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28 May 2017

Where's the abattoir, ask traders - State awaits word from Centre

The slaughterhouse coming up in Kanke, Ranchi. Telegraph picture
A.S.R.P. Mukesh & Animesh Bisoee, TT, Ranchi/Jamshedpur, May 27: The state government may have indicated it is not immediately enforcing the Centre's notification banning the sale of cattle for slaughter in animal markets, but meat sellers and cattle traders believe the lack of slaughterhouses in Jharkhand would impinge on their livelihood severely.
Already crippled by the state government's March 28 order banning the sale of meat at unlicensed shops, cattle traders believe that Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulations of Livestock Markets) Rules 2017, that specify cattle as bulls, bullocks, cows, buffaloes, steers, heifers, calves and camels, would hit them even harder.
Essentially, the rules specify that from now on, supply of meat of these animals would largely hinge on direct transactions between farmers and registered abattoirs. But Jharkhand is yet to have a functioning slaughterhouse.
Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) is building a state-of-the-art slaughterhouse in Kanke block, the first one by any government of the state, but it is anybody's guess when it will start functioning.
RMC health officer Kiran Kumar claimed they hoped to make it operational within the next month, but sources told The Telegraph that it was yet to get environmental clearance from Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board.
Farmers said the lone slaughterhouse coming up in Ranchi was hardly a solution, pointing to the difficulties of transporting livestock.
"What if I am based in Latehar and want to immediately sell my buffalo for my daughter's marriage? I will have to come all the way from there to Ranchi to sell it. Is there any guarantee that gau rakshak groups won't accuse me of smuggling?" Md Afroz, a progressive farmer of Ormanjhi, said.
The state animal husbandry department said it was awaiting the Centre's official order before acting. "We have heard about the notification," said animal husbandry director Jatashankar Choudhary. "After seeing it, we shall proceed further," he added.
State agriculture marketing board MD Puja Singhal said she would comment only after going through the notification. "We have heard about the announcement on cattle sales but are yet to get the notification. Once we get the notification, we will issue a Press statement," she said.
In the state capital and elsewhere, a number of meat and chicken shops have shut down after the state home department's order of March 28.
RMC health officer said they had started issuing licenses to chicken and fish shops. But licences for meat shops and slaughterhouses would take more time. "For mutton shop licences, we are waiting for the government slaughterhouse to start functioning. As soon as it does, we will start issuing provisional permits for meat shops till such time the government approves our draft rules," she said.
Majid Qureshi, president of Jharkhand Pradesh Jamaitul Quraish, an outfit of mutton sellers of Ranchi, maintained that the new rules would end meat eating altogether. "Lakhs of people engaged in this business across the state are starving. More than us, small-time farmers will have to bear the brunt," he said.
Cattle traders of the Kolhan aired similar apprehensions. "We are already leading a hand-to-mouth existence since the March directive. We used to sneak in a few consignments from bordering areas like Rairangpur (Mayurbhanj district of Odisha) and Balrampur (Purulia district of Bengal) to cater to a few customers in minority dominated areas. But even that will stop now," said a cattle trader who lives at Azadnagar in Mango, Jamshedpur.
Cattle traders fear that animal markets in East Singhbhum, at Haldipokhar (in Potka block) and Patamda, would no longer see animals for sale, even from the bordering districts of Mayurbhanj and Purulia.
Syed Zabiullah, the mukhiya of Haldipokhar West, was worried that many would have to look for alternative sources of livelihood. "Sale of cattle meat has virtually ended since March and now after this new order, even sale of cattle in animal markets will nosedive drastically. It will become difficult for poor farmers," he said.
According to cattle traders, a pair of oxen fetches them anything between Rs 50,000 and Rs 80,000, while a single cow or buffaloes sells within Rs 30,000 and Rs 60,000.
Gauri Mulekhi, a trustee with People for Animals whose petition to Supreme Court led the Centre to come out with the regulations for livestock markets, conceded there would be short-term inconveniences.
"The move is aimed at ending the multi-crore business of cattle smuggling through the Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bangladesh border, which is indirectly threatening the country's security. The money made from smuggling was being used to sponsor terror," Mulekhi, who was in Ranchi today to attend a seminar at National University of Study and research in Law (NSURL) told The Telegraph over phone.
She did not foresee a problem in future for farmers who wanted to sell their cattle for slaughter. "All one needs to do is to sell it directly at slaughterhouses as per rules prescribed. If your cattle is healthy, it will be sold at the slaughter house," she said, adding the onus now lay with respective state governments to set up proper slaughterhouses.

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