SHILLONG, June 12, 2017: The Meghalaya Legislative Assembly unanimously adopted the Official Resolution to demand from the Centre to immediately withdrawn the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017, which suffer from serious shortcomings and infirmities having an adverse impact on the economy and culture of Meghalaya.
Tabling the Government Official Resolution during the Special Session of the Assembly today, Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma said that the above rules travel way beyond the scope and object ‘to prevent infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals’ as set out in the Preamble of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, thus infringing upon the rights of the States, to regulate items enlisted in the State list (List-II of VI Scheduled to Constitution of India).
He further stated that subjects such as agriculture, animal husbandry including cattle market are covered under items 14, 15 & 28 of the List II of VII Scheduled to the Constitution of India, over which the States alone have exclusive jurisdiction to legislate upon adding that the rules notified by the Centre are in contravention of Section 38 as they go beyond the scope of Central Act and also contravene Section 28 of the said Act, which contemplates the killing if certain animals subject to the provisions of Cattle Preservation Act.
“Rule 8 of these rules prohibits organising of animal market in a place which is situated within 50 kms from any international border, while the State of Meghalaya shares a 443 kms long international border with Bangladesh and a length of about 8000 kms of inter-state border with the State of Assam, resulting in large scale of disruption of economy including livelihoods in the border areas, since Rule 2 (e) specifically defines the ‘cattle’ to include bovine animals, bulls, bullocks, cows buffalos, steers, heifers, camels etc. Rule 22 of these rules places restrictions on sale and purchase of cattle and prohibits bringing of a cattle to animal market for sale for slaughter and for mandates that the purchaser of a cattle shall not sell the animal for purpose of slaughter, which is a major embargo crippling the economy predominantly tribal society with more than 85 % indigenous population,” Chief Minister stated.
According to Chief Minister, cattle meat is an integral part of the dietary habits of the tribal populace of the State of Meghalaya since it is rich in mineral and is one of the cheap sources of protein especially for the economically weaker section of the society. “The demand for beef across the State is around 23634 metric tonnes (figures for the year 2015-2016). The beef production within the State is only 12834 metric tonnes and the rest of the demand to the tune of 10800 metric tonnes is imported from outside the State,” he said.
Dr Mukul further said that the prohibition on sale and purchase of cattle for the purpose of slaughter will not only affect the livelihood of over 5.7 lakh households i.e 79 % census households, which are presently involved in cattle rearing adding that this will also affect the right of people to have diet of their own choice and to celebrate the religious, cultural and social ceremonies under practice since times immemorial.
“The Indian Health Report on Nutrition 2015, which surveyed child under nutrition in India (38.7 % is the national average) has put the prevalence of stunting in children under five years of age, rampant in the State of Meghalaya (42.9 %) and the Government of Meghalaya is addressing the said nutrition security by providing mixed diet, in the school mid-day meal basket, which as on today, lacks non-vegetarian sources of food,” Chief Minister said.
Stating Meghalaya as a responsible State support the intent of the Act, he said that so as to ensure the true implementation of the Act in letter and spirit, the State of Meghalaya in 2016 had already constituted the State Animal Welfare Board, District Society for Prevention of cruelty on Animals in all the 11 districts of the State.
“These rules in the present form will severely hamper socio-economic, cultural and religious rights of the people of the State guaranteed in the Constitution of India under Article 21 and Article 26,” Dr Mukul Sangma.
He also stated that the State will not accept this kind of imposition which goes beyond the provision of the Constitution. The Chief Minister further alleged that the present rules notified by the Centre has been design to affect the Northeastern States more knowing fully well that the culture and the way of the life of the people of the region is invariably link with cattle and its consumption of its meat.
“Therefore, this will send a dangerous precedence in the whole history of the country in as far as the federal structure of the country is concerned. This will have a complete dislocation on the whole livelihood of the farmers,” Dr Mukul said.
“We urged upon everyone across party lines to collectively voice our concern on this matter. We unanimously resolves that the same be withdrawn by the Centre with immediate effect so as to maintain the Federal Secular character of our Constitution or be faced with a situation where law prohibits some activity while everyday practices it on a large scale to harsh economic realities,” Chief Minister said.
Taking part in the debate on the official resolution, HSPDP legislator Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit said that this rules notified by the Centre is virtually moved to ban cow slaughter in the country.
He however questioned what will next course of action on the part of the State Government if the Centre failed to take cognizance to this official resolution adopted by this House like they had done in the past.
“We already know that there is already a stoppage of cattle being brought to Meghalaya. This has cost the economy of the State dearly. Therefore, I want a categorical statement from the State Government on on the steps it would take if the Centre refuses to withdraw this notification,” the HSPDP legislator stated.
While appreciating the State Government for bringing this official resolution, NPP legislator, James K Sangma said that there is no need to panic since the issue to regulate cow slaughter lies with the State Government.
“This rules notified by the Centre will not stand in the court of law since it will be immediately struck down if anyone decides to approach the court,” Sangma said.
Echoing similar views, UDP legislator Paul Lyngdoh urged upon the State to take this resolution to its logical end once it is adopted by this House. “We should not restrict ourselves only to the question on the ban of slaughter of cattle. But the larger issue of how this will impact on the federal fabric that we have sworn ourselves to,” Lyngdoh said.
He further stated that going back to the history, had it not been of the few visionaries like Dr BR Ambedkar who had fought at that point of time that the issue of ban on slaughter should not be deem as a Fundamental Right but rather should be included as one of the Directive Principles of the State Policy.
“This ban on cow slaughter would have been part of the Constitution at the inception stage of the Constitution itself,” UDP legislator stated.
He said that the fact is that time and again there has been attempt in the past by Central Government at various points of times to bring forward such a ban.
“In 1978-79, the then Moraji Desai Government had announced in the Parliament that it would initiate action for amending the Constitution with the view of conferring legislative competent on the Union Parliament for legislation on the subject of cow protection. Again, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in a letter dated February 24, 1982 wrote to the Chief Ministers of 14 States in which she desires that the ban of cow slaughter is enforce in letter and spirit and is not allowed to be circumvented by dubious method and committee to monitor to inspect cattle before they are admitted to slaughter houses be adopted,” Lyngdoh added.
It may be mentioned that other who took part in the debate on this official resolution include UDP legislators- Jemino Mawthoh and Titosstarwell Chyne, senior Congress legislators DD Lapang, independent legislator, Saleng M Sangma and John Leslee K Sangma among others.