The politics of pashu-dhan and pratibandh

Numbers don’t back claims of UP’s declining livestock wealth, crackdown on meat processing plants raises questions.

Written by Harish Damodaran | Published:March 24, 2017 1:22 am
Numbers of cattle have not changed significantly in Uttar Pradesh over the last 10 years. Archive

What exactly did the BJP’s 2017 UP election manifesto say on the closure of abattoirs and meat processing plants?

The party’s Lok Kalyan Sankalp Patra, as it is called, promised to shut down all illegal slaughterhouses and place curbs on all mechanical abattoirs in the state. On the first part, there is no confusion; all things illegal, by definition, have to be shut down.

The ambiguity lies in the part concerning mechanical — presumably legal — slaughterhouses. The Hindi word used in the manifesto is “pratibandh”, whose literal meaning is to ‘restrict’ or ‘ban’. Some are using a more liberal interpretation of the term: ‘regulate’. While there can be no plausible objection to the regulation of any industry, whether that is the stated intention here cannot be said for sure.

What is the current status of slaughterhouses in UP, specifically of those that are licensed and legal? There are a total of 75 abattoirs-cum-meat processing plants or standalone slaughterhouses in India approved by the Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) in the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Forty-one of these 75 are in UP — and all except one have permission to process and export buffalo meat. Besides the 41 integrated/standalone abattoirs, UP has 23 APEDA-approved plants engaged only in meat processing. The 23 include 3 in Meerut that were sealed by the district authorities on Wednesday — Al Yasir Exports, Al Kaif Industries and Al Aqsa Frozen Food Exports. They are all standalone meat processing plants. All three have an agreement with Al Saqib Exports Pvt Ltd, which is one of UP’s 41 APEDA-approved slaughterhouses. The slaughterhouse and the three meat processing units belong to the family of Haji Shahid Akhlaq, a former Mayor and former BSP Member of Parliament from Meerut.

What official reason has been given for sealing the three plants?

The “suspicion” regarding the source of meat apart, it has been stated that the construction plan of the units did not have the approval of the Meerut Development Authority. However, all three plants had been granted registration certificates as per detailed procedures laid down by APEDA. ( These require plant owners to furnish documents relating to the layout of the premises, no objection/clearance certificate from the state pollution control board, permission from the municipal/local body to run the unit for meat production/processing, and copies of HACCP(Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points)/quality safety system certificate, and testing report of water used in processing and effluent treatment from an accredited lab.

The APEDA registration is granted after a physical inspection of the plant by a committee, which also has representation from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), Export Inspection Council, Department of Animal Husbandry & Dairying, Ministry of Food Processing Industries, Veterinary Council of India and the Indian Veterinary Research Institute at Izzatnagar, Bareilly. The said plants would obviously not have received APEDA approval without these statutory requirements being adhered to.

Does the BJP poll manifesto offer any religious justification for closing down or imposing “pratibandh” on slaughterhouses?

No. The Sankalp Patra only makes a claim about UP’s livestock wealth (“pashu-dhan”) suffering depletion during the tenure of the previous governments, while linking this to illegal smuggling and slaughtering of animals. These include both cattle (cows, bulls, bullocks and their progeny) and buffaloes. While cattle slaughter in UP is illegal in any case, no such ban exists for buffaloes. How valid is the claim about declining livestock population and the threat to milk production owing to it?

Data from successive Livestock Censuses show a consistent increase in UP’s total buffalo population: from 189.96 lakh in 1997 to 229.14 lakh in 2003, 238.12 lakh in 2007 and 306.25 lakh in 2012. On the other hand, the state’s cattle numbers have fallen from 200.16 lakh in 1997 to 185.51 lakh in 2003, before rising to 188.83 lakh in 2007 and to 195.57 lakh in 2012. What is interesting, however, is a significant jump in the female cattle population from 94.74 lakh in 1997 to 98.53 lakh in 2003, 113.13 lakh in 2007 and 146.50 lakh in 2012. (See tables above)

Two conclusions follow. First, there’s little evidence of a reduction in UP’s “pashu-dhan” or livestock wealth. The state’s buffalo population has gone up, notwithstanding the so-called “pink revolution” in recent times. India’s buffalo meat exports soared from a mere Rs 1,380 crore in 2000-01 and Rs 5,481.43 crore in 2009-10, and to Rs 29,282.58 crore in 2014-15 before easing somewhat to Rs 26,681.55 crore last fiscal. At least half of these would have been accounted for by slaughterhouses and processing plants in UP.

