- BJP leaders in Meghalaya have quit over new cattle trade rules
- Many leaders and chief ministers have written to PM Modi over the issue
- Environment minister Vardhan said Centre was willing to revisit the rules
The minister did not elaborate who the vested interests were but underlined that the issue has been blown out of proportion, "miscommunicated and deliberately misconstrued".
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his counterpart in Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, have said the new diktat seriously impinges on the rights of state governments. On Saturday, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah too picked up the pen, and shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to protest the rule. In Meghalaya, the BJP also suffered a setback after two senior leaders quit the party last week.
"It has nothing to do with the slaughtering business. It has nothing to do with changing or influencing your food habits," said Dr Harsh Vardhan, who is the minister in-charge of the environment ministry that changed the rules last month.
The minister's conciliatory stand comes days after the Madras high court suspended the rule for four weeks in Tamil Nadu. Next week, the Supreme Court will hear a petition against the rule that decreed that animal markets can only trade cattle for agricultural purposes such as ploughing and dairy production.
The implication was that the meat industry would have to go to individual farmers to source unproductive cattle for slaughter. The rule was criticised for not just threatening the $4 billion in annual beef exports but curtail domestic beef consumption too.
Most of India's beef comes from buffaloes rather than cows, which are sacred to Hindus. But right-wing hardliners and cow vigilante groups have been increasingly asserting themselves with attacks on those they accuse of slaughtering cows.
This week, the government's chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian said any government had the right to choose its social policies but made it clear that a ban on cattle slaughter wouldn't only hurt the meat industry but the farmers as well.
If the farmer wasn't able to sell the unproductive cattle for its meat, it would make livestock farming "less profitable", Mr Subramanian said citing a study which indicated dairy farmers barely made any profits.