‘HOLY’ COW POLITICS: Mahadeo’s Nandi may feed at garbage dumps but may not be slaughtered for food!
Can politics and “politrics” at the national and state level win elections in the name of the ‘holy’ cow, sanitation and environment? A press conference can offer a lot of insight!
By RAJAN NARAYAN
LOOK who’s enforcing animal welfare rights nowadays with a special focus on cows and the transportation of beef in the country! Presumably Animal Welfare Board of India representatives certified by the Ministry of Environment (Government of India), about 190 of them across the country. About a dozen of them were here in Panaji last week to meet the media to clear the common perception that they are “cow vigilantes” dedicated to chasing cow slaughter and transportation of beef to Goa.
There was some kind of a veil of secrecy about this press conference but most media people turned up to understand what was going on. Has the AWBI and its representatives been assigned to keep track of the beef industry the country over, or is it simply the powers-that-be wanting to legalize and sanitize the meat industry with special reference to the ‘holy’ cow and consumption of beef in Goa? Maybe spike it altogether by hook or by crook!
Very recently beef traders transporting fresh cut beef by trucks from Belgaum to Goa were apprehended at the Karnataka-Goa border in the early hours of the morning and cases slapped on them for purchase and sale of beef from “illegal slaughter houses” in Belgaum with the added criticism of the beef itself being infested with maggots and unfit for consumption. From all accounts it was a well-planned raid with police and AWBI representatives (Goa has five of them) doing the ground work with the help of local veterinary services led by Dr Gustav Pinto to certify the meat’s quality. Goa’s meat traders or rather beef traders went on a strike and the next thing we knew there was a shortage of beef in the market or it went underground.
It’s incidental of course that most fresh beef traders are from the Muslim community and that it is predominantly only the Muslim and Christian community in Goa who love their beef, although in fact even Hindus consume beef and tourists come to Goa to relish beef, pork and seafood delicacies. Cow and beef politics have been viral for some time now with innocent Muslim and Dalit communities targeted by “cow vigilantes” in BJP-ruled states.
GOA was an exception to all this but the word has spread that somebody up there doesn’t like beef being freely and economically available in Goa! So emotionally subversive are sentiments on the subject of cow slaughter and beef consumption that from being a religious issue it has now become an altogether social, economic, cultural and political issue …and now environmental.
AWBI representatives present included chairperson Gopi Mohan, Joshine Anthony from Kerala, Anita Marwah from Delhi, Poonam Kapoor, Gaurav Yadav, not to forget Anjali Anand who reportedly played a key role in the recent beef transportation incident in Goa. Anjali Anand was not present but her name was bandied about because she circulated a press note alleging that illegal and unhygienic beef comes to Goa and the trading is purely in cash transactions — it’s a business in which no taxes are paid — with extra money going to fuel communal hatred in India. Also, Goa is becoming another Kashmir!
An allegation so sweeping and without evidence that many media people virtually pounced on the AWBI representatives, wanting to know if they were paid agents of “cow vigilantes” seeking to target beef consumption in India? And indirectly, the minority communities for which beef is a staple food? The AWBI representatives led by Rakesh Pande ferociously repudiated this, saying they were honorable reps with badges granted to them; five of them residing in Goa. They network with one another and in tandem catch illegal butchering and abuse of animals. It’s not their fault if the most illegal trading going on in India is to do with cow slaughter and beef consumption.
Belgaum they say has “42 illegal slaughter houses but not a single one is registered/licensed,” so beef coming into Goa is
suspect both vis-à-vis the law and safety of meat for consumption. According to them there is illegal trafficking of cattle from Karnataka to the Goa Meat Complex and it is this they are trying to stop. Also, it has come to their notice that there are illegal slaughter places operating in residential colonies in south Goa and here no rules and regulations are practiced. “The cattle slaughtered here is cattle feeding at garbage dumps, sanitary and hospital waste, plastics and toxins, amongst other things.” They say beef in Goa is “a cocktail of carcinogenic chemicals.” According to their estimate, “30 tons of beef comes to Goa daily and it is unaccounted for…this is as per a government survey.”
NOT JUST BEEF
WHY only target beef? As a matter of fact, one of them points out, they have filed cases regarding the use and abuse of other meat facilities too, for example the mass abuse going on in poultry factories! All they are saying is that slaughter houses acquire legal certification and transported meat “be subject to the Prevention of Cruelty to animals (Slaughterhouse) Rules, 2001, which makes licensing of the slaughterhouse, maintaining standards of hygiene and sanitation ensuring minimum pain to the animal by stunning it before slaughter, issuance of ante-mortem and post-mortem certificates by authorized vets mandatory.”
