Cow economics hurt working class the most

THE HANS INDIA |   Aug 21,2017 , 02:42 AM IST


When Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the Parliament for the first time in June 2014, his inaugural speech focused on integrating and protecting India’s Muslims. “Even the third generation of Muslim brothers, whom I have seen since my young days, are continuing with their cycle-repairing job,” he said, referring to one of the many menial jobs to which Muslims are often relegated. 

But instead of “bringing about a change in their lives,” as Modi promised, his government has made life harder for them by cracking down on the leather and beef industries. Muslims and Dalits are among the poorest in India, and they have very little access to property. By tradition, and due to a lack of other opportunities, many work in the leather sector, which employs around 2.5million nationwide.

Over the past three years, this trade has increasingly made Muslims and Dalits the targets of so-called cow vigilantism-attacks perpetrated on cow traders in the name of religion. A legislation adopted in May, which amends the 1960 Prevention of Cruelty on Animals Act, is set to victimise these populations economically.

Among other changes, the new rules mandate that cows, camels and buffalo may be sold to farmers only for agricultural purposes, not for slaughter. In Uttar Pradesh, for instance, one in 1000 works in slaughterhouses and the leather industry. Kanpur recently saw several slaughterhouses close down, putting out of work over “400,000 employees linked to leather industries”.

The supply of local hides has declined precipitously, leading to a decrease in Indian sales of leather and leather products. From April 2016 to March 2017, total leather exports dropped 3.23% from the previous year, to $5.67 billion from $5.9 billion. India also does enormous trade in meat. In 2015, the main market for its buffalo meat was Vietnam, which buys up $1.97 million worth of it, followed by Malaysia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Last financial year, annual production was estimated at 6.3 million tonnes and exports totalled $3.32 billion. That’s down from $4.15 billion the year before. In Uttar Pradesh alone, attacks on cow related-businesses have already triggered losses of $601 million on the State’s export business.
States have also introduced several coercive measures aimed at people in the cow businesses.

Illegal slaughterhouses have been at the core of the debate in recent months following a government crackdown in March 2017, as non-compliant facilities struggle to adapt to complex regulations, including locating shops at specific distances from religious places, getting appropriate documents from several administrations or particular freezers.

On June 6 2017, the state issued a new directive to punish cow slaughter and illegal transport of dairy animals under the National Security Act and Gangsters Act, effectively criminalising traders. In Gujarat, cow slaughter is now a non-bailable offence, punishable with life imprisonment, meaning that people who kill a cow will serve the same time as a murderer. Other States ruled by BJP have begun applying similar laws. The national government is also currently considering a petition to give cows an Indian identity card similar to those issued to its citizens.

These new rules have reinforced the impunity of criminal groups that burn down Muslim and Dalit businesses, terrorise cow traders and brutally beat or kill people. Rebranding themselves as animal activists, cow vigilantes exploit the sanctity of this animal in Hinduism to commit violence, with the tacit endorsement of state and national governments.

None of this will help already-tense Hindu-Muslim relations in India, nor does it seem to bode well for Modi’s “Make in India” initiative to boost the country’s economic production. According to the campaign website, the government hopes to increase leather exports to $9 billion by 2020, from its present level of $5.85 billion, and bring the domestic market to $18 billion, thereby doubling its current value. Can the Centre really afford a crackdown on cow economics?  (Courtesy:

By afroz alam

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