Beef lovers in Maharashtra will now have to do without the red meat as President Pranab Mukherjee has given his assent to the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill, 1995, nearly 19 years after the Maharashtra Assembly passed the Bill during the BJP-Shiv Sena rule in 1995.
The slaughter of cows was previously prohibited in the state under the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act of 1976. However, the passage of the new Act will ban the slaughter of bulls as well as bullocks, which was previously allowed based on a fit-for-slaughter certificate.
The new Act will, however, allow slaughter of water buffaloes, which provides carabeef — generally seen as an inferior quality meat that makes up only 25 per cent of the total beef market in the state. Beef traders claim the move will not only render thousands jobless, but will also drive up the cost of other meats in the state.
“Thanks a lot Hon President Sir for the assent on Maharashtra Animal Preservation Bill. Our dream of ban on cow slaughter becomes a reality now,” Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis tweeted.
“This is a historic step, which has cultural as well as economic implications for the state. We had passed this Act when we were in power in 1995 and had sent it for the President’s nod in 1996. Subsequent governments in the state, however, failed to do the needful to get the Bill implemented. We had promised in our manifesto to bring this Bill and we have managed to do it,” BJP MP from Mumbai Kirit Somaiya said.
Thanks a lot Hon President Sir for the assent on MaharashtraAnimalPreservationBill.Our dream of ban on cow slaughter becomes a reality now.
— Devendra Fadnavis (@Dev_Fadnavis) March 2, 2015
The President had signed the Bill and sent it to the Ministry of Home Affairs, which then informed the Maharashtra Governor of the decision.
Now, anyone found to be selling beef or in possession of it can be jailed for five years and fined Rs 10,000.
The beef trade in the state is largely controlled by Muslims of the Qureshi caste. “Apart from rendering people jobless, the immediate effect will be the spiralling price of other meats as people will be forced to gravitate to them,” president of the Mumbai Suburban Beef Dealer Association Mohammed Qureshi said.
Beef, generally seen as the poor man’s meat, costs almost a third of mutton. Mumbai alone consumes nearly 90,000 kg of mutton every day, sold through 900 licensed stalls and an equal number of illegal stalls.
Beef traders said they are checking if they can take legal recourse. “We are now holding deliberations to see if we can challenge this in any way. The beef traders have been impacted but it will be the farmers who will be affected the most. Who will care for the old and infirm animals that were earlier sold for meat?” Arif Chowdhury, an office bearer of the All India Jamiatul Quresh, an organisation of beef traders, said.
“A recent government report has stated that there is nearly 61 per cent fodder shortage in the state. By banning the slaughter of old and infirm animals, the government is doing grave injustice to the healthy animals and farmers of Maharashtra,” Rajendra Dhende, a beef trader from Sangli, said.
Right-wing groups and Jain organisations have been asking for shutting down of the abattoirs and beef trade in the state.
Beef traders across Maharashtra were on strike for over a week in February to protest against the alleged harassment being meted out to beef traders. Fadnvais had later assured protection to beef traders after a delegation met him, which led to the strike being called off.
Glyston Gracias, brand chef at Smoke House Deli, Mumbai, said, “This is extremely sad to hear. I will have to go to another country. Most of the dishes at the restaurant are based on European cuisine. A lot of our foreign clientele, such as Japanese and Europeans, will miss beef on the menu. We will also lose out on alcohol sales because beef and beer go really well. I will find it difficult to do international cuisine.