Secondly, among both cattle and buffaloes, there is a particularly sharp increase in female animals. These, between the 1997 and 2012 Censuses, rose from 94.74 lakh to 146.50 lakh for cattle, and from 141.09 lakh to 257.11 lakh for buffaloes. This points to a clear farmer preference for females when it comes to bovines. The increased female bovine population also explains why UP’s milk production has not suffered despite the boom in buffalo meat exports. On the contrary, the state’s milk output has gone up from 14.65 million tonnes (mt) in 2001-02 to 20.20 mt in 2009-10 and 25.20 mt in 2014-15, according to the Union Agriculture Ministry.

How should the fact that despite booming meat exports, milk production has not been hit, understood? Farmers in UP, like their counterparts in other states, today rear cattle or buffaloes mainly for milk. With tractors and artificial insemination technology considerably reducing the utility of work bullocks and breed bulls, it makes little economic sense to maintain male animals. Within females, too, the preference is more towards buffaloes, which is evident in their far outnumbering cows. That, in turn, has to do with buffalo milk fetching a better price due to its higher fat content. Besides, the existence of a secondary market — in the form of slaughterhouses and meat processing plants — means farmers find it easier to dispose of unproductive and old buffaloes, as opposed to cattle.

Either way, it is the farmer, not the slaughterhouse owners or buffalo meat exporters, who should be held responsible for the perceived loss of “pashu-dhan” in UP. The closure of slaughterhouses can actually have the opposite effect: if farmers have no mechanism to replace old animals with new stock, they may not find livestock rearing and milk production viable in the first place.

