Mumbai : The Bharatiya Janata Party-led state government has said the decision to enforce Maharashtra Animal Prevention (Amendment) Bill, 1995, banning slaughter of cow and cattle (bullocks), was not part of any communal agenda but in the larger interest of farmers. The state government’s decision has evoked strong reactions across political parties and social organisations, with the BJP being accused of “pursuing its hidden agenda”.
Apart from disappointing beef eaters across communities in the state, the decision is likely to adversely affect the livelihood of hundreds of people engaged in the business of slaughterhouses and beef sale.
Reacting to the criticism, Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar told The Indian Express: “Where is the communal agenda involved in this decision? In 1923, Mahatma Gandhi had first talked about ‘Govansh hatya bandhi (ban cow slaughter)’ to promote the village economy. The architect of Indian Constitution Dr B R Ambedkar had made the provision to facilitate state governments to take such a decision.”
The minister also invoked Chhatrapati Shivaji, saying the Maratha warrior king too attached importance to cows.
Moreover, he added, several organisations, including the Congress, and prominent persons like Motilal Vora and Dadasaheb Dharmadhikari had pursued ban on cow/bullock slaughter for the last several decades.
While ban on cow slaughter was already in place in Maharashtra, the state government’s Bill got President Pranab Mukherjee’s assent last week, ensuring it will now be extended to the entire cattle family.
While the Opposition has by and large accused the state government of playing communal card, the Congress appeared a divided house on the issue as Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil welcomed the decision with a warning: “It should be transparently executed. There should be no political twist to the decision.”
However, senior NCP leader Nawab Malik said: “The ban on cow slaughter is part of the BJP-Sena agenda. What is clearly being overlooked is the economic interests of a large section of people who indulge in the meat trade and also those who eat cattle meat, which is cheaper.” He added: “Nobody is against ban on cow slaughter. But when it is extended to other cow family like bullock etc, it shows the government’s mindset.”
However, Mungantiwar dismissed the Opposition’s charges as baseless. The finance minister said, “ Maharashtra is agriculture driven with 55 per cent people depending on farming. There are several lakhs of farmers whose land holding is less than 3 acres across the state. When there is a recurring drought-like situation and they are under financial constrain, they are often lured by the slaughterhouses to sell their cattle at throwaway prices. However, when the same farmers go to acquire new bullocks it becomes out of their reach. The government, through laws, wants to dissuade traders from luring farmers to sell cow and cattle by enforcing the ban and punishment.”
The new law ensures a strict punishment of up to Rs 10,000 fine and imprisonment.
Mungantiwar dismissed the argument that farmers cannot look after the cows/ bullocks in the times of hardship. “There are always means to tackle the crisis. Sending bullocks and cows to a slaughterhouse cannot be the remedy,” he said.
Commenting on the adverse impact of the decision on beef traders, the FM said: “Let us understand that the government has not imposed ban on slaughterhouses, or the job of butchers. There is no ban on goat meat or chicken.”
Citing an example, Mungantiwar said: “Now, there are some people who say they would like to savour deer meat. Now, if law prohibits killing of deer, how can you allow such trade? Similarly, our decision to enforce ban on cow and bullock is purely from agricultural point of view and farmers’ well-being. Moreover, people can still have buffalo meat, which is not banned. So, those involved in cow-bullock meat business can shift to other meat business, I feel.”
Source : Indian Express