Yogi’s Thoughts

Raman Swamy

There are two kinds of slaughter houses—licensed and unlicensed. The licensed abattoirs are mechanised. The unlicensed ones are butcheries where animals are slaughtered manually.

Within days of the coming into power of the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh headed by an action-oriented Hindutva hardliner like Adityanath Yogi, it became clear that getting rid of slaughter houses is not just one of the priorities but is on the top of the agenda.

However, there is a problem. In fact, there are a whole host of problems and complications and, not surprisingly, a great deal of confusion and controversy. The first difficulty is curbing the emotional fervour of the Sangh Parivar's foot-soldiers, who are all fired up by the installation of a diehard puritan like Adityanath in the chief minister's chair. They are convinced that all abattoirs in the State need to be shut down, whether they are licensed or unlicensed, mechanised or manual, legal or illegal.

The justification for the alacrity with which saffron vigilant gangs have taken law into their own hands is two-fold—one, the BJP's election manifesto contains the pledge to close all slaughter houses; two, all butcheries are anti-Hindu and sinful.

Nobody seems to know or care what the BJP's Sankalp Patra really said. Moderate voices in the Sangh claim that there was no blanket ban on all abattoirs. Illegal ones are to be shut down and the legal ones are to be regulated. The two words being cited are—Bandh and Prabandh. The first means a ban and the second implies management or regulation.

Such verbal niceties count for nothing as far as RSS shakha-level karyavahs and kar-sewaks are concerned. Their logic is simple—Cow-slaughter is evil; Buffalo-slaughter is equally sinful; Beef-eating is disgusting; Beef-selling is equally unclean. Therefore it is the duty of all good Hindus to shut down every single butchery.

According to some, on January 28, when BJP president Amit Shah formally released the Sankalp Patra he did not mention cow slaughter, which is banned in UP, but he did promise that if the BJP was elected to power, all slaughter houses—including the mechanised ones that operate under licence from the government—would be closed immediately.

It does not matter what the exact wording of the pre-election document may have been. Amit Shah's word is more powerful than the actual law of the land, which permits the slaughter of buffalo and of bull or bullock over the age of 15 and unfit for breeding.

For a few days, as the new Chief Minister visited Delhi, met the Prime Minister, bid farewell to the Lok Sabha, finalised his list of four dozen Ministers and allocated portfolios (keeping three dozen portfolios in his own hands)—there was uncertainty among government officials and police personnel about the scope of the anti-abattoir policy of the Yogi regime.

It was not clear whether only the illegal butcheries were to be shut down or all of them, including the legal, licensed and mechanised ones, were to be targeted. Also, whether this meant that the entire meat supply chain was to be disrupted, bringing an end to beef exports as well.

Adityanath Yogi has, apparently, now taken a decisive step towards clarifying all such doubts and grey areas. According to reports the Chief Minister has directed police officials to prepare an action plan for closure of all slaughter houses in the State. While he was at it, he has also ordered a blanket ban on smuggling of cows.

This has led to some head-scratching among bureaucrats in Lucknow and Delhi. Any decision to ban mechanised slaughter houses in Uttar Ptadesh would run counter to the policy of the Centre, which has granted "industry status" to abattoirs.

The meat export lobby is also worried. For the record, India exports meat products worth Rs 26,685 crore annually and if all slaughter houses in UP are closed it would be cut by 50 percent. Last year India exported 13 lakh metric tonnes of buffalo meat, worth Rs 26,700 crore. Out of a total of 72 legal slaughter houses all over the country, 38 are in Uttar Pradesh.

As per the figures of the Animal Husbandry Department of Uttar Pradesh, the state produced 7515.14 lakh kilogrammes of buffalo meat, 1171.65 lakh kilogrammes of goat meat, 230.99 lakh kilogrammes of sheep meat, and 1410.32-kilogrammes pork meat in the year 2014-15.

If the Yogi government bans the export of meat, the State risks losing Rs 11,350 crore in revenue. And if the ban on slaughter houses persists for the next five years, the revenue loss may mount up to Rs 56,000 crore.

Meat exporters are wondering whether they should approach the Courts. According to a spokesman of the All India Meat and Livestock Exporters Association, banning all mechanised slaughter houses would be in contravention of the law and also detrimental to the State's economy. Uttar Pradesh accounts for nearly half of India's total meat exports and such a decision would affect the livelihood of 25 lakh people directly or indirectly.

Vol. 49, No.41, April 16 - 22, 2017