Mumbai: In India, well on track to become world's largest bovine meat exporter, Muslims are earning just a peanut as against the general perception about the trade, and it is actually the government and non-Muslims who are benefiting the most from about 4.5 billion US dollar animal slaughter business, it was found in a study conducted by ummid.com.
The study also found that except for Allana Sons, a 1969 company which has a major share in frozen meat export from India, and few other smaller players who are Muslims, majority of meat exporters and owners of modern abattoirs, and those associated with other related industries like bone, leather, horn, farmers, transporters, animal blood and other raw materials are mainly non-Muslims, a fact acknowledged by Hindutva groups and also pointed at by none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
The study has thus put a big question mark over the statement of Union Minister Maneka Gandhi, who had alleged that revenue earned from the animal slaughter business is used for terrorism. The study also puts a question mark on the exact motives of the protest against the trade by the VHP, Bajrang Dal and other right wing Hindu extremist groups affiliated to the BJP, and the consequent ban by the Maharashtra government on bulls, bullocks and calves slaughter – ninth state in India to do so.
Ummid.com, after talking to beef traders in various parts of the state, organisations working for them and going through the available records and data, found that animals are purchased in over 95% cases from farmers, majority of them being non-Muslims. Most of the transporters who ferry animals and meat from one place to another before and after slaughter are also not Muslims. Except for direct consumption, where also Muslims and non-Muslims both are at par in terms of taking benefits, in rest all associated business including meat export, bone crushing and powder industry, leather industry, horn processing industry, blood processing, animal fat and soap industry, except for few exceptions, each one is dominated entirely by non-Muslims.
Some prominent names are Arabian Export of Deepak Tijori, Al Kabeer Exports now run by Atul Subberwal, Al-Noor Export of Ajay Sud, Mahesh Jagadale and Co, Sujata Bones of MK Deore, Dode Industries, Fine Exports, SK Leather, Ramesh Juneja & Sons, Bharat Leather, Woodland, Raymonds, Datta Soap, BS International, Sixth Sense, Natural Craft, Bounty Fashion Export, Kochhar Brothers, Ravi Exports, Kalia International, and Hindustan Unilever Ltd. - all engaged in beef and the business of associated raw materials and products.
It is also found that some of those associated with the trade have different names and identities for different countries and regions. Like, Al Kabeer is 'Samurai' in Japan, 'Falcon Foods' in the UK, and 'Tayebat Al Emarat' in the UAE. It also owns other brands like Tabarruk, Cascade and Coral Reef.
It is also found that when comes to taking benefits from the trade the government too is not far behind. The findings showed that the state as an average charge Rs.120 for every animal purchased and Rs.150 per animal as slaughtering fees. It is found that in RSS bastion Nagpur alone, roughly around 1500-2000 animals were slaughtered every day before the government ban. In other parts of Maharashtra including Mumbai, Malegaon, Dhule, Aurangabad, Jalgaon, Nandurbar, Sholapur over 20,000 thousand animals were slaughtered every day.
The All-India Meat and Livestock Exporters Association lists 42 abattoir-cum-meat processing plants in the country and 32 meat processing plants are registered with the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA). These are over and above the municipal slaughterhouses which according to a rough estimates stand at 3,600.
India became the world's biggest buffalo meat exporter in 2012, ahead of Brazil. A report by the US Department of Agriculture says buffaloes are inexpensive to keep. This makes their meat a dollar a kg cheaper than beef. The Indian government has invested heavily in abattoirs. Recently released Ministry of Food Processing data showed that India exported 1.89 million tonnes of beef in 2012-2013, which is a 50 per cent increase over five years ago.
The total value of India's buffalo meat exports for the year 2010-11 was USD 1.9 billion which touched USD 2.3 billion during 2012-13. Exports have nearly tripled since 2009, rising to 1.65 millon tonnes in 2012, according to USDA figures.
According to data released by Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) under the Ministry of Commerce, Indian buffalo meat exports touched an all time high of Rs.13,917 crore in value terms in April-October 2013, representing an increase of nearly 58% over same period last year. In terms of quantity too, there has been 23% rise in buffalo meat exports from India.
Among Indian states, Uttar Pradesh (UP) has emerged as the biggest exporter of buffalo meat, followed by Punjab and Maharashtra. Besides having the country's largest buffalo population, UP also has the highest number of abattoirs- cum-meat processing export units. The state has 317 registered slaughterhouses and, in addition, 24 export-oriented units for buffalo meat. Of the total Indian carabeef exports, 67% originates from this state.
