Amid an uproar over ban on illegal slaughter houses in UP, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday said cow protectionism was the “spirit” behind the country’s freedom movement as she defended Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s decision to shut illegal slaughter houses.
Sitharaman was replying to a debate in the Lok Sabha on a bill on footwears during which members from Congress and Trinamool Congress raised the issue of availability of raw hide and skin for the leather industry in the wake of ban on cow slaughter in UP and other parts of the country.
The bill to declare the Footwear Design and Development Institute (FDDI) an institution of national importance was later passed by the House with voice vote.
“So, for all those members who wonder as to where the leather is going to be coming, this country, not today but over the centuries, has had leather tanning and it has given a steady flow of leather.
“That has never obstructed our own cow protection movements, about which each one of us will have to be proud of and that has been a part of our freedom movement’s call,” Sitharaman said.
She said before the Congress criticises the UP government, they should “recognise” that cow protection was part of our freedom movement and “there is nothing new which is happening in Uttar Pradesh”.
“Why are we suddenly so agitated about what is happening in Uttar Pradesh? The Chief Minister is only doing what was very much the spirit behind our freedom movement itself. So, I would want the members to be very clear that it is not one thing during the freedom movement and another now,” she said.
Adityanath, after taking over as the Chief Minister last month, had banned illegal slaughter houses in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
As Congress member Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury raised the issue of government focus on beef export, Sitharaman said: “we should not exaggerate a situation where a genuine attempt is being made by a Chief Minister in a State to legalise the matter and to not encourage illegal practices.
“I am sure that none of us is worried about when an elected Chief Minister is doing his job”.
As Chowdhury continued with his remarks, Sitharaman said: “By disrupting my answer, the facts are not going to change. Our freedom movement has been fully encouraged and spirited by the cow protection movement. I do not want that to be forgotten, much before we criticise what is happening in Uttar Pradesh, which is the legitimate duty of an elected Government and that is what the Chief Minister is doing there.
“This country has given legitimate leather for the leather industry and that would continue”.
Talking about the footwear bill, Sitharaman said there are 7 FDDIs in the country and 5 more are coming up.
The total number of campuses will be restricted to 12 as of now as “we do not want to proliferate the number of campuses”, the Commerce and Industry Minister said.
The bill seeks to make FDDI an institution of national importance for the promotion and development of quality and excellence in education, research and training in all disciplines relating to footwear and leather products design.
Replying to opposition charge of high cost of admission, Sitharaman said students passing out from these institutes have been placed in “very good jobs” and the rate of recruitment was also high.
“The course is self financed, capital expenditure is not recovered from the students. Since job opportunity is there, cost has not deterred students to come and join,” she said, adding even as the fees was expensive but people eager as it provided employment right away.
Sitharaman said these institutes impart modern skill, provides trained manpower and updated technology to capture global market as the demanded is now towards branded leather goods.
She assuaged member concerns over admission of women in the institutes saying everyone is being given equal opportunity and there will be enough representation of the fairer sex.
Sitharaman also said that the prevailing rules for reservation of SC, ST and OBCs would be followed even in these institutes.