With a new law on cow slaughter coming into existence, the price of beef has gone up in Bengaluru by Rs 100.
Earlier this month, the Karnataka Assembly passed a law against cow slaughter. The bill awaits approval in the Legislative Council.
But the government is planning to bring in an ordinance to speed up the implementation.
Traders say both supply and demand have already taken a beating. Boneless beef, priced at Rs 200 a kilo last month, is now going for Rs 300.
Many in the business have lost their customers because of the pandemic. The new law could throw them out of the business and render them penniless, says Khasim Aijaz Quraishi, president of the Beef Merchants’ Association of Karnataka.
The ban will affect thousands of traders across Karnataka, he reckons. “Beef is consumed by low-income groups. Half a kilo of beef can easily feed a large family. It’s cheap and easily available,” says Quraishi.
Khan Saheb, a meat trader in Johnson Market, says, “This is a job we have been doing for generations. If this law is enforced, we have to look for other jobs. Some traders have already left the city.”
Naim, owner of Blue Bell cold storage in Kammanahalli, gets his supply of meat from Johnson market, Russell Market and Tannery Road.
“Our vehicles transporting meat have been stopped at checkpoints and held up. We will oppose this law because it will affect the livelihoods of many involved in this trade.”
Restaurant owner Mathew Thomas, who runs Ma Baker, says the busiest time of the year is the Christmas and New Year season.
“But this year, business has dropped by 50 per cent. Many of our fast-moving dishes, such as shepherd’s pie and lasagna, are made with beef. We will have to close our business if the supply of beef is hit,” he says.
The government doesn’t understand the far-reaching implications this bill can have on the lives of farmers, feels Kodihalli Chandrashekar, president Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha.
“On what basis have they passed such a bill? Do they know anything about cattle rearing or trade?” he says.
The law benefits neither the government nor the farmers, feels Chandrashekar.
“Will the government come up with measures to ensure the upkeep of cattle? Looking after cattle if they come down with any infection is a huge challenge,” he says.
After cows stop giving milk, they are usually sold to the slaughterhouse for Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000 each.
“This is the natural process. It is impossible to look after them after a time,” he says.
What the new law says
The Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill (2020) has been passed by the Assembly. The latest bill is an extension of the 1964 cow protection legislation that had prohibited the slaughter of cows. The definition and scope have been expanded to include “cow, calf of a cow and bull, bullock and he or she buffalo”. The new law proposes jail terms from three to seven years for those transporting, smuggling, and slaughtering cattle below 13 years. The penalty varies from Rs 50,000 to 5 lakh for the first offence.
Better regulation required
Deputy Chief Minister C N Ashwathnarayan says the new law only extends the scope of a 1964 law to include a more detailed definition of cattle.
“The idea is to make the rules more stringent. This will prevent misuse and add more strength to the efforts to prevent slaughter of cattle,” he told Metrolife. The government is building a system to regulate and address concerns arising from the new law, he says.
The police are vested with powers to penalise anybody found smuggling and illegally transporting cattle. To prevent misuse, police officers will have to “explain under what circumstances a detention was made.”