Prior to tabling the Assam Cattle Preservation Bill, 2021, in the 126-member Assembly on July 12, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said its primary objective was to check the smuggling of cows to Bangladesh. The Bill Bans Sale Of Beef within 5km Radius Of Temples
Bill Bans Sale Of Beef within 5km Radius Of Temples
It also seeks to restrict the sale of beef in areas dominated by non-beef consuming communities and within a 5km radius of temples and ‘Satras’ (Vaishnav monasteries) formed by the 15-16th century saint-reformer Srimanta Sankaradeva. The Bill seeks to replace the Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 1950, that allows the slaughter of cattle above 14 years of age or those that have become permanently incapacitated due to work, breeding, accident or deformity after local veterinary officers certify that they are fit for slaughter.
Bill regulate the slaughter, consumption and illegal transportation of cattle in Assam
The Bill retains this provision while intending to regulate the slaughter, consumption and illegal transportation of cattle across Assam. It says the certified cattle can be slaughtered only in licensed and recognised slaughter houses. “The state government may exempt certain places of worship, or certain occasion from the slaughter of cattle other than cow, heifer or calf, for religious purposes,” it says.
Beef and beef products
The Bill says no one will be allowed to sell beef or beef products in any form except at places permitted by the government. Beef will not be allowed to be sold in areas predominantly inhabited by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and other non-beef-eating communities or within a radius of 5km of any temple, satra or other religious institutions or area as may be prescribed by the authority. This Bill seeks to regulate the sale of cattle in the recognised animal markets. Such markets or committees would have to issue proof of sale and purchase of animals in a prescribed format to the purchaser and maintain a proper record for inspection.
Seized cattle would be handed over to ‘gaushalas’
Violations would lead to the cancellation of the license of the animal market and violators would be barred from entering the market and fined. Police and veterinary officers can seize cattle, carcass or vehicles used to transport cattle sold without following the rules, and the seized cattle would be handed over to ‘gaushalas’ (cow shelters) or similar institutions, the Bill says.
The Bill seeks to ban the transportation of cattle to and from Assam as well as within the state unless competent authorities issue permits for movement of the animal for “bona fide or animal husbandry purposes while following rules laid down by the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.”
However, no permission would be required to carry cattle to grazing field or for agricultural animal husbandry purposes within a district. Transportation of cattle to and from registered animal market for the purpose of sale and purchase within a district will also not require permission.
Reactions to the Bill
The Bill is likely to choke supply to Christine majority states in the northeast where beef is consumed. Meghalaya CM said he would take up the issue with the Centre. The Congress and AIUDF said the Bill could lead to communal tensions. The All Assam Minority Student Union asked the government not to interfere with the food habits of people.