Banning beef and booze

Banning cow-slaughter and liquor consumption is two of the cornerstones of the present Government. Without going into the controversial moral, constitutional and legal questions involved, the economic aspect of the two moves needs some attention. Those running bars or slaughter houses have an avocation. Depriving thousands of them of their means of subsistence means rendering them unemployed. The problem of their rehabilitation is an economic and social problem. The second question relates to the maintenance of the cattle which will not be sent for slaughter. How much it will cost a farmer to feed its dry cows and old bullocks and where he will find the wherewithal to do so is a question that has to be faced and answered. Also, how much it will cost the nation as a whole.
Similarly, enforcing prohibition in general and near national and State highways in particular, will create a host of problems: revenue loss to the State, joblessness of a large number of people – both proprietors and employees – and a possible spurt in the production and sale of hooch. Dead cattle give not only meat but also hide and other products like tallow, bone-meal, meat-meal, etc. There are a number of downstream industries based on these. All of them will be directly affected. It may be a surprise to many to know that according to data released by the US Department of Agriculture in 2015, India is the world’s largest beef-exporting country. It exported 2.4 million tonnes of beef and veal in fiscal 2015, compared to 2 million tonnes by Brazil and 1.5 million tonnes by Australia. These figures give an idea of the magnitude of the problem.
The sudden blanket banning of abattoirs – where ‘legal’ or not – and bars will create the problem of frictional unemployment. The BJP had promised in its poll manifesto in 2014 that it would aim at creating 250 million jobs in the next ten years. Success achieved in this direction is rather doubtful. Taking away the jobs of those already employed will only further aggravate the unemployed problem. Banning of cow-slaughter will have its impact on leather and other industries also. If beef and liquor are to be banned, the best thing will be to go about it in a planned and gradual way so that the economy can absorb the impact of banning and no distress is caused to the people dependent on these industries.

Wednesday, 5 April, 2017