The Maldhari (Pastoralist) community in Gujarat forced the state government to unanimously withdraw the contentious Gujarat Cattle Control (Keeping and Moving) in Urban Areas Bill, 2022 . The state government introduced the bill in March this year to bring a permanent solution to the problem of stray cattle in urban areas, prompting a massive protest by the Maldharis.
On Wednesday, September 21, the state government withdrew the bill during the final session of the state Legislative Assembly. Gujarat, scheduled to go to polls later this year, has a population of over 60 lakh Maldharis.
Governor Acharya Devvrat on Wednesday sent back the Gujarat Cattle Control (Keeping and Moving) in Urban Areas Bill, 2022, to the state government for reconsideration. The Governor’s recommendation was placed before the House, which accepted it, and the state government withdrew it. The bill was voted for direct consent and dissent rather than debate.
The Gujarat Cattle Control (Keeping and Moving) in Urban Areas Bill, 2022 contains clauses that propose to imprison defaulters for a maximum of five years and simultaneously impose a fine of Rs 5 lakh. As per the proposed bill, cattle movements were to be licensed, regulated and prohibited in eight municipal corporations and 162 municipalities. Once the law was enforced, no person could keep cattle in urban areas without a licence. This includes cows, buffaloes, goats, sheep and donkeys, among others.
The bill proposed mandatory registration and tagging of animals in municipal areas. It also demanded that cattle breeders secure a license to keep cattle in urban areas. The bill mandated that pastoralists obtain a license within 90 days of the new law, and all livestock kept by breeders must be tagged within 15 days of receiving their licenses.
The bill proposed that if any ‘tagged’ animal is caught wandering around, its owner be charged with a criminal offence and the case be investigated by the local authorities-appointed inspector.
Maldhari Ekta Samiti president Nagji Desai is the face of the protests against the bill. A look at the accidents related to stray animals in Gujarat reveals that in 2021, 1,946 such accidents were reported in just five months, between August and December.