WITH OPPOSITION mounting, and some voices of dissent coming from within the BJP, Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan has said that he will seek opinion of states and stakeholders on the notification restricting sale of cattle for slaughter.
Stating that notification was issued “without even an iota of prejudice, bad intention or hidden agenda”, Harsh Vardhan said, “That is why we have no problem changing it. I appeal to protesting states and the public at large to send us their suggestions for amendments.”
He said the government had sought suggestions earlier, in January. “The draft notification was in public domain for a whole month. (Since) no state or stakeholders said anything, we went ahead and notified it,” he said.
“Even now, if they send us their suggestions we will consider them,” Harsh Vardhan told The Indian Express. He said once the notification was made “there were protests everywhere”.
The government last month restricted the sale of cattle for slaughter in animal markets under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Market) Rules, 2017. The rule applies to sale of cows, buffaloes, bullock, bulls and camels. Apart from elaborate paperwork when the cattle is sold, an undertaking has to be submitted by buyers that the animals are for agriculture work, not for slaughter.
It met immediate opposition from the Left-governed Kerala, where Youth Congress and Left activists organised beef-eating festivals across the state, and the Trinamool Congress-governed West Bengal. Both states said the order was an attack on federalism and the state’s meddling in an individual’s food choices. Subsequently, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu, who crossed over to the BJP last year, said that people’s choice of food cannot be regulated by government orders.
Chiefs of BJP units in Assam, Arunachal, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura also expressed concern and reportedly said that the notification hurt BJP’s ambitions in the Northeast.
Asked whether dissenting voices from the Northeast had forced the government’s hand, Harsh Vardhan said, “You should know the reality of the people who resigned.” He was referring to two resignations in Meghalaya.
On being reminded that even BJP chief ministers had been critical of the notification, he said, “We recognise that there is a problem. If we did not, why would we agree to change it when it was all done as per the instructions of Supreme Court?”
He said, “There was nothing amiss in our intention. But there clearly is something in the notification that is causing misconceptions and apprehensions. If there is a change of language required, we are willing to do it. We are studying every bit of the document submitted to us in the ministry to decide on the changes. “We do not want to hurt any industry, or harm farmers — that was made clear on Day One. There is no need to do politics over this because we are willing to rectify whatever has caused grievance.”