I just came across a notification to share comments on the Draft Prevention of Cruelty to Animal (Amendment) Bill. 2022 . This draft is available at the Department of Animal husbandry and dairying website www.dahd.nic.in. The draft has around 63 amendments, insertions and omissions to the existing 1960 Act.
I read through the draft and found that it brings more clarity on various terms related to cruelty to animals. It has also categorically taken cognisance of different means to kill the animals through deliberate poisoning. The bill talks about structure, enforcement and also about the freedom of animals. It is drafted in a manner to give the insertion a feel of fundamental rights for the animals. The new section 3A given below has talked about 5 fundamental freedoms of animals.
Insertion of new section 3A : Five freedoms of animals
It shall be the duty of every person having charge of an animal to ensure that the animal has:
- Freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition
- Freedom from discomfort due to environment,
- Freedom from pain, injury and diseases,
- Freedom to express normal behaviour for the species.
- Freedom from fear and distress.
Provided that in case of a community animal, the local government such as municipality or panchayats shall be responsible for taking care of the community animals in a manner developed by the State Government or by the Board.
These five freedoms are better than the fundamental rights which humans have in developing countries.
Today stray animals can be divided into companion animals or pets and cattle. A report by Stray animals foundation gives a horrible state of stray pets in India as follows :
The menace of Stray Cattle
As per a report published in The Hindu on Sep 20 2022 by Suchitra Karthikeyan. Stray cattle have caused injury, even death. But measures to control them have landed the government in hot water with rearers even in Gujarat.
There were 52,062 stray cattle, of which 33,806 had been impounded as of August 28, 2022 as per Gujarat Government. They also introduced a stray cattle control bill which made tagging and registration of cattle mandatory. Else pay a penalty of Rs 2000.00 per cattle head. Penalties have also been envisaged for driving away cattle, sale of fodder in contravention of the Act’s provisions and keeping cattle in a prohibited area. On Sep 18, 2022, more than 20,000 cattle rearers and dairy farmers came together in Shertha near Gandhinagar. They were demanding that the proposed law be scrapped.
The problem of stray cattle is not limited to Gujarat. In August, the Haryana government admitted that over 900 people had died in road accidents caused by stray cattle in the last five years and 3,017 people have sustained injuries.
As per govt data in 2019 Uttar Pradesh has 11,84,494 stray cattle – the highest in the nation. Currently, U.P has 6,222 cow shelters housing 8.55 lakh cattle.
As per the 2019 livestock census conducted by the Union Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry & Dairying, the total population of stray dogs and stray cattle in the country was 203.31 lakh. The number of people killed by such animals in 2020 was 1,303 with the top five States being Maharashtra (163), Uttar Pradesh (162), Madhya Pradesh (103), Tamil Nadu (112) and Assam (100). The Centre, in a written reply to Lok Sabha, reiterated that management of cow pounds (Gaushalas) and control of stray animals came under the purview of State/UT governments and local bodies.
Stringent Anti cow slaughter act
The stringent anti-cow slaughter laws enacted by 20 State governments across India is the reason for aggravating the stray cattle issue in India. The current amendment bill doesn’t suggest any measures to get rid of unruly, aggressive, unproductive, old, sick, stray animals and cattle. The bill rather is trying to bring in more enforcement by creating impractical measures of freedom. Such freedoms are not yet being provided to humans else India would not have the following data for the nutritional status of children in India.
The Power of the Board to inspect
In section 10 of the principal Act, under the heading “Power of the Board to make regulation”, the words “Powers of the Board” shall be substituted, and the following provision shall be inserted.
(2) Power to entry and inspect: the Board may authorize any government officials or any other person on its behalf, as the case may be, to inspect places or premises where animals are being kept or used for any other purposes, where there is reason to believe that offense against this act and rules made under this act.
Such kind of entry and inspection makes more sense to ensure clean milk production or Quality milk production by bringing regulations at the primary production level of milk. However such enforcements without a clear national code of animal up-keeping at farms will give rise to another opportunity of corruption by the junior staff of such boards. The possibilities of various kinds of bias may also be not ruled out before making such raids.
Inclusion in Animal Welfare Board
In 2009 when the budget was presented in the parliament by the finance minister then the word inclusion got maximum space in the budget. Today this word has become too scarce both in the policies as well as intent. As per a new insertion in section 43 of Constitution of Animal welfare board, representatives from neither State dairy Federation nor from the village level Panchayat or Village level dairy cooperative have been included. There has been mention of the Director Panchayat Board but we need real dairy farmers , dairy cooperatives and panchayat members to be part of such Boards.
This bill may strengthen the enforcement against animal cruelty in certain cases but in no way it is likely to reduce the existing stray cattle and animal menace in the country. I request all of you to download this amendment bill and share your insights to the government. Most of the time such bills are amended in the absence of critical comments and insights by the learned stakeholders.