JAIPURPromises made to farmers indicate that the BJP government in Rajasthan may relent on the stringent cattle trade laws, with assembly elections a year ahead.In a recent agreement reached with the agitating farmers in Sikar district, the government promised to ease the draconian laws that govern the sale of cattle for slaughter in the state. The BJP government in Rajasthan had passed a cow slaughter law in 1995. In 2015, the state government made the rules against the transport of cattle stricter. In May this year, the Centre drafted a new rule that banned the sale of cattle and buffaloes for slaughter; the Supreme Court stayed the restriction.A proposal to reduce the age limit of the male calf, when a farmer is allowed to sell it, from three to two years is under consideration by a cabinet committee; once the proposal is cleared the state government will bring a bill in the assembly to amend the laws. Curbs on sale have forced farmers to abandon many of their cattle. Feral cattle are a growing menace in the state. To tackle the menace, the government will provide funds to fence a portion of designated land in villages where the abandoned cattle could be kept, so that they are not a threat to the standing crop. The agreement also mentions that the state government will send recommendations to the Centre for amendments to the Forest Act to tackle the stray animal menace. Farmers have demanded that Nilgai and wild boar be shot dead to control their population. “A significant part of the farmers’ income comes from sale of milk and cattle. The focus on cow protection has not only hit the rural economy with farmers finding it difficult to sell the cattle but also led to increase in the number of abandoned cattle who pose a threat to the crop,” All India Kisan Sabha leader Pemaram told HT. Farmers blame gau rakshaks, who often assault the traders transporting cows and buffaloes, for the decline in livestock trade. “Cattle traders and dairy farmers from outside Rajasthan have stopped coming to buy calf and other cattle for the fear of gau rakshaks. Everybody is afraid after what happened to Pehlu Khan,” said Ramlal Singh, a farmer in Badhadar village in Sikar district. The government has also agreed to ensure better protection for cattle traders, pointing out in the agreement that the Supreme Court has granted a stay on the new cattle trade rules. According to the 19th Livestock Census, 2012, Rajasthan had the second largest livestock population among the states. The growth of livestock has tapered off; the livestock population grew by only 1.9% between 2007-2012 as against 15% between 2002 and 2007. Last week, the state government announced Rs 20,000-crore farm-loan waiver after a two-week-long protest by farmers.