Columnists

Pink Revolution is not required

| | in Oped

 

Policy-makers need to ponder if there is any need for subsidising export of halal meat with taxpayers' money

India under the Congress-led UPA Government is clearly on a precipitous course of regression that repudiates the great Vedantic legacy of oneness of life.

Contrast this lofty philosophical assertion of the Bhagavad Gita —  “The enlightened see the same Self in the Brahmin, endowed with learning and humility, the cow, the elephant, the dog and the outcaste” — with the shocking fact of the country emerging as the world's largest beef exporter.

A November 2012 news report cited export forecasts released by the United States Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Service about Indian beef exports reaching 2.16 million tonnes centum weight in 2013. This amounted to a hike from a “world leading 1.68 million tonnes cwt in 2012 — with the next closest nation in 2013, Brazil, shipping 1.45 million tonnes cwt”. The huge increase in exports over the past five years is alarming, with USDA stating that in 2012, Indian beef accounted for nearly a quarter of the world beef trade. It was eight per cent in 2009.

Economic reforms, in the context of the meat industry, have tragically turned India into a lucrative place for setting up abattoirs and sourcing meat cheaply by traders and exporters. Islamic countries, West Asia, in particular, are the main destinations. This has also led to an alarming rise in the number of illegal slaughter houses and cattle trafficking throughout the country. Union Ministry of Food Processing has reportedly set aside Rs32 crore for modernisation of all slaughter houses in India, from the standpoint of hygiene, pollution and public health. The last is ironic, given that flesh-based food is identified by medical studies as one of the principal catalysts of degenerative diseases.

Guidelines have apparently been issued to State Governments. Some have been inviting tenders to set up these slaughter houses under public-private partnership schemes. Such projects entail Government giving up to 70 per cent of the cost of setting up these plants. These automated slaughter houses are meant to kill buffaloes, sheep and goats. The Uttar Pradesh Government is reported to be considering the setting up of 10 such units.

Uttar Pradesh, for instance, allowed setting up of an automated abattoir in Agra when Ms Mayawati was the Chief Minister. It became operational in 2002, being licensed to slaughter 500-1,000 buffaloes a day.

Allana, a Mumbai-based company that prides itself on being the biggest exporter of halal, boneless, frozen beef, was given the contract to buy and export the beef. It has a chain of beneficiaries and commission agents.

Another abattoir in Ghaziabad is currently being relocated out of a congested area. The new abattoir will be fully automated, being meant to source private trade. It is reprehensible that State Governments use public resources to fund private enterprise, that, too, in the grisly business of meat production.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly hit out at the UPA's ‘Pink Revolution' — as opposed to his State's focus on ‘White Revolution' (milk production) and ‘Green Revolution' (agriculture) — that is booming meat exports and Government subsidies for meat production. He has very rightly questioned the rationale for such a policy. Mr Modi and Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar clashed over this issue last year, with the latter denying that the Centre was promoting meat exports.

He is not alone in voicing opposition. Sukrut Nirman Charitable Trust, an organisation working to save cattle in Vidarbha, has demanded that this policy, especially subsidies, be scrapped immediately.

There really can be no justification for subsidising export of halal meat and the like with taxpayers' money. Such commerce has led to milk shortage and severely depleted livestock numbers. Mr Kanakrai Savadia, managing trustee, last August submitted a memorandum in this regard to Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma, but nothing came of it. Foreign buyers having got the taste of our beef, obtained it cheap even if it was sourced from buffaloes. However, one cannot discount the fact that a lot of the beef may be sourced from cows, bulls and calves, in view of uncurbed cattle trafficking.

Mr Savadia reveals that Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority is providing 25 per cent to 60 per cent subsidy on transport of meat, pre-cooling facilities, cold storage, brand publicity, quality control, packaging development and so on. He also avers that there is exemption from sales tax and income tax. Private companies run most of the automated export-oriented slaughter houses. They earn huge profits while polluting water systems and engendering diseases. One might add that they also erode the ancient Indic ethos of reverence for life and nature.

The Panchatantra, ancient animal and bird fables, compiled between the second and third centuries BC, and which inspired such tales across the world, pertinently raised this question:“If one can go to heaven by cutting down trees, killing animals and letting of blood of injured beings, then, who will go to hell?” Policy-makers need to ponder over this.

 
 
 
 
 
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