Aggressive Cow Protection Policies & Communal Rhetoric Hurt Farmers & Herders: Report
Soon after the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) took over the Centre’s power, India’s cattle trade and the rural agricultural economy have got hit hard including leather and meat export industries that are linked to farming and dairy sectors, says a report by the international non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch. BJP’s cow protection movement and communal rhetoric have spurred a violent vigilante campaign against beef consumption and those linked to it. The report said that between May 2015 and December 2018, around 44 people were killed across 12 Indian States in which 36 of them were Muslims. The report said that the cow protection movement is hurting farmers, herders, cattle transporters, meat traders, and leather workers.
According to a report by IndiaSpend, 99.38% of the Indians come under cow-protection laws. In February 2019, the central government announced a national commission for cow protection. To this, the Human Rights Watch said that these policies and the vigilante attacks have only disrupted the country’s rural economy.
Cow protection policies hamper beef export
The report mentioned that in terms of beef exports, India sits on the top position exporting buffalo meat worth US$ 4 billion a year. However, after the BJP government came to power in 2014, the export rates have plunged. Uttar Pradesh which is India’s top meat-producing state has suffered after the policies undertaken by the Yogi Adityanath’s BJP state government came into force. During the year 2014-15, India accounted US$ 4.78 billion worth of buffalo beef exports. This was the highest since 2010. The amount of exports has declined by 3.93% in 2016-2017 and grew a little by 3.06% in 2017-18. The report said that the reason behind such a drop is the fear of cow vigilantes and the shutdown of hundreds of slaughterhouses.
Apart from the exports, the leather industry too took a toll as the report with a government economic survey noted that “despite having a large cattle population, India’s share of cattle leather exports is low and declining due to limited availability of cattle for slaughter.” ML Parihar, a Rajasthan-based author and expert on animal husbandry in the report said that Hindutva leaders who are peddling the obsession with cows are failing to understand that they are causing harm to Hindu community and the whole country.
Minorities suffer but the country’s economic fall hurts Hindus as well
The year 2018 witnessed the most number of hate crimes in a decade motivated by religious bias in India, reported Hate Crime Watch of FactChecker.in. As of December 26, there have been 93 attacks in the year. In most of these hate crimes, minorities were victims. In 2018, 30 people were killed which is the most number of deaths since 2009. Throughout this year around 305 were injured in such attacks. The year 2017 had experienced 29 deaths, which is one less than 2018’s death count, but the number of non-fatal injured this year was twice in comparison to the last year. In 2018, of the 81 incidents in which the religion of the victim was known, nearly 49 attacks (60%) involved Muslim victims, and 14% were Christians. Poor response from authorities to these attacks is hurting communities, including Hindus, whose livelihoods are dependent on livestock, says the report. The worst victims are farmers, cattle transporters, meat traders, leather workers, and herders.
Half the population are engaged in agricultural activities
The report further mentions that nearly 55% of the country’s population is involved in agricultural and associated activities, thus contributing 17% of the country’s Global Value Added. India is the largest milk producer and is home to about 190 million cattle and 108 million buffaloes. The farmers here maintain and trade livestock to supplement their incomes and food requirements. However, growing violence over cow protection has plummeted down the number of animals traded at government organised cattle fairs. For instance, the cattle fairs organised by the Rajasthan state government saw a severe drop in the selling of cattle from 31,000 in 2010-11 to less than 3000 sold in 2016-17.