July 8, 2021

Assam Cabinet approves cow protection Bill; to be introduced in coming House session

The move is ostensibly aimed at ending illegal cattle smuggling along the Indo-Bangladesh border in Assam.

The Assam cabinet Wednesday approved a proposed Bill to protect cattle in the state. In a press meet on Thursday, Parliamentary affairs minister Pijush Hazarika said the Assam Cattle Preservation Bill, 2021 will be introduced in the coming Assembly session, to be held on July 12.

“We had already announced it but now the Cabinet has formally approved it,” he said.

The government’s plans to propose the Bill were first announced by Assam Governor Jagdish Mukhi in May. He said the proposed Bill “envisages imposition of complete ban on transport of cattle outside the state.”

The move is ostensibly aimed at ending illegal cattle smuggling along the Indo-Bangladesh border in Assam. “We will adopt a zero-tolerance policy and enforce stringent punishment for the offenders. Once passed, Assam will join other states of the country who have passed similar Bills,” Mukhi had said.

In the last two months, the Assam government has been particularly strict with cattle smugglers, as part of its larger drive to end organized crimes such as drug peddling and rhino poaching in the state. Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said earlier this week that those who smuggle cows should be “caught at all costs”. “A cow is like a god to us. It gives us milk, it gives us dung (manure), it helps us farm…before tractors, our fathers were dependent on farming,” he said.

The government has indicated that it does not propose to ban the slaughter of cows or stop consumption. “There will no complete ban on eating or slaughter — but it will have clauses regarding its consumption in Hindu areas…so that cows are not killed or slaughtered where Hindus live and the animal is worshiped… especially close to temples,” a government source said, adding that the main aim was to “curb illegal trade and smuggling.”

If passed, the Bill will amend the Assam Cattle Preservation Act of 1950 that regulates cattle slaughter in the state. According to the law, the slaughter of cattle “over 14 years of age” or those “unfit for work” or “breeding” is allowed. Such cattle need to be given a “fit-for-slaughter certificate” by local veterinary officers.

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