Last week, Maharashtra’s state government, led by the Hindu BJP, enacted a bill that had been dormant since 1995, when the party was last in power, that bans the slaughter of bulls and bullocks.
Of India’s 29 states, 24 including Maharashtra currently have some regulations that prohibit either the slaughter or sale of cows.
According to the Press Trust of India, the prime minister’s office at the same time asked the law ministry if it was permissible to circulate new cow slaughter laws as a model bill for other states to consider implementing.
The states could then “exercise their choice of consideration to introduce similar enactments”.
Constitution appears to back move
The PM’s office cited the Indian Constitution, whereby Article 48 states: “The State shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.”
Similar draft model bills have recently been sent to the states by the Ministry of Water Resources and the Planning Commission.
While Maharashtra’s new ban on beef slaughter has been praised from mostly religious quarters, Muslims and secular Indians have criticised the move, saying it would render hundreds of thousands without work.
The Muslim political party Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (MIM) said: “The government has taken the decision of banning slaughter of bulls and bullocks and thereby rendering lakhs of people dependent on this business jobless.”
The government has done a grave injustice to the large number of beef traders and the number of allied industries that have thrived on [the beef industry] by imposing a ban on slaughter of bulls as well as bullocks, said MIM state representative Imtiaz Jaleel.
"What plan has the government got to rehabilitate the large number of people working in the beef business and their numbers is in lakhs across the state. The government just cannot snatch away their livelihood and take away their legal means of earning their bread and butter.”
There are also concerns over the possible growth in price of mutton, chicken and even vegetables as demand grows. Poor Muslims regularly eat beef in the state as it one of the cheapest intensive sources of protein available to them.