SHILLONG, June 12: Agreeing that the recent notification of the Central Government will have a very adverse effect on the livestock markets thus impacting the economy and food culture of Meghalaya, the members of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly have unanimously resolved to demand that the Centre withdraws the said notification.
The government resolution on the Notification issued by Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change with regards to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017 was moved by Chief Minister, Dr. Mukul Sangma during a special session of the Assembly convened here on Monday.
The Congress led government was supported by members of opposition political parties – United Democratic Party (UDP), Hill State People Democratic Party (HSPDP), National People’s Party (NPP) and independent MLAs.
After taking the sense of the House, Assembly Speaker Abu Taher Mondal declared that the government resolution was approved and adopted by the House.
Earlier while moving the resolution, Dr. Sangma said, “This House takes strong note of the shortcomings and infirmities in these Rules, as notified and resolves that the same may be withdrawn by Government of India with immediate effect, so as to maintain the federal and secular character of our Constitution or be faced with a situation ‘where law prohibits some activity while everyday-life practices it on a large-scale, due to harsh economic realities’, a situation, surely to be avoided at all costs.”
The Chief Minister also informed that he had also written to all the Chief Ministers of the North East states as the notification will affect the entire region whose culture is linked to cattle.
“This is keeping in mind the dangerous assault on the federal system. Where is the benefit of having a state when the rights and power is being diluted,” he said.
Urging everyone to come together irrespective of political lines, Dr. Sangma said, “We need to protect the federal and secular structure and protect the way of life and culture of the people by voicing our disapproval on this move by the Centre.”
“If you go line by line (the notification) one can read between the lines and articulate it with clarity that it goes beyond the actual intent of Central Act,” he added.
Dr. Sangma however said, “I am afraid some of the states which are governed by the same party at the Centre are going by its diktat as they are not raising this issue.”
Dr. Sangma said that the rules travel way beyond the scope and object as set out in the Preamble of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, thus infringing the rights of the states, to regulate items enlisted in State list (List-II of VII Schedule to the Constitution of India).
“The rules are in contravention of Section 38 as they go beyond the scope of the Central Act and also contravene Section 28, which contemplates the killing of certain animals subject to the provision of Cattle Preservation Act,” he said.
Stating that the Rules suffer from serious shortcomings and infirmities, he said, “This will have an adverse impact on the economy and culture of the state of Meghalaya.”
The State government also expressed its reservation against Rule 8, which prohibits organizing of animal market in a place which situated within 25 kms from any state border or situated within 50 km from any international border.
Meghalaya shares a long 443 kms international border with Bangladesh and a length of abour 800 kms of inter-state border with the State of Assam.
“This will result in large scale of disruption of economy including livelihoods in the broder areas, since Rule 2(e) specifically defines the ‘cattle’ to include bovine animals, bulls, bullocks, cows, buffalos, steers, heifers, and camels,” he said.
Also referring to Rule 22, which places restrictions on the sale and purchase of cattle and prohibits bringing of cattle to animal market for slaughter, Dr. Sangma said, “It further mandates that the purchaser of a cattle shall not sell the animal for purpose of slaughter, which is a major embargo crippling the economy of a predominantly tribal society with more than 85% indigenous population.”
Maintaining that cattle meat is an integral part of the dietary habits of the tribal populace of Meghalaya, he informed that the demand for beef across the state is to the tune of 23,634 metric tonnes during 2015-2016.
According to him, while the beef production within the state is only 12,834 MT, a total of 10,800 MT is being imported.
He informed that to balance the demand and supply of beef, the government has put in place the Meghalaya State Livestock Mission for 2017-2022 to augment the livestock production, to meet the increasing demand across the state.
Dr. Sangma said that the prohibition on the sale and purchase of cattle for the purpose of slaughter will affect the livelihood of over 5.7 lakh households (79%), which are presently involved in cattle rearing.
“It will also affect the right of people to have diet of their own choice and to celebrate the religious, cultural and social ceremonies under practice since times immemorial,” he added.
Referring to the India Health Report on Nutrition 2015, which surveyed child undernutrition in India (38.7% is the national average), he said, “The prevalence of stunting in children, under 5 years of age, rampant in Meghalaya at 42.9%.”
He informed the state government is addressing the nutrition security by providing a mixed diet, in the school mid-day meal basket, which as of today, lacks non-vegetarian sources of food.
Meanwhile, Dr. Sangma said that the state fully supports the intent of Act and to ensure it is implemented in letter and spirit, the State Animal Welfare Board was constituted in 2016. The District Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has also been constituted in all the eleven districts of the state.