Maharashtra’s beef traders have decided on seeking legal recourse following the ban on slaughter of bulls and bullocks.
Banning beef slaughter in Maharashtra may be the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Sena government’s way of appeasing right wing groups and of reaping electoral dividends, but the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill – granted the President’s assent on Tuesday – has virtually doomed over 10 lakh people connected with the trade.
The traders, who claim that the decision will affect almost 70 per cent of their business, say they will have to now seek legal recourse.
They are also trying to garner political support from parties representing minorities and to “get on board those involved in trade of beef by-products like cosmetics, toothpaste, leather, etc.”
The BJP claims the ban decision is in keeping with the party’s ideology and also favourable for the state’s agrarian sector. Mumbai Suburban Beef Traders’ Association president Mohammad Ali Qureshi said: “It will affect beef traders’ business as water buffalo meat accounts for just 25 per cent of our total sale. It will render many of us jobless while prices of other meat will go up and it will also affect rural economy. The farmers, already under debt, will have to maintain useless cattle on expensive fodder. The poor will not be able to afford high-priced mutton.”
He said: “An ailing bullock or ox sells for about `10,000 to 14,000 and farmers, unable to afford upkeep of such cattle, often sell it to slaughterhouses.”
Until now, the Animal Husbandry Department in the state allowed calves, bullocks and buffaloes to be slaughtered. In Mumbai alone, there are about 900 licensed legal beef traders. The city consumes about 20,000 kilograms of beef every day. At Deonar (the slaughter house in Mumbai), about 500 bullocks and ox and about 30 to 40 buffaloes are legally slaughtered every day.
Pune is the next big market with about 14,000 kg consumed daily. There are about 500 licensed shops selling beef in Pimpri, Chinchwad, Sholapur, Malegaon, Kolhapur and Sangli.
Qureshi recalls that between 1975 and 1990, Gau Raksha Abhiyan and Jain community members would routinely come during lunch hours and hold anti-cattle slaughter placards at the gates of Deonar slaughter house.
“But they never turned violent. We have also faced attacks from the VHP and unauthorised raids by the transport authorities,” he said. However, with the new BJPSena government coming to power last year, trouble started with attacks increasing both in terms of magnitude and frequency. Earlier, areas like Dhulia, Malegaon and Solapur bore the brunt of the attacks but safer areas like Mumbai, Pune, Kolhapur, Nashik and Sangli being targeted have shocked the community. On January 2 this year, over 100 meat traders were attacked in Paltan area of Sangli. It was then that state’s traders came to Mumbai and decided to strike work.
On February 15, they decided to call off the strike after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis assured them of a “safe working environment”.
Legal business Qureshi said: “But nothing changed on the ground. They made legal trade and cow slaughter the issue when we were agitating against harassment not from government officials but from Right-wing associations. The licencees have a legal business. Yet, there are occasions when despite valid RTO documents for cattle transportation, valid certificates from veterinary doctors for the cattle and purchase receipts, activists accost and assault our traders besides seizing the animals.”
Refuting the traders’ claims, Gau Raksha Abhiyan president Milind Ekbote said that the ‘activists’ only stop those engaging in illegal cow slaughter business. “We have caught several people while cows were being transported in their vehicles,” he said.