After several months of shortage and more than a week of sheer drought, fresh beef will finally be served on Goa’s plate on Saturday (14 March), thanks to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
While the saffron party’s cadre has been vocal against cattle slaughter elsewhere in the country, the Animal Husbandry ministry of the state BJP-led coalition government, which has come under tremendous pressure from the sizeable Christian minority population in the state for failing to handle the beef shortage crisis, will now import slaughtered beef from neighbouring states, namely Karnataka and Maharashtra, and serve it through a network of existing private sector cold storages.
“Goa consumes anywhere between 30 tons to 50 tons of beef every day. The Goa Meat Complex (GMC) will source slaughtered, de-boned beef from other states and sell it through cold storages operated by members of the All Goa Cold Storage Owners Association,” chairman of the GMC Lyndon Monteiro told Firstpost.
The GMC, the state’s only service abattoir, functions under the aegis of the Animal Husbandry ministry. While the beef consumers, who make-up 30 odd percent of the state population, had vented their ire on the BJP-led government for the lack of beef, Monteiro prefers to blame an inter-state beef mafia as well as local beef traders who have downed their shutters for over 10 days now.
The 200 odd beef traders in Goa, in turn have blamed animal rights NGOs for targeting them.
“The beef traders have held the state to ransom by shutting down their stores. We gave them a week’s time to resolve the crisis, but they have not responded. Therefore we are bypassing them, buying our own beef and selling them to Goans through cold storages,” Monteiro said, adding that in time the Goa government would start its own chain of beef selling stores. In the interim, beef will be sold through the 65 cold storage centres located in major towns in the state.
“The beef will be priced at the same rates as it was sold before the shortage came up,” president of the Association Vernon Lobo said.
Beef is normally consumed in form of stew, curries, roasts, soups and is an essential protein in most Christian homes in the state. Luckily, the unavailability of beef comes at the time of Lent, a holy period when Christians, who account for 26 percent of Goa’s population, tend to avoid the red meat.
However, beef has been in short supply in Goa ever since the Akhil Vishwa Jai Shrirama Gosanvardhan Kendra, an NGO which backed a ban on cattle slaughter, in 2013 petitioned the Bombay High Court for a ban on cattle slaughter, citing atrocities on cattle being brought to the GMC.
Incidentally, then chief minister Manohar Parrikar was an advisor to the Kendra, a post he relinquished a month before the petition was filed a couple of years back. The High Court in its subsequent order, said that the slaughter would be overseen in the future, by officials and a representative of the NGO at the abattoir. Beef traders in Goa now claim that the NGO has been harassing them and had been refusing to allow slaughter of any cattle.
“They keep giving one excuse or the other like saying the cattle we bring for slaughter are either sick or ill or productive, which results in us having to take the cattle back. They do not even allow slaughtered cattle to be brought into Goa. When our trucks approach the border, they stop it and throw phenyl on the beef,” Munna Bepari spokesperson for the All Goa Meat Traders Association told Firstpost.
Kendra officials deny the charge. “If the cattle are sick, we will not allow it to be slaughtered because it is against the law to kill such animals,” convenor of the Kendra Hanumant Parab said.
Parab and his associate Amrut Singh were brutally assaulted by alleged beef traders in February, while they were tracking a consignment of ‘illegal’ beef coming in from Karnataka. Monteiro too claims that a section of the beef traders, where in sync with an illegal beef mafia which operated across the states of Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
“It is because of this mafia, that the traders as well as beef consumers are suffering. We have also confiscated large quantities of illegally obtained beef, which could be potentially harmful for human consumption,” Monteiro says.