Mumbai: Days after a Maharashtra bill banning beef got Presidential assent, traders association of the red meat have come out strongly against the BJP-led state government, accusing it of "snatching" their livelihood for the sake of "vote bank politics".
"It is the duty of every government in the world to provide employment to its citizens. But this government has taken away our source of livelihood. Business that has been developed through generations has been destroyed in an instant only because of vote bank politics," said Beef Traders' Association president Abdul Qureshi.
Though the slaughter of cows was previously prohibited in the state under the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act of 1976, 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 Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill, 1995 received assent of President Pranab Mukherjee on March 2. Maharashtra's contribution to the country's buffalo meat market is about 25 percent, with more than 1,000 animals being slaughtered daily in Pune district. Each animal provides an average 200 kgs of meat.
"What does the government expect us to do now? How do we sustain our families? We should at least be allowed to slaughter the cattle that we already have so that we do not incur losses on our invested money," he said.
Last month, beef traders had gone on an indefinite strike to protest against right-wing groups which were allegedly seizing their cattle. The strike was called off after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis assured them that their business would not be affected. Juveria Shaikh, owner of Shalimar Group of Hotels in Mumbai, said beef should not only be looked from a religious perspective, but also from an economical perspective.
"Though we do not serve beef, but there are thousands of hotels across the state that serve beef to their customers. Banning the slaughter of animals will mean that their businesses will get affected severely."
"Also, beef is much more cheap than chicken and goat meat. Won't this hassle people from the lower-income group? Eating something is an individual's choice. This choice cannot be trampled upon," Shaikh said.
Meanwhile, neighbouring Goa, also ruled by BJP, is facing shortage of beef reportedly due to the ban in Maharashtra. However, the state government clarified today the scarcity of the red meat has nothing to do with Maharashtra.
In Panaji, Director, Goa Animal Husbandry Department A Braganza blamed the "differences among traders, a right-wing NGO and officials of the Karnataka government" for the shortage of beef in the coastal state. "Beef remained scarce in the state with the traders and beef sellers deciding to shut down their shops.
The shortage has nothing to do with the ban in Maharashtra as Goa does not import any beef from Maharashtra. Our main supplier is Karnataka," he said, adding the shortage is due to a "crisis" among the traders, officials of the Karnataka government and an NGO.
He alleged the volunteers of 'Govansh Rakhan Manch' (GRM) have been clashing with traders resulting in disruption of import of meat from the neighbouring state. A state government-owned abattoir, run by Goa Meat Complex Limited, has been shut since 2013 since GRM moved the Bombay High Court terming the slaughtering as illegal.
The case is being heard in the Goa bench of the HC. Braganza said Goa's daily requirement of beef was around 50 tonnes. He said Goa will continue to face shortage until the differences among all the three stake-holders are sorted out. The beef traders, on the other hand, feel that their business is under severe threat.
"Goa Meat complex is closed for last two years. There is also the ban in bringing beef from outside. From where will the supply come?" asked Jafar Bepari, president, Qureshi Meat Traders Association. He said lakhs of people who are beef-eaters, will have to go without the red meat till the issue is resolved.