Thirty five-year old Praveen Kumar worked as a deliveryman at a slaughter house in Mumbai.
His job involved carrying meat from the slaughter house to retail shops.
But for the last 3 weeks he has been jobless. The slaughterhouse has shut down following the state government’s ban on beef.
“Here I was earning about $ 7 a day and life had become much easier. I was able to keep my wife and 3 children happy. But with this ban now I can’t even afford two proper meals for my family and my children may also have to leave school because I can’t pay the fees,” he said
Selling or consuming beef comes with a maximum punishment of five years in jail or a fine of is more than 150 US dollars.
Eknath Khadse, a local minister from the ruling BJP party argues the ban was necessary.
“After all we live in India and for most of us the cow is sacred. Hindus also live in Pakistan but Cow slaughter ban cannot be imposed there because the majority there is of Muslims and the Government will respect their sentiment. Similarly the Hindu sentiment in India has to be respected,” he said.
Many Hindus consider Cows a holy animal and worship it.
Cow slaughter is already prohibited in most Indian states.
But the extension of the ban now to cover bulls and bullocks-the major sources of beef, will hit India’s growing meat Industry hard.
Meat suppliers in Mumbai have gone on strike in protest against the government’s decision.
But according to Home Minister Rajnath Singh the central government is now planning to introduce the ban throughout the country.
“How can we allow cow slaughter to go on in this country? We will do everything in our power to stop it and we will also try our level best to build a national consensus on the issue,” he said.
Many accuse the Hindu nationalist party of imposing Hindu agenda on a secular and multicultural society.
Opposition MP Derrick O’ Brian raised the issue in Parliament challenging the constitutional validity of the law.
“Let me give you the 4 letter word, its beef and it’s called the poor man’s protein because there are a lot of people besides minorities, a lot of Dalits, a lot of people from the North-east and a lot of people from across the country who eat this meat. What are we coming to sir? Please let’s not remove the diversity of this country; I respect anyone else’s right to eat vegetables, fish, chicken and mutton, that’s perfectly all right but if you tell me to eat a particular meat you are trying to change the fabric of this great nation and you don’t have to change the constitution to change the fabric of this country.”
Ritu Dalmia Owns a restaurant in Mumbai.
She has removed beef from the menu after the ban came into effect but can’t understand the rationale behind the decision.
“I hate to say it, most of the people who come and order beef in any restaurant in a modern city is actually a Hindu. So it is really a bit ridiculous to say ban on beef because of religious sentiment,” she said.
India is the world’s second largest beef exporter and also the second largest producers of leather foot wear and leather garments.
Hundreds of thousands of people earn a living from these industries and are now staring at a bleak future after the ban.
Even the farmers, who the government says will be the biggest beneficiaries of the ban, are strongly opposing it.
“Banning cow slaughter actually means killing the farmer. The export of meat brings income into the country so it’s a chain of interdependent people. It’s a purely economic issue which is unnecessarily being given a religious color for political gain,” said farmer leader Raghunath Patil.
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