In UP, a growing online market for cows: Uneasy sellers and discerning buyers

The sale of cattle through conventional means has dropped dramatically. Subsequently, there has been a sudden spike in the number of cow advertisements on e-commerce sites, particularly post the state elections.

Written by Radhika Iyengar | Updated: April 18, 2017 4:32 pm
An OLX ad posted by Dilshad Khan Narvi from Varanasi

Dilshad Khan Narvi was jubilant when he heard my voice over the phone. “Yes, yes, it’s me. It’s Narvi speaking. Are you interested in buying my cow?”

Narvi was speaking from Sundarpur in Varanasi. A week ago, he had posted an online advertisement on OLX for a two-year-old calf which he had wanted to sell. Narvi has been taking care of it since the time of her birth. Of late, however, he has felt the need to sell her off.

Prior to March 2017, there were merely a handful of cow advertisements that were populating the OLX, an e-commerce platform where one can buy and sell products. In March however, there was a sudden spike in the number of cow advertisements that were being posted on the platform. The posts came in from all parts of UP including, Dadri, Varanasi, Bijnor and Bulandshahr. The spike, eerily seemed to be in tandem with the political mood in the state post the election results after which Gorakhpur’s Yogi Adityanath was named Chief Minister. Within days of him taking the chair, the Chief Minister ordered a ban on illegal slaughterhouses and an umbrella ban on meat processing units in UP. Across North India, self-proclaimed cow vigilantes sprung up harassing and attacking anyone they felt was potentially ‘threatening’ the sacred cow.

Narvi, who works at Rashtriya Mahila Polytechnic as a lab assistant, chose his words carefully over the phone. At first, a guarded Narvi said his reasons for letting go of the calf were personal. “I’m experiencing some issues by keeping the calf. My family insists that we sell it off,” he said. On probing further however, he hesitantly said, “I just don’t think I can keep the calf anymore. There are a lot of problems here. I’ve been feeling a bit odd keeping her with me.”

Unfortunately, no potential customer has approached Narvi since the time he posted the ad.

In Uttar Pradesh, the sale of cattle through conventional means has dropped dramatically. A recent report (http://bit.ly/2p09srS) in the Hindustan Times, informs that the number of cattle buyers on-ground have decreased considerably since ban in the state. In the article, cattle seller Govind Singh was quoted saying, “Last week too, I [went to the cattle market] to sell a cow and a calf, but I had to take them back as there were no buyers. The number of buyers has decreased after the UP government banned illegal slaughterhouses…” Selling a cow online therefore, seems to be a relatively safer platform, where no e-vigilantes are parading about.

Screen shot of Hari Narayan Gupta’s cow advertisement on OLX

A few kilometers away from Narvi, in Varanasi’s Chitaipur region, Hari Narayan Gupta is a 60-year-old cattle owner who posted an advertisement two days ago for selling off his cow and a calf. “I’ve received at least two to three calls from interested buyers since then,” he said. “I had gotten a good response when I wanted to sell my car online, so I thought selling a cow online would work as well.”

Gupta however, would only sell his cow to someone who belongs to his community. “I have no intentions of selling the cow to a Muslim. I know who has what intentions with a cow – whether he wants her for her milk or to butcher her. I’m telling you, if a man comes to me to buy the cow and I know that he wants to kill her, I’ll break his head,” Gupta said aggressively. “I will sell the cow and her calf to a Hindu alone.”

Another seller in Bijnor, Sushil Kumar Sharma discovered online selling recently. It was the first time he had attempted to sell his cows online. “I got the idea to sell online since a lot of my friends were selling cows there. I thought it would be a good idea to try.” Since he published the advertisement, Sharma has received calls from Roorkee, Haridwar and within Bijnor as well.

Sushil Kumar Sharma (Sushi) placed a cow advertisement on OLX from Bijnor

In the aftermath of the Alwar lynching, where a mob of cow vigilantes attacked and murdered Pehlu Khan for legally carrying cattle in his vehicle, transporting cows from one place to another has become a serious cause for concern. Sharma, however, didn’t think that there would be an issue, if a customer from Roorkee wanted to buy his cow. “You see, cow vigilantes will only stop those who are transporting cattle to to butcher them and sell their meat. What happened [in Alwar] was because they were carrying cows for butchering them,” Sharma told me, critically misinformed. “No one will stop anyone who is taking cows solely for their milk. I’ll happily give the required documents to validate that the customer is taking a milk-giving cow with my approval.” Since the time Sharma posted the ad, he has received eight-nine phone calls from prospective buyers.

Interestingly, OLX’s official policy for posting ads does not include the sale of cattle. Its website reads, “In animals, we only allow dogs, cats, fishes (sic), bovine, pigs, equines, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs & goats”. Other e-commerce sites like Quikr are also online platforms where cattle is being sold. Quikr’s policy of sale is more restricted – only the sale of cats and dogs is permitted, unless the said animals are “exotic”. The likes of Narvi, Gupta and Sharma, however, continue to post ads for the sale of their cattle. However, none of them has been able to sell a cow yet.

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