The Central government Monday submitted in the Supreme Court that it was in favour of having an Aadhaar-like unique identity system for cows to track their movement and prevent inter-state and inter-country smuggling.
Adducing a report by a committee appointed by the Union Home Ministry, Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar told a bench led by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar that the recommendations had been approved in principle by the Central government. The bench posted the matter for detailed hearing on Tuesday.
The committee, headed by a Joint Secretary in the MHA, was constituted following the apex court’s nudge to stop smuggling of cattle, especially through the porous international borders to Nepal and Bangladesh.
It has recommended as: “Each animal (should) be tagged with a Unique Identification Number with proper records of identification details such as age, breed, sex, lactation, height, body, colour, horn type, tail switch, special mark etc.”
It pointed out that the Ministry of Agriculture has devised a method of tamper-proof identification of cattle using polyurethane tags with a Unique Identification Number Sequence. “This may be made mandatory for all cows and its progeny throughout India for all cattle that is owned. Already mass tagging of cattle for insurance purpose is being done by Livestock Development Boards and Animal Husbandry Department of state governments,” stated the recommendation.
The committee advocated for setting up a state level databank, which may be linked with national online database for registered cattle. “The protocol for such registration may be notified by the Ministry of Agriculture and also allocation of suitable budget for the registration of cattle in a phase-wise manner across the country. A nodal officer may be appointed as the Registrar of Cattle Premises appointed in each state under the Registration of Cattle Premises Rules, 1978, under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act,” read the committee’s report.
Amid a heated debate over mob attacks by cow vigilantes across some states, the committee has recommended that “all cattle being transported may have identification tags” and that “no animal transportation may be permitted without ‘fitness to move certificate’ to be issued by registered veterinary officers.”
Batting for a uniform law for cow preservation and protection in India, the committee has also preferred imposing restrictions on “private inter-state trade/transportation of cattle” and said that “only government agencies may be allowed for inter-state trade/transportation.”
It also favoured enhancement of monetary penalty under the PCA Act saying: “Penalty to be increased from Rs 50 and to make all offences under the Act cognisable.”
The committee acknowledged that cattle which is smuggled out is a byproduct of the dairy industry. “Barren cows or bulls or low yielding animals are sold to organised smugglers or are abandoned on the roads from where they are captured and smuggled to international borders. Such sales and abandonment of cattle is rampant and without any onus or responsibility on the part of the cattle owner,” said the panel, further suggesting that “state governments bordering Bangladesh may prohibit livestock markets within 20 km distance from international borders.”
It also recommended that the state government be responsible for the safety and care of abandoned animals. Each district, the committee suggested, should have a shelter home of 500-capacity for abandoned animals to help reduce smuggling and such units should be funded by the state.