No beef sale within 5-km radius of temple: Assam’s current cattle preservation bill proposed by CM Himanta Biswa Sarma

A total ban on the sale and purchase of beef or beef products in areas “predominantly inhabited by Hindu, Jain, Sikh and other non-beef food communities” and “in a 5 km radius” of any temple or Vaisnavaite monastery is proposed in the Assam Cattle Conservation Bill 2021 tabled by Chief Minister Himanta Bisa Sarma at the Legislative Assembly on Monday.

In the new legislation, if appropriate documents are not made accessible to the authorities, the new legislation will verify the movement of bovines within the state or outside the state. Transportation of cattle for slaughter is likewise restricted in states where slaughter is unregulated.

This provision has raised concerns about the movement of beef and cattle for agricultural reasons in Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Nagaland. Beef is widely consumed in these three Christian-majority states, which rely on Assam for supplies. Assam continues to be the primary point of entry for products travelling from the rest of India to the northeast.

The bill also prohibits animals from being transported interstate without appropriate paperwork to, from, or through Assam. The government’s goal with the Bill is to stop livestock smuggling to Bangladesh, which Assam shares a 263-kilometer border with.

The Bill, among other things, stipulates that a cow can not be slaughtered regardless of age, which differs from the 1950 Act, which authorised cattle slaughter only if they were “beyond 14 years of age” or “unfit for work.” It does, however, keep the requirement that all cattle, excluding cows, be butchered with a veterinarian’s approval certificate.

It states that “no certificate shall be issued unless the Veterinary Officer is of the opinion that the cattle, not being a cow, is over fourteen years of age; or the cattle, not being a cow, heifer, or calf, has become permanently incapacitated from work or breeding due to accidental injury or deformity.”

According to the bill, anyone who violates its terms will be sentenced to three years in prison, with the possibility of an extension up to eight years, as well as a fine of rupees three to five lakh. All offences are cognizable and non-bailable under the aforementioned Bill.

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