Beef is off menus and livelihoods of about one million people may be at stake. But the Maharashtra government says this move reflects the will of the people.
The Maharashtra Government’s Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill 1995 that received Presidential assent on March 3, 2015 has impacted lots of lives. People at both ends of the spectrum—those who consume meat and those involved in the trade are affected by the Maharashtra government’s decision.
Eknath Khadse, State Revenue and Animal Husbandry Minister spoke to BOOM and defended the BJP-Shiv Sena government’s decision, “Our decision to follow up on the Bill, which was sent to the President 19 years ago was due to numerous groups requesting us for a complete ban on the slaughter of the bovine family (gau-vansh) for meat. I explained to the Qureshis that it is a matter of faith and they should shift focus to other meats as all the others are without any restriction.”
The beef export industry had generated revenues of more than Rs. 17,000 crores in 2014 and at about Rs. 160 a kilo was the cheapest meat available in the market. The ban will mean an increase in prices of all other meats as there is not enough buffalo meat to compensate for the loss in supply from bull/bullock meat. Khalique Ahmed, Chairman, All Maharashtra Cattle Merchant’s Association gives the statistics, “Buffalo meat as of today comprises just 25% of the beef market as most of it is exported. There are just not enough buffaloes in Maharashtra to service the domestic demand as well as continue with the same export numbers.”
Khadse, however says that his government is keeping tabs on the prices of meat and that there has been no rise in prices of other meats yet.
Reacting to the issue of the lack of infrastructure for old and infirm cattle that become a liability for farmers when they are past their prime, the minister said,“We will launch a programme called ‘Gokul Gram’ that will involve NGOs for the welfare of cows. The intention is to have a facility in every village across Maharashtra that will take care of 1000 cows. We plan to release Rs. 20 crores for this scheme and have applied to the Centre for funds.” The government is confident that the programme will be successful and has plans to promote the sale of cow urine and cow dung under the scheme for manure and for medicinal use.
For Maharashtra, the programme is the first of its kind and the government is confident in its belief of acting on behalf of its majority vote-bank, “This ban has come in place because many in this country are not comfortable with cow-slaughter, so we have to respect the sentiment of the majority.”