NEW DELHI -- Cow protectionism was the spirit behind India's freedom movement, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Wednesday as she defended Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's decision to shut illegal slaughterhouses.
Sitharaman was replying to a debate in the Lok Sabha on a bill on foot wears 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.
"Over the centuries there had been leather taning industry... that has not obstructed cow protectionism," Sitharaman said.
She said before the opposition criticises the UP government, they should realise that it was the "legitimate duty" that the Chief Minister was undertaking.
The minister said the Congress party should acknowledge that cow protection was the spirit behind the freedom movement.
"The Chief Minister is doing what is the spirit behind the freedom movement. We should not exaggerate a situation," she said.
Adityanath, after taking over as the Chief Minister in March, had banned illegal slaughterhouses in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
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's 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 were 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 demand 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.
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