Cow slaughter ban can cost India dearly

Don Aguiar
The ban on cow slaughter can pose a serious threat to the Indian economy in the near future, as the country may have to spend 1.5 times its current Defence Budget to take care of an additional 27 crore unproductive animals annually, an agricultural economist has warned.

Speaking at a function organised by BhumiAdhikarAndolan, a consortium of organisations fighting for farmer rights, VikasRawal, an economist with the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, wondered whether the authorities have really understood the economic ramifications of the cow slaughter ban.

Rawal’s warning comes at a time when a number of incidents of lynching on account of alleged cow slaughter were reported from different parts of the country. Several BJP-ruled States in the country have already passed a law that makes cow slaughter a criminal act.

“Each year, 3.4 crore male calves are born in this country. If we assume that they live for eight years, which is actually on the lower side, there would be nearly 27 crore additional unproductive cattle by the end of eight years,” he said. The population, he added, is expected to stabilise after that.

What it might cost to save gauvansh countrywide? The additional outgo for looking after these cattle would be ₹5.4 lakh crore, 35 times the annual animal husbandry budgets of the Centre and all States put together, he said.

“In addition, there will be an additional capital expenditure of ₹10 lakh crore, if one considers the minimum that the Gujarat government allocates for building a shed for a cow,” Rawalsays.

Besides, a vast tract of five lakh acres of land will be required to provide shelter to these animals. According to him, fodder, which is currently available in the country, would not be enough to feed them. Besides, the water requirement of these extra animals would be more than the quantum of water used for human consumption in the country.

In addition, this would lead to a situation where a farmer would not be able to keep a cow. If you keep a cow, then you are saddled with all the calves it produces. If you don’t have a way of disposing of the calves, it will not be economically feasible to keep the cow.

If that happens, there can be a serious threat to the nutritional security of the country. Already one-third of children born in India suffer from stunted growth due to protein deficiency and this can only aggravate.

There are others issues, too. So far, the issue of stray cattle has been typically an urban problem in India. This can now very well spread to rural areas and farmers will find it difficult to protect their fields from roaming cattle. Guarding fields will be a menace of the worst order.

If the 10 million or so cattle that possibly end up at the abattoir every year are not culled, farmers will simply stop caring for them and let them loose in the towns and cities.

The Central government is perhaps beginning to acknowledge that prohibiting the slaughter of gauvansh – the cow and its progeny – entails significant costs. The biggest hurdle to the protection of cattle is who will take care of them.

In other words, while the gau can well be saved from the cattle smuggler and slaughterhouse owner, how does one ensure the farmer will continue to rear the animals that are no longer of economic utility to him?

Is there anyway of estimating the number of unproductive cattle, from the farmers standpoint?

Now, if a nationwide ban on the slaughter of gauvansh were to be strictly enforced, somebody will have to take care of the 10 million or so cattle that would ordinarily end up at the abattoir every year. That somebody will certainly not be the farmer. In his case – unlike for those who farm neither crops nor animals – there is a clear dividing line between economic rationality and religious sentiment. Rather than bearing the Rs 60 daily cost of feeding an unproductive cow, he will simply let it loose. Even if it is no longer possible to sell redundant animals to livestock traders/butchers at say Rs 10,000 per animal he will at least save on the daily recurring maintaining expense.

How does one deal with the resultant prospect of unwanted cattle crowding our towns and cities disrupting traffic and spreading disease along with their dung and urine? The solution that the government is proposing, is to set up “cow sanctuaries” in the states, on the liens of the Project Tiger reserves. However, we are talking here not of a few thousand tigers, but of 10 million-plus animals, whose annual feeding cost alone, at Rs 60/head/day, will top Rs 22,000 crore. And since the 10 million-plus will keep adding each year till they die their natural course after 14-15 years, these costs will only mount.

While gauraksha may have its immediate political and religious sentimental appeal, the economic cost of interfering with established systems for disposal of surplus/unproductive cattle – which can have a potentially destabilising impact on India’s dairy industry – cannot be ignored for too long.

Is the government doing exactly what they are asked to do by the RSS and the RSS does not believe in the Constitution of India? They follow “Manusmriti” (An ancient Indian legal text which advocates caste hierarchies and gauvansh worship)

Since 2014 LokSabha elections, there has been a steep increase in violence against Dalits, backwards and minorities in our country due to the government implementation of their gauvansh policies. People are being killed, women are being raped almost every day in Uttar Pradesh and in other parts of the country. The atrocities against Dalits have reached an insane level. Villages are being burnt, people are being lynched and women are being raped openly.

Is the government following “Manusmriti” the text so revered and followed by the RSS? Is the RSSrunning the government and PM Modi can’t go against it?Does neither the RSS nor the BJP have any vision? They come to power only on emotive issues. Now they are raking up the protection of the gauvansh and the Ram Temple issues because they haven’t done anything in the last four and half years. They say they want to make India a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ but where will Sikhs, Christians, Muslims, Parsis, and Buddhists go then?”

India is a secular country and all secularists must stand together and correct this communal tilt resulting in the government disregarding the freedoms our constitution guarantees to we the people. The BJP is using Dalits, OBCs,tribal and minorities as just a vote bank, this situation requires to be corrected in the national elections due in a few months by all likeminded secularists who want our country to continue to be a secular democratic country and enjoy the freedoms our constitutions guarantees to we the people.

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