Trading of cattle in Tamil Nadu has taken a severe hit after the Centre restricted their sale for slaughter in animal markets, according to several farmers and cattle traders in the state. They said the problem was compounded because of the fear of cow vigilantes who were stopping trucks carrying the animals. R Anbuvendhan, the president of the Tamil Nadu Beef Merchant and Workers’ Welfare Association, said cattle flow into the state’s markets have come down drastically as reports have emerged of police and cow vigilantes stopping cattle trucks in various parts of the state.
“Police used to demand Rs 400 per truck as a bribe to let the cattle trucks go. Now they have started threatening merchants and stop the trucks until we pay a minimum of Rs 1,000. Also in many places, en route from Andhra markets to northern Tamil Nadu, cow vigilantes under different banners have started stopping trucks carrying cattle,” he said.
Almost each district in Tamil Nadu has a cattle market. The crisis has kind of galvanised cattle merchants and farmers to form a state-wide union. While cattle markets at Pulianthope in Chennai and Vellore, who mostly get cattle from southern Andhra markets, reported a decline of 50-60 per cent business, the impact has been more severe in the southern districts of the state where trucks from Karnataka bring cattle.
On Thursday, a group of cow vigilantes stopped lorries carrying cattle to Kerala at the border check post near Palakkad. The police arrived and allowed the cattle to travel after negotiations. Similarly, there were reports from the Andhra-Tamil Nadu border that said many vehicles were refusing to carry cattle, fearing cow vigilantes.
M Ramakrishnan, a farmer from Tirupur district who used to do business in both Pollachi and Puliampatti cattle markets in southern Tamil Nadu, asked where would cattle sellers go now. “We also have dreams. This is the school opening season. An average farmer in Tamil Nadu meets the expenses by selling his cattle. Where do we go and sell our cattle now, where do cattle merchants go and buy cattle.”
“I used to have 23 cattle at home. Due to drought and crop failures, I am keeping only a cow for milk now. And the government notification has made us terrorists now. Anyone can come and stop our vehicle posing as cow vigilantes. Nobody will question them if they loot our money or the entire load of cattle,” he said. “I used to do the business of 50 cattle a week, today I got only 11.”
P Rajasekhar, the state’s leading cattle owners association leader and founder of Jallikattu Peravai, said people were afraid to sell and buy cattle at the Madurai Vadipatti cattle market. “Instead of a usual 1,000 cattle sales, markets have seen hardly 50 cattle this week. The Centre’s order is not clear. It says we should not sell cattle in the market. If a farmer has to sell six cattle, you mean to say, he should go to each and every house to sell it?… Who are they to dictate beef eaters? How do you expect us to survive when there is a drought, when there is a death or marriage at home?” “An average farmer sells only aged cattle as he has to keep his milking cows. We sell aged ones and buy new productive cattle. Sitting in Delhi, what is their understanding about farmers and cattle sector?”