Beef Ban – A Progressive or Regressive Move

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Beef Ban A progressive or regressive move… If people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny. Thomas Jefferson, 1781 The rekindled controversy about the beef ban legislation in the states of Maharashtra and the tabled bill in Haryana has raised a few brows amongst the public who try to unscramble the rationale behind such an audacious move. Raging voracious debates with passionate champions of both the ends have put forth moot points who in their own presumed polymath and solomonic knowledge believe it to be irrefutable. Innumerable questions arise in the minds of public making them ponder whether such a move is beneficial or detrimental to the society. Furthermore, the questions such as- Does the state have power to impose such ban? Should the state adjudge the dietary habits of its citizens? , is it a right of an individual to choose what he wants to eat? Is it a move vested with hegemonic interests and thereby suppressing the voices of minorities? Would the beef ban actually help the cattle? Questions such as these are inevitable to rise and forces one to introspect about the recent developments in our legislations. To answer these questions, it would be just to enlighten the reader of the current status of cattle in India. The 19th livestock census reveals that population of cows has increased by 3.5 per cent though the number of bullocks has decreased by 16 percent. The livestock sector plays a quintessential role in the Indian economy in terms of employment, income and foreign exchange earnings. Currently, India has established itself as the largest buffalo meat (carabeef) exporting country. Buffalo meat alone accounts for over 75% of the total exports of Indian meat sector. Indian buffalo meat exports have grown at an illustrious rate l in the last two years, as a result of which India now stands as the fourth country in the world to export more than 1 million tonne of bovine meat annually. The above data indubitably paints a glossy and rosy image of the potential meat industry, but then why impose an absolute ban with such stringent punishment? Referring back to the first question which arises If the state has power to implement such bans? The answer to such a question would be in affirmative as it is expressly provided in the Indian Constitution Schedule 7, List II Entry 15[1], and under Part IV, Article 48[2]. In consonance with such provisions several northern States in 1950s had enacted a blanket ban on slaughter, similar to the ones enacted by Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. The constitutionality of these laws was challenged before the Apex Court in the case of Mohd. Hanif Quareshi & Others vs The State Of Bihar[3] in 1958, in which it was contended that these laws violated their fundamental rights to property, trade and profession, and religion.

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