03:59 GMT +317 November 2018
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    Indian Farmers Lose Out Because of Cattle Trading Ban

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    John Harrison
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    The Indian government’s ban on the exploitation of cattle, especially cows, which are sacred in India, has led to a spate of civil unrest in the country. India’s large Muslim minority see this as an attack on their way of life, and the ban is bad for India’s burgeoning beef export business. What is the point in such a ban?

    Vinod Chand, an Indian citizen who believes in individual rights and the administrator of a large group called individuals for the actualization of democracy joins the programme.

    To begin with, Vinod explains why the cow is sacred for India's Hindus. "The Hindu pantheon has one God, which is Vishnu. One of the incarnations of Vishnu is Krishna, and Krishna was a cow herder. He had a large herd of cows which were under his protection. At that time as now, cows were considered to be sacred; they were considered to be the property of Vishnu, and any damage made to cows was considered to be an insult to Krishna and thus to Vishnu."

    Hindus make up around 70% of the population in India. However, as Vinod explains, a section of the Hindu population also eats beef. "There are states in India where beef eating is perfectly normal, and most of these areas are run by the ruling BJP Party." It is in these States where there have been flash points and where lynchings of people trading cattle have taken place. The BJP Party, however, does not seem to be intervening, and this, Vinod explains, only encourages the lynchings. The government, Vinod says is "pandering to popular sentiment. People feel that as long as it is my cow, bought with my money, the States or anybody else should mind its own business. India is an agricultural economy, and the farmer is the poorest of the poor. There has been a spate of suicides in the country because farmers are not getting the right price. The cow is a milk giving animal, and milk is a readily sellable commodity. But what happens today, because of government intervention, and the intervention of other bodies which are opposing the cow slaughter, the economic cycle is being disturbed. Cows live for about 30 years, but they are only milk-giving for 10 years. But they still have to be fed for another 20 years. The farmer, who is already poor, is unable to feed it for the next 20 years. So increasingly, farmers are simply abandoning cows. Previously, farmers would sell their cows at the end of the milk-giving period and then buy a new cow, and the cycle would repeat….Now the abandoned animals are wandering round uncontrolled, destroying crops and fields, so the farmers are suffering again. The government is now establishing cowsheds, and those farmers with government contacts can get some subsidies to feed the cows. But the money to build and maintain these cowsheds is not getting through, it is getting siphoned off, and the cows are in bad condition. It's a scam, on a national level….Now cows are being given identity cards, so if a cow is found abandoned, the government is able to trace the farmer who abandoned the cow. Farmers often have no choice but to either starve their children and feed their old cows, or feed their children and abandon their cows…"

    After Yogi Adityanath came to power in the state of Utta Pradesh last year, he ordered slaughterhouses closed, and 50,000 meat shops shut their doors. Vinod pus this down to pandering to the local population. "Yogi Adityanath was parachuted in to power, he did not take part in local elections, and also, he is a Brahman and a radical Hindu leader. It is sad, but many of the leaders of the BJP Party are members of the Braham caste….If you take 20 States where BJP has taken power, you will find that all the states are being led by a Brahman."

    The government says that the reason that the ban of cattle trading is being introduced is because slaughter houses are unhygienic. Vinod comments: ‘We are a poor country; we don't have proper slaughter houses. Most of them are on the streets and they are not really hygienic. There is blood and gore. Now new regulations have been introduced which stipulate that the slaughter houses have air conditioning, but in many places, there isn't even any electricity. 95% of the trade is run by Muslims."

    There is potential for friction between so called right wing Hindu cow protection squads and Muslim beef traders and slaughterers. To the question, why isn't the government stepping in and doing something, Vinod says: "If they step in, they will eliminate the support of 79% of the working population, and they will lose the next election. It's politics. Also, it is their own doctrine, their own thinking process. They don't want to step in and at the same time they want to reduce dependency on the Muslim population, they want to claim the high moral ground among their own followers, which is really sad because we are a secular country, according to our constitution, and every Indian enjoys the same fundamental rights. The State is not supposed to have a religion. Unfortunately, we are getting into the position where the State is trying to get onto the religious bandwagon, which is dangerous." There seems to be a link forming between religious fundamentalism and the caste system, which is something that has been going on for a long time in India.

    Since the late 2000s, India has rapidly increased its beef exports — particularly of water buffalo meat, known as carabeef — by 12 percent annually, boosting its share of world beef exports from 5 percent to about 21 percent and rivalling Brazil for the top spot, according to a 2016 report from the US Agriculture Department. India is a poor country, and needs money. Vinod explains this by pointing out that the ban is more for local cows, but large scale beef exports are mainly of buffalos, not of cows, and that will continue.

    The last issue discussed is that of corruption. Despite the ban, Indians can still look after cows, if they have a licence, which negates the purpose of a ban. Vinod puts this down to creating the room for corruption, and he also says that the people who organise transportation of cattle slaughter houses extort money from farmers, even if they have licences.

    At the end of the program, Vinod refers again to the unhappy lot of the Indian farmer who are the luckless victim of all of this. "You are not only making the cow suffer by making the famer abandon it, you are also abandoning the famers…"

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    exploitation of cattle, Hindus, Cattle, Beef, cows, Muslims, ban, India
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