Mumbai: “If people don’t get cow beef to eat, they may switch over to eating goat or chicken which is available in abundance,” said finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, who has been pursuing the ban on cow slaughter in the state since the bill was first passed 20 years ago in the state legislature.

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A day after the President gave his nod to the bill Mungantiwar told mid-day on Tuesday that some 3.5 lakh bulls and bullocks (including calves) were being slaughtered in the state. “This large scale killing would create a shortage of animal husbandry for the farmers, who rely heavily on bullocks for farm-related work. This isn’t any party-specific agenda because many Congress-led states too have cow slaughter ban in place. And many Congress leaders had demanded the ban,” said the BJP minister.

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He said the bill was passed in the legislature in 1995 during the BJP-Shiv Sena’s last regime (1995-1999) when all parties were present in the house. “The decision has come after a long struggle. I’m happy in particular because I would ask the governments about it in every session of the state legislature. People should be happy that the decision is in tune with Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy,” said the minister.

Since 1976, there has been a ban on cow slaughter in Maharashtra, after the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act (MAPA) came to be enacted. However, calves/bullocks could be killed after acquiring the ‘fit for slaughter’ certificate from civic authorities.

Going a step ahead, the then BJP-Shiv Sena government had passed the Maharashtra State Animal Preservation (amendment) Act of 1995, but subsequent central governments, including the BJP-led NDA, did not seek the President’s consent for it. The Congress-led governments in the state had not responded to the BJP’s demands for converting the bill into law for which the President’s consent is required.

However, when Narendra Modi government asked the state in September last year whether state government was still willing to pursue the bill, the Devendra Fadnavis government sent the bill to the Centre on November 13. With the President’s nod the state government to publish the bill as the Act of Legislature and enforce it. The ban does not apply to buffalo slaughter.