Beef Ban: Kids Below the Poverty Line Would Be Hurt the Most

About 1.8 crore poor people of India consume beef, among which 36 lakh are between the age group of 5 to 14 years.

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About 7.3 percent of the total population consumed this meat variety, which is around 8.35 crore.
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Beef Ban: Kids Below the Poverty Line Would Be Hurt the Most

After a hard day, Bhuvan, a daily labourer, reached home at 8 pm and his wife Radha served dinner. The moment Munni, their 8-year-old daughter, saw the regular daal and rice, her eyelids drooped and lower lip began to quiver. After two morsels, Bhuvan, unable to see his daughter’s teary eyed face, left.

It's hard to imagine the plight of this father who spends almost 10-12 hours a day working hard to bring a meager wage back home just to buy the basic essential food items. He doesn’t have the luxury of buying special and precious food items which we call “meat”, which he promised his daughter many times.

For many households in our country, having a piece of meat in months is a luxury. Previously at least he was able to somehow manage to get this luxury item on his daughter’s plate. After her father left, Munni got up, leaving the food. Her tastebuds were not ready to accept the same old daal and rice.

Radha understood, but was helpless. With the money Bhuvan gave her for food, that’s the best she managed to cook. She felt she could bring the "taste" to the dish only when one of its ingredients is meat. Already devastated, Bhuvan slept, but woke up with his stomach growling. Food is essential for a good night’s sleep.

When this continued for a week, a normally very composed Bhuvan became frustrated, and the first victim of his frustration was his wife and then the children. Their family life is totally disturbed now and no silver lining is visible. A similar situation is faced by 1.8 crore poor people of India among which 36 lakhs are between the age group of 5 to 14 years.

Beef Ban: Kids Below the Poverty Line Would Be Hurt the Most
(Photo: Harsh Sahani/The Quint)

Distribution of Beef/Buffalo Eaters by Caste Group Across Religions

As per the last consumer expenditure survey by National Sample Survey Office (NSSO):

  • 7.3 percent of the total population consumed this meat variety, which is around 8.35 Crore.
  • Among religious groups, 42 percent of Muslims (6.3 Cr) , 26 percent of Christians (65 Lakhs) , 1.4 percent of Hindus (1.2 Cr) and 9 of percent Buddhists (6 lakhs) reported to cook Beef/Buffalo meat at their homes.
  • Among Hindus, more than 65 percent of the beef-eating population is ST (82 Lakhs) , 7 percent is SC (7 Lakhs), 21 percent is other backward castes (27 Lakhs), and only 7 percent is upper caste (9 lakhs).

    It must be mentioned that NSSO data is self-reported and due to religious stigma, people might be underreporting consumption details.

Beef/Buffalo Eaters in BPL Category

  • As per Planning Commission of India Percentage and Number of Poor Estimated by Tendulkar method, using Mixed Reference Period (MRP) are 22 percent
  • So people below poverty line and eating beef/buffalo are 1.8 crores, among which 1.4 crore are Muslims, 14 lakhs are Christians, 1.3 lakhs are Buddhist, 1.5 lakhs are Hindu SC, 18 lakhs are Hindu ST, 6 lakhs are Hindu OBC and 2 lakhs are upper caste Hindus.
  • The saddest part is that among the 1.8 crore people, as per the 2011 Census, 19.7 percent of the population is between 5 to 14 years. That’s 36 lakh children. These years are crucial formative years, when every organ of their body develops and they need good food and sleep.

Why Poor People Prefer Beef/Buffalo

The majority of people eat Beef and Buffalo meat not because they choose to, But because of its cost. It is about 50% cheaper than goat/sheep meat. That is the main reason why the majority of the beef selling shops are in localities where the population is poor.

Beef/Buffalo meat is cheap source of protein and fat.

We all showed sympathy to Pakistani Munni urf Shahida of Bajrangi Bhaijan when she was unable to eat vegetarian food, we all made Bajrangi Bhaijan earn Rs 600 crore at the box office – so why are we not showing the similar sympathy to 36 lakh Hindustani children?

(Syed Khalid is a Research Associate in the Center for Research and Debates in Development Policy. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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