After witnessing a drop in meat exports, India is now suffering from the flip side of the ban on sale of cattle for slaughter in the western state of Maharashtra, adding to rural distress and resentment against the ruling BJP. The problem has worsened with Hindu vigilante groups forcibly extending the ban to bulls and bullocks, and attacking traders, reports Reuters.
The state had imposed a ban on slaughter of calves and bullocks in March last year, which also stipulated imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of Rs 10,000 for violating provisions. The decision had sparked nationwide protests.
The ban has impacted millions of impoverished farmers in the state, who are suffering due to two successive droughts and unseasonal rain, which have depriving them of water to feed the animals. Cows and buffalos need 70 litres of water a day.
"I wonder what the government wants — our survival or the cattle's?" the agency quoted a farmer anmed Revaji Choudhary as saying. He was struggling for weeks to sell a pair of bulls in a cattle market in Maharashtra.
The ban has upset a traditional practice prevalent in the region, wherein famers would sell cattle in a drought year to butchers and buy new ones after earning enough later. That practice has been hit by the ban, leaving farmers with little or no money to buy seeds before the onset of the next sowing season, generally in June, reported the agency.
Most of the butchers are Muslims, giving the issue communal overtones.
Marathwada, one of Maharashtra's many drought-hit regions, has seen farmer suicides almost double in the recent past.
The situation has forced a rethink on the ruling BJP in the state. Prime Minister NArendra Modi belongs to the BJP, which is in power at the Centre along with coalition partners.
"It is time to withdraw the ban," Maharashtra BJP legislator Bhimrao Dhonde was quoted as saying by Reuters.
The state is grappling with a major problem as a result of the ban, since about 4 million animals have to be taken care of in Maharashtra, in addition to about 250,000 heads of cattle put in state-arranged temporary shelters.
Buffalo meat exports fall
Export of buffalo meat during the April-to-December period of the current financial year declined 15.89 percent to $3,171 million from $3,770 million in the corresponding period last year. Buffalo meat accounts for almost 26 percent of total agri and processed food product exports of India, according to Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority.