Covid-related restrictions and guidelines issued by the UP Police have made qurbani tougher. There are restrictions on transportation of livestock. Many say the police are taking away sacrificial animals by force
Shaheen Nazar | Clarion India
NEW DELHI – It’s not just a question of Muslims being denied their religious obligation of sacrificing animals (qurbani) this Eid Al-Adha, but it’s also a story of a missed opportunity of injecting several thousand crores of rupees into the economy at a time of the financial crisis due to the Covid-related lockdown, say economists.
While there is no official ban on qurbani, various state governments have adopted policies that are discouraging them from buying sacrificial animals.
Reports reaching from Maharashtra indicate that hundreds of trucks carrying goats and sheep worth millions of rupees from neighbouring states are being stopped at the entrance to Mumbai. Nearly 200 herds have already died because of thirst, hunger and humidity. The Sheep and Goat Traders Association has demanded compensation from the Maharashtra government for the losses.
In Uttar Pradesh, too, Muslims are finding it difficult to get animals as temporary livestock markets have not opened in most of the cities. Besides, there are restrictions on transportation of livestock. There are complaints from various parts of UP that the police were taking away sacrificial animals by force. Covid-related restrictions and a guideline issued by the UP Police have also made qurbani tougher.
Economists see these developments differently. Hurting religious sentiments of a particular community apart, this is going to harm rural economy the most. Livestock cattle are considered the most liquid assets in the rural India. It not only generates employment but also creates wealth for poor people in villages and in towns as well.
By blocking the sale of sacrificial animals, the government is hurting financial interests of the majority community more than the intended community, say economists. “From raising goats and sheep to selling it for sacrifice at the time of Eid Al-Adha, there is an entire chain of economic activity. Muslims are only the last part of this chain. They just buy it from the market,” said Prof. Shariq Nisar of the Rizvi Institute of Management, Mumbai.
Explaining his point, he said goats and sheep are raised in villages. Muslims rarely do this. Generally, Dalits and backward communities raise animals with the hope of generating extra money. The livestock traders who buy from them are mostly from the majority community. The trucks in which the livestock is transported are also owned by them.
He said that even the local municipality earns sizable revenues in the process of sale. It gets rent for the land it leases to traders for setting up mandi (market). Then it also gets tax on each livestock sold. Individuals who buy goats and sheep hire autos and small trucks to take them home. Besides, countless brokers and workers earn money in the process of sale and purchase of sacrificial animals. “You would realise that very few of them are Muslims,” said Nisar.
This annual Muslim festival, Nisar pointed out, is also an occasion for policemen to earn extra money. “They get their share during transportation and on each transaction in the mandi . “Though illegal, the money is being earned by someone adding to his income,” he added.
Dr. Rahmatullah, retired professor of economics at a Bombay University college, said by coming in the way of this massive sale, the government was missing an opportunity to arrest the downward trend in economy. He said while no data was available to calculate the exact loss because of this communally-motivated policy, the estimated loss could be several thousand crores.
“Majority of the middle-class Muslims perform qurbani. With a good number of them sacrificing more than one animal, even if ten percent of roughly 20 crore Muslims perform qurbani, the figure comes around two crore. Multiply this by average cost of per goat or sheep of Rs 10,000. The figure that comes is whopping Rs 20,000 crore.”
Rahmatullah, like Nisar, also agrees that major sufferers of the misdirected policy were the rural masses. “If you speak in communal terms, it was generally going to impact lower-caste Hindus,” he added.
Nisar said the ban on sacrificing cows was understandable as it was related to the religious sentiments of the majority community. But stopping people from sacrificing goats and sheep was totally illogical. Apparently it is being done to harass Muslims.
“But, indirectly, they are helping Muslims save money on extravagance. Many poor Muslims perform qurbani at the cost of their children’s education and health. Then there are Muslims who sacrifice up to four or five animals bought at exorbitant prices just to show off. Both the cases are against the spirit of qurbani. So, in the long run, the money saved would be spent on education, health and welfare of the community,” Nisar said.