By mandating five-year of hard labour even for selling beef, Haryana’s bill, which was passed by the state’s assembly unanimously this week, is more stringent than Maharashtra’s, which banned the slaughter of beef earlier this month.
Courts in Haryana, which earlier this month imposed a ban on complete ban on the sale of beef in any form, can now sentence anyone attempting to export cows for slaughter to seven years in jail with a fine of up to Rs70,000 (US$1,115).
Other states’ rulings were reviewed
The bill was was moved by state animal husbandry minister OP Dhankar, with support from across parties.
Dhankar told state parliament that cow export permits would no longer be issued for states where cow slaughter is not banned by law. However, the state government will be given special powers to issue permits for cows “where it is of the opinion that it shall be in the public interest to do so”.
The law had been framed after a review of the existing provisions in other states, Dhankar told the house, before admitting that the penalties will be deliberately stringent.
“Action will also be taken against the driver of the vehicle carrying beef. The vehicle used for the purpose will also be impounded,” Dhankar said. He, however, clarified that violators will not be charged with murder, as had been rumoured in some circles.
To solve the issue of where to house the surplus of animals—thought to be around 150,000 cattle—that will not now face slaughter, a proposal is being set up to fund reserves across Haryana, a largely agricultural former part of Punjab that borders Delhi.
Mounting opposition to bands
Although the opposition Congress party supported the BJP-sponsored Haryana bill, national party leader Manish Tewari criticised the move, cautioning that the state does not have the right to interfere with the culinary preferences of an individual.
"India is a diverse country and in a diverse country people have different culinary habits. Beef is also a poor man's protein. So, this is nothing else but a political agenda," Tewari said.
Muslims have also railed against beef bans in Indian states. Unlike the Hindu majority, Islam followers are permitted by their religion to consume beef, while slaughtermen, who are largely poorly-paid and Muslim, have voiced fears for their livelihoods with job losses expected to be in the thousands.
India is the world’s second-biggest beef exporter and fifth-biggest consumer. India consumed 2.3m tonnes of beef last year until October—higher than for the whole of 2013—while exports were 1.95m tonnes in the same period, according to the US Department of Agriculture.