening?

This is what is happening. I can give you the example of 10,000 cases where the cattle are instantly given back to butchers.

It is only when NGOs contest the matter in court that the cattle are sometimes not returned to the accused. These cases are like half a drop in the Pacific Ocean.

The prosecution department is practically defunct in animal matters. They don't even appear against the butchers/smugglers.

Are you saying such lynchings will occur because of public anger as the mobs know nothing will happen to cattle smugglers in spite of stringent laws?

Correct.

As I said, the right people are not caught.

Investigations are not happening.

What is the point in catching a labourer? You are booking cases under wrong sections.

Convictions are not happening.

When someone goes to file an FIR against a cattle smuggler in the police station nobody entertains him.

Counter FIRs are filed against complainants. People are getting totally fed up.

Cattle smuggling is so rampant that the police has become insensitive as it happens every day.

Around 500 trucks of cattle pass through Delhi every day and everybody takes money from top to bottom.

And just for show, the police will catch two trucks in a day and that too they will return back the next day to the owner.

Who the hell are you fooling?

But the Modi government is serious about cows. Union Minister Jayant Sinha felicitated lynching accused after they were released on bail.

The Modi government must take more sensible steps rather than felicitating such people.

They must encourage law enforcement agencies to conduct proper investigations.

They must strengthen the penalties in animal welfare laws.

They must enforce welfare laws on profit-making dairy industry and hold them accountable for the murder of little calves and for torturing their mothers.

Use of oxytocin and artificial insemination must be stopped.

Quackery, which is rendering a large population of our cattle sterile, must be stopped.

The government must have a policy in place for responsible and sustainable dairy farming.

Syed Firdaus Ashraf / Rediff.com