Gangtok: The ban on cow slaughter has finally reached India’s northeastern region.
Sikkim, one of the eight states in the region, on August 29 passed a bill to prohibit the killing of cows and its female progeny in the Himalayan state.
Sikkim is the first state in the region to pass the law that was until now limited to India’s mainland. Sikkim is ruled by Sikkim Democratic Front, a part of the North East Democratic Alliance led by the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Sikkim’s Animal Husbandry Minister Somnath Poudyal on August 28 tabled “Sikkim Prevention of Cow Slaughter Bill, 2017“ in the house. Tabling the bill, Poudyal said, “The cow is regarded a mother for agriculture, dairy industry and the mankind, especially in India. The people of Sikkim consider the cow as sacred and have an emotional attachment to it.”
Chief Minister Pawan Chamling on August 29 said the new legislation bans slaughtering of cows forever. Protection of cow has become important considering the need of inputs for organic farming in the state, he added.
“The government wants to invoke a humane, ethical and sustainable alternative for taking care of aged and unproductive cows in gaushalas (shed),” the chief minister said. To begin with, the state government would construct two gaushalas for the purpose.
The new defines a cow as a milking cow, dry cow, heifer or calf and an offence under the Act will be cognizable and non-bailable. Anyone found slaughtering a cow in the state will face imprisonment for a term of not less than two years, which can even be extended to five years, along with a minimum fine of 10,000 rupees, local media reported.
A repeat offender will face rigorous imprisonment for at least five years, which may be extended to seven years along with a fine of no less than 10,000 rupees.
Among the other northeastern states only Assam has banned slaughter of cows nned except on issuance of ‘fit for slaughter’ certificate at designated places. However, it is not a cognisable offence warranting arrest.
Sikkim’s native population of Bhutias and Lepchas traditionally consume beef. However, the majority are Napali Hindus who revere cows as a goddess.
Poudyal explains that the dairy sector in Sikkim is the single-largest employer along with agriculture and is a major source of income for small and marginal farmers. More than 80 percent rural households own dairy animals and earn supplementary income from these activities.
The new legislation, however, provides an exception for cows suffering from infectious or contagious diseases. To slaughter an infected cow, a certificate from the competent authority is required. Such a cow will have to be slaughtered at a designated place as per the rules prescribed in the Act. The carcass shall be buried or disposed of also as per the rules set in the new Act.