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28 May 2017

Vijayan asks Modi to drop meat curbs

Pinarayi Vijayan
TT. May 27: Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan today wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, citing the constitutional "principles of secularism and federalism" to urge withdrawal of the Centre's recent ban on cattle and buffalo sales for slaughter in animal markets.
His letter says the new rules should have been introduced after consulting the states.
"The absence of efforts to take the states into confidence on such a drastic move with far-reaching consequences is detrimental to our democracy. I'm afraid it amounts to an intrusion into the rights of the states in our federal structure," Vijayan wrote.
"The introduction of such restrictions in a hasty manner would certainly prove to be a challenge in upholding our plurality, the essence of our nation. It would also be against the principles of secularism and federalism enshrined in our Constitution."
He added that such restrictions coinciding with Ramazan "would certainly appear to certain communities of our country as a direct attack on them", referring to the Muslim holy month that began today in Kerala.
Left-ruled Kerala's government has already hinted at a legal challenge to the ban on the ground that it impinges on a state subject.
Vijayan had yesterday castigated the ban, introduced through a May 23 notification, which will force farmers to sell their old cattle and buffalo directly to abattoirs - a task involving separate trips and expenses - or tend to the unproductive animals lifelong.
"Today it is about banning the slaughter of cattle. But a time will come when they ban the consumption of fish," the chief minister had written on Facebook in Malayalam.
He had added that the ban would hit the food rights of the poor and the minorities who eat beef and buffalo meat, and the livelihoods of people who work in the meat, leather and associated industries.
Meat traders have dubbed the curbs "anti-farmer", saying it would make cattle rearing unprofitable even for Hindu peasants and lead to a milk crisis, apart from hurting the economy.
"In my own state of Kerala, the vast majority of the population consumes meat. So is the case with all the other south Indian states and northeast Indian states," Vijayan's letter today said.
"Even in states like Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal, non-vegetarians outnumber vegetarians."
The letter expressed fear that the district animal market monitoring committees would now take up the role of the cow vigilantes who have in recent months attacked cattle traders and transporters.
Vijayan later told reporters his government's course of action would depend on Modi's response to his letter.
Kerala, where 60 per cent of the population eats beef and buffalo meat, today witnessed massive protests against the notification. The youth wings of various political parties cooked and served beef at hundreds of locations, and drew huge participation.
Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said the Opposition United Democratic Front would observe a state-wide "black day" on Monday.
CPM salvo
The CPM politburo has dubbed the latest curbs an "atrocious attempt by the Modi government to give legal cover for its wholly communal and divisive agenda to impose a diet code on the country".
A statement said: "It will destroy the livelihood of crores of farmers involved in animal husbandry, eliminate traditional cattle fairs, put an unfair burden on farmers to care for useless cattle."
It said the curbs would hurt the leather and meat export industry, "affecting the livelihood of lakhs of people".
The Left peasant organisation, the All India Kisan Sabha, plans to demand a law to ensure that all the ageing cattle that farmers have is bought by the government and at market rates.
"Animal husbandry accounts for 7.6 per cent of the country's GDP and those engaged in it take the strain off the job market," the Sabha's P.K. Krishnaprasad said.
The outfit plans to reach out even to farmers loyal to Sangh affiliates as they too would be hurt by the latest rules.

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