Like there is so much legality and honesty in other food businesses in this country and everyone pays their taxes as bona fide citizens of India! Some clarity emerges when a Swati Shilker present at the press conference wanted to say something; she wanted to tell the media about local beef slaughter going on in a gory fashion in residential areas in Chinchinim in south Goa. She said it was scary for many residents in the vicinity to live in such close proximity to homes where beef is butchered and retailed locally. Reportedly, there are only 70 beef traders registered in Goa, but something like 5,000 families are engaged in beef trading in Goa in illegal operations.
From the sound of it, some Chinchinim locals, including her friend Mabel Rodrigues, have come together and about 36 of them complained to AWBI representatives. So they took up the case for them, “Under Goa Animal Preservation Act, 1995, beef is permitted to be sold in Goa by importing from neighboring state after being examined by competent authority, ie, veterinary officer of taluka in Goa and having obtained the necessary certificate. Any beef which is not stamped and the source not known has to be destroyed as per FSSAI acts and rules.” Apparently, beef in Goa fails to meet these norms and beef shops do not possess license.
After the recent incident to do with the transportation of beef in trucks at the Goa-Karnataka border it was rumored that obnoxious “beef vigilantes” were now also in Goa; hence, the need for this press conference to clear the air (or confuse it further). Swati Shilkar insists that the whole matter is needlessly being painted in a political context; let the beef business folk of Goa clean up their act from legal and sanitation points of view and the complaints will disappear.
ALL of which is easier said than done given today’s political contexts in the country. There is an atmosphere vitiated by fear, anger and feelings of discrimination all around, and in which one various communities are involved…it cannot but the pave the way to continuing accusations, undesirable situations and litigations. All of which turns to dust any hope of reaping peace and harmony at ground level.
AWBI representatives do not say it but some unabashedly betray biases when in off the record exchange of words they agreed that vegetarianism is best for a more environment-friendly India and that “human beings are the scum species of the good earth!” The other animals of the animal kingdom would be better off without the human animal species….and so on and so forth, a subject which may be debated ad nauseum, ad infinitum.
One media person asked, “While piously raiding homes to check out beef on the premises don’t you also along with the filth and squalor see the grim pathos of poverty, vulnerability of the people living there? What has successive governments done in the last 70 years to improve the quality of their life, those who more or less continue to live from hand to mouth, who have neither time, resources nor leisure to improve the quality of their life materially and immaterially….?”
The AWBI representatives (who interestingly claim to be an advisory body to the Environment Ministry), shrug, that’s not their problem. Their problem is to only make sure all businesses to do with animal husbandry or meat for consumption are legal tender and safe to eat! If media makes it out to be a political issue, they are not responsible for it, “And don’t confuse us as `cow vigilantes’ next time!”
There’s no doubt that in a hitherto peaceful and tolerant Goa an altogether volatile situation is brewing for better or for worse. Hard to say at this point of time.
CORRUPTION TARGETING MINORITIES?
WHEN the politics of the day become biased and vitiated, says one senior journalist who’s extensively researched the diabolical nature of beef politics creeping into Goa and India, “It’s rich to say that so-and-so doesn’t have a registered and licensed business” or “It’s unhygienic business” or “It’s illegal money running into crores not accounted for or taxed!” What part of all this is true or untrue or clearly manipulated mala fide situations of convenience for those concerned?
Closer to the truth and worth investigating is what kind of an insidious role administrative, bureaucratic and police mindsets
play! It’s a familiar enough script in India. One may ask why so many slaughter houses don’t have registrations and licenses to operate? And how have they got away with operations for so long? Bribery at the right quarters? Everyone is eminently “bribe-able”! It is quite possible that registrations and licenses are hard to come by because is deliberately entrenched in a system, and where do busy aam aadmi have the time of the day to chase documentary formalities?
Is it easier to keep rozi roti matters paid for under the table? And then when push comes to shove the powers-that-be can always say “not registered, not licensed, unhygienic” and shut down the business, impose stiff fines or throw the culprits (victim?) in jail! So perhaps one could look into why certain businesses in the country find it so tough to become bona fide…and what keeps the unholy fires of loot-maar politics burning? Also, how many of these business are more or less monopolies of certain communities?