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  1. P
    Mar 24, 2017 at 4:19 pm
    Beef eaters paise deke beef khate hn. They don't get it for free. India is doing a profitable business don't confuse it with any social charity work
    1. S
      Sanjay Singh
      Mar 24, 2017 at 3:44 pm
      Sanjay Singh is the best thing to me and my mom said she would be a great day at work today so I can see it on you for your birthday today so I don't want you to get it to you too 👶
      1. V
        Mar 24, 2017 at 5:41 am
        Why can't they switch to ham instead?
        1. M
          M Alam
          Mar 25, 2017 at 3:27 pm
          Funnily India is the largest exporter of beef in the world.
          1. T
            Mar 24, 2017 at 10:27 am
            Does plants have life ?/😀😀😀😀 yes it does .. They are also a living thing dude... Let's ban .sabke sab sabjiaa .wot say .?
            1. B
              Mar 24, 2017 at 7:51 am
              don't you have other news items to be debated or essa upon. anything Hindu and respecting is not acceptable to English media, a very miniscule percentage gets affected and brohahaha is raised
              1. C
                Chaudhary Chaudhary
                Mar 24, 2017 at 6:29 pm
                No newspaper, no channel, nobody said A WORD when Illegal activity was happening all over UP for decades, and when law is being followed all of them are feeling the pain and shouting. Be human. And let Yogi do his karam, Allah rehmat bakeshega.
                1. C
                  Mar 24, 2017 at 9:13 am
                  Cigarette/obacco which r sure invitations to lung/blood cancers can't be banned todaylt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;REASON: Revenue loss and Job losseslt;br/gt;-lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Liquor which is destroying families and devastating youth won't be banned lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;REASON: Revenue loss and Job losses lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;The true reasons are MAFIAS and LOBBIES are controlling - tobacco, liquor, Meat, Chemical fertilizers lt;br/gt;-lt;br/gt;India will become prosperous again - as it was in the 1700s only if all tobacco, liquor, Meat and Chemical fertilizers are stringently banned.
                  1. D
                    Mar 24, 2017 at 8:16 am
                    Well said dear.. NAGU is a muslim butcher
                    1. K
                      Mar 27, 2017 at 5:24 pm
                      As per Indian and Hindu customs kasais or butchers are considered the lowest level of people on par with rakshasas. So if any government hares them or closes them , kudos and cheers. Let these rascals be put into those same slaughter houses and butchered. We don't mind but not a single cow should be killed
                      1. L
                        Mar 26, 2017 at 1:32 am
                        Yes. I agree. But not just plastic, Pharma drugs, perfumes, beauty products and several such items which are neither essential nor indispensable are items on which we spend all our wealth to benefit foreign MNCs and corrupt corporates.
                        1. M
                          Manu USA
                          Mar 26, 2017 at 1:04 am
                          Whatever he is doing g is right.
                          1. B
                            Bir Singh
                            Mar 27, 2017 at 10:43 am
                            Milk production is definitely hit. Is menace of synthetic milk over? No. Does consumer of milk reflect day to day milk down pour from animal udder? No. Long stored milk powder and cold chain hold a buffer which is ped as;br/gt;Farmer is not to blame for depleting livestock number. 1st to blame are technocrats and their confusing terminology. Bovine ( indicates both cows and buffaloes ), Beef ( stands for both cow as well as buffalo milk ). Data in respect of cow are so tedious that it is very difficult to interpret them credibly. 2nd to blame are policy makers who made a mess of our native cow breeds with indiscriminate and uncontrolled crossbreeding.
                            1. M
                              Mahender Goriganti
                              Mar 24, 2017 at 4:48 pm
                              As one can see most o those plants ae Muslim goons/politicians and Mullah owned, says a lot. large # of illegal one I bet are all Muslim owned too flourished during SP?BSP?SCAMgress time
                              1. M
                                Mar 25, 2017 at 12:35 pm
                                Major sufferers are farmers who breeds the animals. It is their lively hood . After all farmers are poor in this country. Who are forced to sucide due to economic problems. Most of them are hindus. Very piti able condition.
                                1. V
                                  Vijay Sinha
                                  Mar 24, 2017 at 5:32 pm
                                  Good that slaughter houses get closed. No need of income from such activity. lt;br/gt; lt;br/gt;Once live stock gets old and as a last resort arrives a butcher is one thing, but rearing them with an object to supply to slaughterhouse is sick.
                                  1. N
                                    Mar 24, 2017 at 7:53 am
                                    On one side PM MODI' s slogan MAKE IN INDIA , but on the other side LEATHER , BEEF EXPORT etc which are providing JOB opportunity to Millions of Indians and Export potential of few Billion Dollars , present BJP Govt wants to close down BOTH ,then what is meaning of ''MAKE IN INDIA'' ? lt;br/gt; Naagu
                                    1. S
                                      Mar 24, 2017 at 7:21 am
                                      Nonetheless,argument given by writer by supporting data shows that faith and sentiment of larger community holds lower value as compared to commercial viability.They can export other meat which does not hurt the sentiment of people in large.As far as farmers are concerned,they can be given incentives to rear livestock.Such a biased opinion by citing various data is quite condemnable.
                                      1. B
                                        Bohr Heisenberg
                                        Mar 25, 2017 at 1:31 am
                                        You forgot plastic
                                        1. I
                                          intolerant communal
                                          Mar 24, 2017 at 8:07 am
                                          child trafficking and drug s also provides job to millions..kidney racket too .."make in india"...kidney can be given to world..why only animals?? how do u ume u have right over life of a animal who wants to live..i hope some alien comes and eats and kills humans like we do with animals daily...
                                          1. R
                                            Mar 26, 2017 at 5:58 am
                                            Horrible justification.
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