Measures such as beef ban and prohibition are hurting the economy, industrialist Adi Godrej said in what is being seen as growing concerns in India Inc. over controversial issues that have become political flashpoints.
The comments by the corporate honcho, the chairman of the Godrej group of companies, come in the backdrop of right-wing Hindu groups pushing for a country-wide ban on beef, which critics say is an attack on freedom of choice and discriminated against communities who consume the low-cost meat.
“Some of the things are affecting growth, for example, the ban on beef in some states. (This) is clearly affecting agriculture, affecting rural growth. Because, what do you do with all these extra cows? It is also affecting business, because this was a good source of income for many farmers. So that’s a negative,” Godrej, 74, was quoted saying by The Indian Express.
Though a ban on cow slaughter has existed in several states for many years, BJP-ruled states have now introduced stringent laws making eating and possessing beef a criminal offence.
A Muslim man was lynched by a mob and his son seriously injured in Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri last year over suspicion of cow slaughter, which critics blame on the ruling BJP’s tacit support to right-wing groups implementing a Hindutva agenda, sometimes violently.
Earlier, top industrialist including Ratan Tata and Harsh Goenka spoke against growing intolerance and beef ban.
Insisting that Indians were beef-eaters in Vedic times, Godrej said that Hinduism says nothing against cow meat.
“It is a practice that evolved over years of drought, and the elders said don’t slaughter cows, preserve them for milk for children. That has turned into a religious belief. This is ridiculous,” Godrej added.
He also termed the recent Bombay high court order decriminalising beef eating as a “good judgment”.
“It’s silly to say that possession of meat, which is eaten all over the world, is a crime,” he said.
Experts say that the beef ban could severely impact millions of farmers – already hit hard by back-to-back droughts – who supplement their income or tide over trying times by selling off cattle.
The top industrialist also spoke on the issue of prohibition, terming it a populist move to win elections.
“In order to win elections and get women’s votes, some states are doing that. Bihar has brought prohibition. Kerala has brought prohibition. Prohibition is bad for the economy. It’s bad for social structure, for drinking doesn’t reduce. It gives rise to bad liquor, and then mafia,” he said.
In a veiled dig at leaders implementing these moves, Godrej said, “In democracy, you must understand, there are lots of advantages over dictatorship or autocracy. But clever democratic leaders will make sure that the disadvantages are minimised and the advantages are maximised.”
He, however, saw several positives in the country, praised the government’s policies in the last two years.
“Ease of doing business really helps. We have also benefited from low commodity prices… India will remain the fastest growing economy in the world… India will gradually emerge as a strong developed country,” he added.