The Gujarat Assembly on Friday passed a Bill aimed at regulating stray cattle on roads and public places in urban areas, The Indian Express reported.

The Assembly passed the Gujarat Cattle Control (Keeping and Movement) in Urban Areas Bill, 2022, at 12.35 am after a six-hour discussion. The Congress strongly opposed the proposed law and demanded its withdrawal.

The Bill requires cattle rearers to acquire a licence in order to keep cows, buffaloes, goat, sheep, donkey, among others, in urban areas. The proposed law applies to eight municipal corporations – Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Junagadh, Jamnagar and Gandhinagar – and 162 municipality jurisdictions.

Cattle owners will have to get their animals tagged within 15 days of getting a licence and prevent them from walking on roads in cities, according to PTI. Authorities can seize cattle without tags and shift them to permanent sheds. Cattle rearers will have to pay a fine of Rs 50,000 to get the animals released.

The proposed law also states that fodder for cattle can only be sold in and around designated grazing areas in cities and towns.

Criticism from Congress

Congress MLAs criticised the Bill in the Gujarat Assembly and accused the Bharatiya Janata Party government of only using cows for votes.

Congress MLA Raghubhai Desai accused the government of stabbing the cattle rearing Maldhari community in the back, according to The Indian Express.

“The government sold gauchar [pastoral] land to industries,” said the MLA, who hails from the Maldhari community himself. “...Cities are turned into concrete jungles without any planning or alternate arrangements for cattle owners.”

Desai asked the government why it was going after cattle rearers instead of acting against the mining, education and corruption mafias.

Another Congress MLA from the Maldhari community, Lakhabhai Bharwad, said that the Bill should have been introduced after making alternative arrangements, adding that it will cause financial losses to cattle rearers.

“In coming days it will be situation where na rahe gaay na rahe gopalak [neither will there be cows nor will there be cattle rearers],” he said.

The Congress said that it will launch a state-wide agitation against the Gujarat government for having passed the “black law”, according to PTI.

The Maldhari Ekta Samiti, an organisation representing the community, has also threatened to start state-wide agitation against the Bill, the Hindustan Times reported.

However, Minister of State for Urban Development Vinod Moradiya said that the menace of stray cattle has increased in cities and many people have lost their lives because of it. “So it is necessary to bring in a law to ensure cattle owners [have] space,” he said.