Following beef ban, farmers and livestock traders have found greener pastures in digital India for cow sale

Following beef ban, farmers and livestock traders have found greener pastures in digital India for cow sale

New Delhi, June1:Hamstrung by the government’s restrictions on sale of cattle, farmers and livestock traders have found greener pastures in digital India. So, a swift search on online marketplaces such as OLX shows that hundreds of cows are up for sale in the virtual world.

The environment ministry decreed last week that animal markets could only trade cattle for agricultural purposes, such as ploughing and dairy production. The rule came as part of a tough new law against animal cruelty, but critics say they are aimed at placating hardline Hindu supporters of the Narendra Modi government. The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court on Tuesday suspended the order for four weeks.

Ravi Sharma from Uttar Pradesh’s holy city Varanasi, which Prime Minister Modi represents in Parliament, seemed a little wary when spoken to about his online post selling a desi brown cow for Rs 75,000. He first wanted to know what this correspondent intended to do with it and what community she belonged to, categorically stating that he has no interest in selling to a certain minority group.

Not far away from Varanasi, in Ghazipur, Bheem Singh is keen to get rid of three cows at the earliest. So much so that he is open to a distress sale for as much as 50 per cent less than the market price for cows. “It’s too dangerous keeping cows any more. Anyone can come and beat us,” he said while pushing this correspondent to close the deal over the phone.

The past two years have seen a rise in vigilante attacks on Muslims and lower caste Hindus involved in the cattle trade, leading to several deaths. A group of alleged “cow protectors” thrashed two meat traders on the suspicion that they were carrying beef on May 26. Police in Rajasthan’s Bhilwara arrested five people, including an alleged member of the RSS – the BJP’s ideological mentor – who torched a truck last week that they thought was carrying cows for slaughter.

Several state governments have appealed to the PM to repeal the order, which they say was issued without consultations with them. Some have decided to drag the Centre to court. Environment minister Harsh Vardhan had said that cattle bought and sold directly from farms would not be affected by the government’s order. “The aim of the rules is only to regulate the animal market and sale of cattle in them and ensure (the) welfare of cattle” in the markets,” he had said. But many commentators see the move as a blow to beef and leather exports that will leave hundreds of thousands jobless and deprive millions of Christians, Muslims and poor Hindus of a cheap source of protein.

It’s not that cows have not been sold on e-commerce websites before. They have been available occasionally under the pets section. But there has been a sudden surge since the BJP swept to power in Uttar Pradesh in March with priest-turned politician Yogi Adityanath taking the chief minister’s post, and the rise of the gau rakshaks, or cow vigilantes.

Critics say a sense of fear has been instilled in farmers and cattle owners who feel safer trading within the confines of the internet rather than an open market.