The ban on cow slaughter can pose a serious threat to the Indian economy in the near future, as the country may have to spend 1.5 times its current Defence Budget to take care of an additional 27 crore unproductive animals annually, an agricultural economist has warned.

Speaking at a function organised by Bhumi Adhikar Andolan, a consortium of organisations fighting for farmer rights, on Friday, Vikas Rawal, an economist with the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, wondered whether the authorities have really understood the economic ramifications of the cow slaughter ban.

Rawal’s warning comes at a time when a number of incidents of lynching on account of alleged cow slaughter were reported from different parts of the country. Several BJP-ruled States in the country have already passed a law that makes cow slaughter a criminal act.

“Each year, 3.4 crore male calves are born in this country. If we assume that they live for eight years, which is actually on the lower side, there would be nearly 27 crore additional unproductive cattle by the end of eight years,” he said. The population, he added, is expected to stabilise after that.

₹5 lakh cr additional outgo

The additional outgo for looking after these cattle would be ₹5.4 lakh crore, 35 times the annual animal husbandry budgets of the Centre and all States put together, he said.

“In addition, there will be an additional capital expenditure of ₹10 lakh crore, if one considers the minimum that the Gujarat government allocates for building a shed for a cow,” Rawal told BusinessLine .

Besides, a vast tract of five lakh acres of land will be required to provide shelter to these animals. According to him, fodder, which is currently available in the country, would not be enough to feed them. Besides, the water requirement of these extra animals would be more than the quantum of water used for human consumption in the country.

In addition, this would lead to a situation where a farmer would not be able to keep a cow. “If you keep a cow, then you are saddled with all the calves it produces. If you don’t have a way of disposing of the calves, it will not be economically feasible to keep the cow,” he said.

If that happens, there can be a serious threat to the nutritional security of the country. “Already one-third of children born in India suffer from stunted growth due to protein deficiency and this can only aggravate,” he said.

There are others issues, too. So far, the issue of stray cattle has been typically an urban problem in India. This can now very well spread to rural areas and farmers will find it difficult to protect their fields from roaming cattle, said Rawal, who is an associate professor at JNU’s Centre for Economic Studies and Planning. “Guarding fields will be a menace of the worst order,” he remarked.