Mumbai in Maharashtra has a distinction of having Deonar abattoir – Asia's largest. It has a capacity of about 4000 animals and recruit over 1200 people besides 30 medical professionals.
It is also found that Gujarat, which is projected as a model Hindu state, the trade has flourished under the kind protection of the state. Data compiled by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry from Gujarat's Pollution Control Board reveals that meat production in the State, when Prime Minister Modi was its chief minister, more than doubled in 10 years. It was the time when Modi was taunting the Congress-led UPA of promoting 'Pink Revolution'.
Gujarat produced 22,000 tonnes of meat in 2010-11 against 10,600 tonnes of meat in 2001-02. During the same period, India's meat production grew from 18,59,430 tonnes to 48,69,000 tonnes, or by 163%. With 39 abattoirs, which slaughters over 1,000 animals a day, Gujarat is amongst the top 10 States in India in terms of the number of slaughterhouses.
Among the important buyers of Indian bovine and other meat are Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. India exports both frozen and fresh chilled meat. China is a big market for Indian meat. Currently, one third of the total buffalo meat is exported to Vietnam.
Records show that buffalo meat export to Vietnam has seen a surprising growth in the recent period. Between April-October 2013, buffalo meat exports to Vietnam rose by 229% in value terms, and more than 100% in quantity terms over the same period last year. Vietnam accounts for close to 40% buffalo meat exports from India.
It is also found that, barring some 2% that can be called illegal, most of the slaughtering at these places were done at government approved, state owned or private, abattoirs, and in the presence of the government appointed qualified medical professionals. Interestingly, it was found that a doctor was appointed by the government but the payment is borne by the owners of the respective slaughter houses.
Ummid.com also found that in state like Madya Pradesh and Gujarat where slaughter of bulls, bullocks and calves are banned, animals are purchased on cheap prices, and are 'smuggled' to neighbouring states especially Maharashtra and sold on ten times the purchase cost. Situation in the border areas in the states like Gujarat and Rajasthan is even stranger where a good number of animals are pushed towards other side of the country.
To encourage and support the industry which earns the state handsome revenue, the centre provides a transport subsidy of Rs.70 a kg for buffalo meat exports. It also gives grants of 50 per cent for general areas and 75 per cent for hill areas up to Rs.15 crore for setting up and modernising abattoirs. Between 2006-07 and 2011-12, the Centre's total subsidy for setting up abattoirs was Rs.240 crore, another Rs.300 crore went into buffalo rearing.
In India, cow is considered as sacred and its slaughter is banned since 1976. However bulls, bullocks and calves slaughter was allowed in most of the Indian states including Maharashtra. But, Maharashtra passed an amended legislation banning cow slaughter this month banning also bulls, bullocks and calves slaughter. Buffalo meat is treated in India as beef, and its export is flourishing under the government patronage.
Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), one of the outfits having affiliation with RSS and BJP, is of the view that the campaign to halt all cow slaughter and limit buffalo-meat exports is for the good of the country and isn't targeting Muslims or Christians. It also acknowledges the fact that many of the main beef export businesses are owned by Hindus.
Despite this reality, Muslim beef traders are targeted and harassed in most part of the country – with worsening situation at the time of Eid-al-Adha – the Muslim festival when the community members sacrifice animals.
Attacks on the country's beef industry, seizing trucks with cattle bound for abattoirs and blockading meat processing plants in a bid to halt the trade in the world's second-biggest exporter by Hindu extremist groups stepped up after BJP came to power in New Delhi and Maharashtra.
An official at a beef transport group in Maharashtra state said around 10 vehicles travelling to Mumbai had been stopped, the animals taken forcefully and drivers beaten by members of Hindu nationalist groups despite carrying valid documents February last week.
Tired of harassment and violent protests against the trade by Hindutva organisations, beef traders in Maharashtra went on an indefinite strike in February this year. They called off their strike after Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis assured them of government protection. About a week after the assurance by none other than the chief minister of the state, the BJP-led state came out with an amended law banning along with cow, slaughter of bulls, bullocks and calves as well.
Interestingly, in its bid to quell the beef shortage in Goa following the ban in Maharashtra, the state, also ruled by the BJP, officially announced last week that it is considering to selling beef on its own. Lyndon Monteiro, chairman of the Goa Meat Complex, a government agency which runs the only legal service abattoir in Goa, said the government was in the process of "finalising modalities" for selling beef in Goa on its own, in order to come to the assistance of the beef-eating population.
Against this backdrop, it will be interesting to see how the state will go ahead with the actual implementation of the law as the government is not only being criticised by the Muslims but also by a good number of non-Muslim groups, industry giants, celebrities and individuals including farmers.