Dalits Vs Gau Rakshak: Understanding Cow Economics from Carcasses to Finished Leather!

Cow, the unofficial national animal of India is getting a lot of footage ever since BJP – a parliamentary representative of Sangh Parivar came into power. The gau rakshak are on an omnipotence mode as they fearlessly harm and kill humans in the name of protecting cow, the sacred animal of the Hindus. Cruelty against animals is a serious issue but hurting Dalits and killing humans in the name of protecting and safeguarding cow carcasses is vindictiveness.

From ages, the Dalit community, the chamars (a derogatory term used for the Dalits involved) have been involved in the business of bovine carcasses. When any animal die in any village, people of all the upper castes including the gau rakshak call these people to pick up the cow carcasses.


Image Source: @SatishAcharya via Twitter

From hundreds of years now, the oppressed Dalits have been cleaning up the carrion and playing an important role in keeping India Swachch in the real sense. However, now that there is good money involved in the trade and the industry runs in crores, looks like the Gau rakshak are not happy with the Cow Economics. After all, the young Dalit boys are earning good by selling the carcasses as raw material for finished leather and bone meal.


Image Source: @ManjulToons via Twitter

Understanding Cow Economics in Steps – From Occupation of the Dalits to Benefits Shared by Every Community

After a cow dies, people from the chamar caste are called to skin the dead cattle and to pick up the carcasses. These people have about 15-20 villages in their purview. However, this isn’t a simple process as they have to strike a deal with the Panchayat head of each and every village.


Image Source: @SatishAcharya via Twitter

The Deal – The amount a panchayat head (often an upper caste if the seat is unreserved) charges to allow a person exclusive rights over dead cattle is between Rs.5,000 and Rs. 50,000. The payoff depends on the size of the village, higher for villages with large Panjrapole (shelters for sick, old and abandoned cattle). Sometimes, a few families get together to put up the bribe amount and take turns on a weekly or monthly basis to skin cows.

Curing The Skin – After skinning the cow, the skin is cured for a few weeks using salt and lime. The cured hides are then sold to local resellers and taken to hide markets or directly to merchants from Kanpur, Kolhapur to Kolkata. The local merchants pay a little less than the merchants who have direct links to leather tanneries and factories.

Selling The Hide –Each cured hide sells in between Rs. 400 and Rs. 700. The fur on the hide should be intact. Those with scars and missing tufts are sold cheaper for around Rs. 400 or less. Hides of cows killed by lions are the cheapest because the hide is in tatters.

Procurement of Cow Skin in Kanpur – The hides are normally transported to the two hide markets in Uttar Pradesh – Kanpur and Hapur. The hides are transported to Kanpur by truck, something that is not limited to Dalits or any one particular community.

Transportation to Tanneries – Dalits and Muslims are sually involved in moving the hides from trucks to warehouses. They water the hides further and apply more salt. Horse and buffalo carts, largely owned by Muslim are used to carry the hides from Penchbagh in Kanpur to the tanneries in Jajmau.

Tanning Process – The leather industry has about 40,000 Dalit workers. Their primary work is to soak the hides in large pits filled with limewater. Hides are then set for peeling. This is done manually so that the fact and other wastes can be removed. This is also done by Dalits.

Finishing Process – Extracted fat is then sold to glue factories and hair is traded to brush makers. A cattle hide passes through several stages before it is cleared as processed leather. It is then sold to buyers to be turned into leather products. Hindus, Muslims And Dalits are all part of these stages.


Sudipto Mondal and Haidar Naqvi   Via Hindustan Times

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