The central government will soon approve tamper-proof identity tags for all cattle in the country that will document a range of data, including a unique number and the type of their horn and tail, solicitor general Ranjit Kumar told the Supreme Court on Monday.
A government-appointed panel headed by a joint secretary of the Union home ministry came up with the idea as part of efforts to prevent illegal transportation of cattle and livestock to Bangladesh.
The panel’s report was submitted on the top court on Monday, and Kumar told the bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar that the government backed the suggestions.
“The government will issue a formal notification soon,” Kumar said.
The polyurethane tags will contain identification details such as the age, breed, sex, lactation, height, color, horn type, tail switch and special marks of cattle heads and its “progeny”.
The top court is hearing a petition to stop the smuggling of cattle to be slaughtered at beef export units.
Focus on cow protection, especially by vigilante groups, has risen since the BJP-led government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power at the Centre three years ago. There has been a string of cow-related violence but many state governments, particularly those ruled by the BJP, have defended the action on the grounds that the animal is considered holy by many Hindus.
Critics, however, accuse these vigilante groups of targeting people, mostly from the Muslim and Dalit communities.
Cows, buffaloes and other cattle are issued identity tags when they are insured. But the new proposal seeks ID cards are all cattle.
The government-backed panel’s recommendations included strengthening of institutional framework against cattle smuggling, sensitisation of enforcement agencies, the setting up of homes with guards for stray cattle and stricter prosecution.
The panel identified the reasons for smuggling of cattle and evolved a comprehensive future plan to stop it. Such incidents were said to be the highest in West Bengal and Assam which have borders with Bangladesh.
The idea to have unique tags came after the panel members learnt that the seized cattle heads, which get auctioned by the customs department, reach smugglers who re-sell them across the border.
The panel took a view that the responsibility of safety and care of abandoned animals was mainly of the states. Asking the government to make tamper-proof identification of cattle mandatory, the committee suggested having a state-level data bank to be uploaded on government websites and linked to an online national database.
Setting-up of animal centres or kanji houses and dry dairies at district levels should be done for the production of organic gas and sold at minimum support price, the panel said. Every owner should maintain a registration card that should be transferred to the new one if there is legitimate sale.
A nodal officer may be appointed as registrar of cattle in each state and the Centre must increase the penalty under the law to punish those who are found to be cruel to animals were some of the other recommendations. At present a fine of Rs 50 is imposed on a person found guilty of cruelty.
Animal transportation should be done strictly as per the regulations under the Motor Vehicles Act and transports department may prepare a data of cases where people are booked for illegal transportation of cattle.
No animal should be allowed to be transported without a “fitness to move” certificate so that illegal movement of livestock across the state is curbed, the panel recommended.