The Beef Ban: An Irrational Decision with Economic Implications?

There are several questions that remain unanswered about the motives of this ban. In this article, Hrideja Shah aims at bringing out the economic implications of this law.

al3The 20 year old bill, Maharashtra Anila Preservation (Amendment) Bill, 1995 was finally signed and approved by the President. The bill prohibits slaughter of oxen and bulls including the possession and sale of beef. It also banned the import and export of beef. Violation of this law would result in five years in jail and a fine upto Rs. 10,000.  The first question that would be raised is why this ban when there are several measures that need to be taken for other issues.

Is this ban truly holding a religious belief? Does religion play a major role before economy? Is the government really just following a belief and ignoring the economic disadvantages of banning beef?  Besides the religious debates, economic implications play a major role since beef is banned.

The new law is all set to affect the beef trade on which more than 1.5 crore people of Maharashtra depend. The agricultural and related business is a competitive, consumer driven, global and rapidly changing industry. The president of Mumbai beef association stated that Mumbai has 900 licensed beef stalls and an equal amount of unlicensed beef stalls.  Thousands others are in the transport business. The economy is surely to be affected through this ban.

  • Price of other related products : With the ban of beef, the price of other related meat products (like Chicken) are likely to drastically increase. An increase in demand for other meat products will cause the prices to be extremely high and unaffordable for most of the people. Beef is considered to be the cheapest source of protein and a source of meal for several people in Maharashtra. Majority of the population is either low middle income group or lower. With an increase in price of other meat products, the middle income group and lower will not be able to afford it on a daily basis.
  • Employment in State : Several problems are likely to be faced by those working in the beef industry. About 70% of the trade is dependent on Beef in Maharashtra. Mumbai Suburban Beef Traders’ Association president stated that the only 25% of the total sale is dependent of buffalo meat. Several people will be jobless and will affect the rural economy. It is a misconception that only Muslims benefit out of beef. Several transport businesses rely upon the transport of animals. With a ban on export and import, the transport business will have major setback. What will all the butchers relying on beef do? Will they be compensated for this ban? The government has not disclosed any policies which will benefit the people affected through this ban. Till now, no compensation is being provided on enforcement of this bill. Majority of the beef traders will now face unemployment or low income. When a state has major number of beef traders, why has the government passed such a ban? Will it benefit the agrarian economy? Will this ban balance out the unemployment through the agrarian sector?
  • Agrarian Economy : BJP claimed that this decision has been taken keeping in mind the ideologies of the party and it will also be favourable for the agrarian sector of the state. However, through this law, the agrarian economy will be affected at large. The government fails to understand the unnecessary burden put on farmers through this law. The ban will restrict the farmers from selling their unproductive cattle to the butchers. The cost of maintaining those cattle will affect the livelihood of the farmer since he cannot sell the unproductive cattle to the butchers. How are the farmers supposed to feed the old bulls and cows when they face problems feeding their own families? The cost of maintenance would result an increase in the number of people living on the verge of poverty line in India. No sale of the old cattle with the cost of maintaining them just brings more burden on livelihood.
  • Cosmetic and Pharmaceutical Industry : Some of the most prestigious cosmetic companies use animal fat in their products. The blood and fat from buffalos and bulls is used in various products by cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. Mumbai is one of the most renowned metro cities in the world. Several international industries have set up their business in Mumbai. These industries include cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. With such a ban, will the international industries set up in Maharashtra using beef remove itself from the market? How will this affect the state’s economy? The investment will reduce. Government is creating an environment which is not investment friendly. Efficient policies need to be implemented to attract international business into the country. However, with such policies, attracting industries which use beef product ends will become difficult.
  • Beef Exports : With a ban on export and import of Beef, the overall economy will suffer a great loss. India is considered to be the second largest exporter of beef in the world after Brazil. Will this ban affect the export?  Internationally, the figures confirm that the ban in Maharashtra is likely to affect the overall beef export business.  It has been stated that beef  has emerged as India’s second highest agri-export commodity after Basmati rice, according to data released by Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA). It has been estimated that 11.4% of the gross income from beef and 7.5% of the income from pork, come from the by-products. As of March 2014, Indian beef exports soared 31 percent to 1.5 million tons from the previous year, and were worth 264.6 billion rupees ($4.3 billion), according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). A major part of the economy is dependent on the export.  Is the government ready to face losses by banning export of beef? Though the ban is only in one state, it is surely going to affect the export business by atleast 10%.

In my opinion, the beef ban law has major flaws which will affect not only the economy but will leave an impact on religious as well as social freedoms. The beef traders association of Maharashtra are looking for a legal recourse against this ban on beef. The enforcement of bill led to a major cut down in the beef business since only an inferior quality of beef of water buffaloes will be allowed for sale.

According to several news report, the BJP claims to set this ban on the basis of their parent organization’s value system i.e. the RSS. The question then remains is that is it okay to impose one’s value system on others by banning something? The state needs to take the low middle income group people into account when pursuing extreme policy measures which have a universal impact. Most importantly, shouldn’t the religious ideologies be separate from the state?  The ban not only forces people to opt for other sources of meat but also affects the overall economy of state due to various reasons stated above. There is a serious doubt on the vision and pragmatic belief of the government in power if reasonable business and socio-economic considerations are overlooked by the government by passing this bill.

Hrideja Shah is a student at Jindal Global Law School, Haryana

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