WEST Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee has stated that her government will not implement the Centre’s notification restricting the sale of cattle in animal markets for slaughter. Labelling the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance’s move as “unconstitutional” and as a “deliberate attempt to encroach upon the States’ power”, she said her government was not “bound to abide by these rules”.
Referring to Entries 15, 16, 26 and 28 in the State List under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, she accused the Centre of infringing upon the rights of States. Entry 15 lays down “preservation, protection and improvement of stock and prevention of animal diseases and veterinary training and practice” in the jurisdiction of the State; Entry 16 is regarding “pounds and the prevention of cattle trespass”; Entry 26 places trade and commerce within the jurisdiction of the State, subject to the provision of Entry 33 of the Concurrent List; and Entry 28 places markets and fairs within the State’s jurisdiction.
“This is absolutely unconstitutional, undemocratic, unethical…. The Central government is an elected government with its own areas of jurisdiction; keep in mind the State government is also an elected government. In a federal structure, the Central government will do its job according to its jurisdiction and we will do our according to ours…. It (the Centre) is unnecessarily imposing and bulldozing. Under Article 246 of the Constitution, the legislature of any State has exclusive power to make laws with respect to any of the matters enumerated in List II in the Seventh Schedule. Thus, the government of India has sought to encroach upon the powers of the State, which is absolutely unconstitutional. So, we are not accepting it,” Mamata Banerjee said at a press conference. She said that, if necessary, her government would take recourse to law and challenge the notification. Questioning the timing of the notification, she asked why the Centre chose to make the announcement at the beginning of Ramzan.
Except for the BJP, all the opposition parties in the State, including the State Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front, condemned the Centre’s move.
“The BJP government at the Centre is not officially doing this in the name of religion, but is disguising the religious factor behind the garb of prevention of cruelty to animals. It is not as though they are trying to protect any endangered species. If they are talking about cruelty to animals, then what about goats, chickens and even fish? It is clear that this notification has nothing to do with cruelty to animals. In fact, not only is this unconstitutional, it also goes against the law of nature and will adversely affect the economy of the country,” veteran CPI (M) leader and member of the party’s Central Committee Shaymal Chakraborty told Frontline .
The State Congress also came down heavily on the Centre’s notification. “We think that by suddenly coming up with such rules, the Centre is hampering the livelihood of millions of Indians. It will also affect the county’s meat industry which is worth approximately about Rs.1 lakh crore,” said State Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.
The tannery industry of West Bengal has also expressed strong reservations about the notification. “How can the Centre issue such a notification on live cattle, which is a State subject? If the Centre does not immediately withdraw the notification we will go to court,” said Imran Ahmed Khan, general secretary of the CLA Tanners Association.
According to representatives of the leather industry, implementation of the notification would be disastrous for the industry. West Bengal has 350 tanneries and 1,500 leather goods exporters, and 50,000 to 60,000 tonnes of finished leather is exported from the State every month. More than four lakh people in the State will face an uncertain future if the Centre implements its notification.
Md Ali Quraishi, president of the West Bengal unit of the Jamiatul Quraish and president of the West Bengal Beef Dealers Association, said the meat industry in West Bengal had slumped after the Uttar Pradesh elections. “Our meat used to come from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and other States. There has been an acute shortage of meat since the BJP came to power in Uttar Pradesh. It is quite a crisis now during Ramzan,” he told Frontline .
The Tangra Slaughter House, the biggest slaughterhouse in the State, used to slaughter more than 200 cattle a month before the Uttar Pradesh elections. This has nearly halved. The situation in smaller slaughterhouses is even worse. There are more than 30 slaughterhouses in the State.
Quraishi also pointed out that India was one of the top beef exporters in the world. He said more than one crore people were dependent on the meat industry in West Bengal. “If the Centre’s notification is implemented, it will affect other related industries like dairy and leather,” he said.