The Big Story: Cows come home

Sunday saw a tragi-comedy of sorts play out in Uttar Pradesh, as a cattle owner in the state sent panicked tweets to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Adityanath and senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders. Her cow was injured and she needed help transporting it to the veterinary hospital. This mundane task, however, had become far more difficult because of the gau rakshak gangs that control the state’s roads. Fearing an attack, no transporter was ready to help take the injured cow to the veterinarian.

India has had a variety of draconian cattle slaughter laws for several decades. But in recent months, a number of states have given free reign to cow vigilantes to patrol roads and highways, ostensibly to help the authorities halt illegal cattle trading. However, this has meant that the simple act of transporting cattle from the market or to the vet has become a high-risk activity.

The laws and volunteer citizens’ groups were aimed at slaughtering cows for food. But they fails to take into account the fact that cattle being sold for slaughter are one link in a long value chain. Indian dairy farmers are acutely reliant on cattle traders buying barren cows and unproductive males. They provide an essential service for farmers who cannot afford to feed economically useless animals. The money earned from the sale of old animals allows farmers to invest in productive cattle. Now, farmers are simply turning their old animals loose. This, in turn has caused a significant problem of feral cows for many states. Stray cows are causing immense damage to crops.

This disruption of India’s cattle economy has significant risks. Livestock forms a quarter of the agricultural gross domestic product. A large number of households in rural India are engaged in dairy farming, with milk providing a vital secondary income for farmers. If farmers are now unable to even take their cows to the vet, the beef hysteria unleashed by the ruling party has the potential to cause even more hardship in rural India.

Some states are beginning to wake up to the damage that the cattle slaughter laws have caused. The Madhya Pradesh government, for example, is considering introducing a penalty for owners who abandon their cattle. Of course, this is a case of treating the symptom not the fever. The problem is the cattle slaughter laws. They must go so that the cattle value chain – and the rural economy – can be restored.

The Big Scroll

  • After making old cows unviable to maintain, Madhya Pradesh wants to force farmers to pay for them, points out Rohan Venkataramakrishnan.
  • In Rajasthan, BJP faces the first serious challenge to its cow politics – from angry farmers, writes Shoaib Daniyal.

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  • Aadhaar-based biometric authentication is being relentlessly pushed by the government, with little attention to the consequences, writes Jean Drèze in the Indian Express.
  • It is difficult to imagine a better instrument to ease the flow of black money to political parties than electoral bonds, writes G Sampath in the Hindu.
  • In the Telegraph, Ashok V Desai details the vicious circle of oppression caused by rural moneylending.
  • In the Hindu, Bérénice Guyot-Réchard writes about why we need to rethink the narrative that the 1962 war was a catastrophic defeat for India.

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These four women are a testimony to the trials and tribulations of proving citizenship in Assam, reports Arunabh Saikia.

“Married women across communities have been affected by the High Court order. But a visit to villages on the outskirts of Guwahati reveals that some are more worried than others.

While a Bengali Muslim like Arzunara Begum harbours a very real fear of being driven out of her home, this fear is not so pressing for women from one of the state’s tribal groups.

Arzunara Begum’s children go to the same school as Dalima Biswas Rabha’s. Rabha belongs to the Rabha tribe and lives with her family near Chhaygaon town in the same district. She was born in a village in Boko, a town in Assam’s Kamrup (Rural) district. She attended lower primary school before dropping out.”