Friday, October 26, 2012

The way of all flesh

There is nothing fine about dining on animals slaughtered to meet human desire. Indeed, it is a barbaric act

Over the past six months, volunteers of Gau Gyan Foundation, People for Animals and Rashtriya Gau Raksha Sena have been working together to apprehend cattle  traffickers and reporting the matter to the police. Some are journalists, some animal rights activists, and some grass-roots workers, keeping track of cattle movements across States. Despite the widespread ban on animal cruelty and cattle slaughter, thousands of livestock are trafficked every week in places such as Goa, Porbandar, Diu and Daman for butchering; and smuggled from the northern cow belt, Odisha, elsewhere, to Bangladesh via West Bengal. Kerala and West Bengal, in the grip of appeasement politics, patented by the Congress, its splinter Trinamool Congress, and Communists, anyway allow cattle slaughter, as do some Christian pockets in the North-East. But the open collusion between law-keepers and traffickers is a blatant offence.

Reports of trafficking are generally ignored by the police. And, even if they do file FIRs under pressure, lax court proceedings let the traders and cattle free. Yet, such offences are punishable under numerous laws: Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960; Delhi Agriculture Cattle Preservation Act, 1994; Punjab Prohibition of Cow Slaughter Act; Transport of Animal Rules, 1978; Sec 5/7, Sec 295(A) Indian Penal Code and the like. The culprits get away by pleading that the cattle are being transported for farming purposes. Activists, who have been investigating such incidents, are certain that greasing palms eases their passage. It is a well-entrenched network of traders, intermediaries and official facilitators.

This gives a new meaning to the state functioning as a facilitator. When cheerleaders for free-market reforms eulogise the delights of fine dining, they overlook one simple fact: There is nothing fine about feasting on the flesh of living creatures. It is, rather, the nadir of human development. And when the same people choose to turn their attention to their other obsession, Mahatma Gandhi, the irony is accentuated. Indeed, the Congress's continued association with Gandhiji, his name being invoked to vest the party and its leaders with credibility, is absurd because it has completely repudiated whatever the Mahatma espoused: Promotion of a home-grown economy; the culture of non-violence; and ban on cattle slaughter.

The Congress-led UPA coalition's track record is utterly dismal in this regard, with domestic industries being forced to give way to giant transnational players; cottage industry reduced to a quaint ethnic enterprise; the politics of minorityism thwarting communal relations on an even keel; and cattle smuggling for the purpose of slaughter and beef exports magnifying alarmingly. Congress allies in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, with the Trinamool Congress only recently having severed ties as a populist stunt, are equally unworthy of invoking Gandhiji's legacy. For, despite their socialist pretensions, their support made it possible for the Congress to follow the economic course that threatens to reverse whatever India can claim as its own. Acknowledging that cattle was integral to rural wealth, Gandhian Acharya Vinobha Bhave launched a ceaseless satyagraha near Deonar, Mumbai, where thousands of cattle smuggled from other parts, are daily butchered, to meet the craving for fine Indian beef, free of the trigger of mad cow disease.

The grim paradox of the nation, and the Congress especially, paying homage to the Mahatma, one of the greatest proponents of ahimsa and cattle protection, on his birth anniversary is underlined by current data on India emerging as the biggest beef exporter in the world. It is the pink revolution that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has been highlighting as one of the worst lapses of the Congress-led UPA regime. To achieve this dubious distinction, the Government gives subsidies for exports and has modernised slaughter houses. This is reprehensible, considering that the reforms initiative is pegged to cutting fuel and other subsidies, which hits the poor hardest. United States Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service forecast for 2012 avers that we will export about 1.5 million metric tonnes of beef, overtaking Australia. Worse, the export quantum has doubled in just three years.

And where does this beef, sourced reportedly from buffaloes, go? To the Middle East, North Africa and South-East Asia mainly. So even if the ruling coalition has failed to feed India's poor, several hundred millions of people can seek solace in the fact that our livestock is being depleted rapidly so that there is no dearth of cheep meat in other countries. Little matter that these animals could have been better deployed for farming and production of milk. Or that such slaughter is antithetical to the ethos of compassion, integral to our heritage. The UPA's brutalising influence and policies are the logical corollary of its rootlessness.

Business lobbies have been trying since a decade to coerce the Army into replacing canvas PT shoes with shoes or combat boots, made of cow leather. This will entail the The slaughter of millions of cattle. Devout jawans, most from villages, may then rise up, triggering another rebellion against alien rule.

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