INDUSTRIALIST Adi Godrej, chairman of the $4.1-billion Godrej Group, with diverse interests in fast moving consumer goods, real estate, consumer durables and furniture, Wednesday said the beef ban and liquor prohibition in certain states were hurting the economy.
Godrej is the first leading voice from India Inc to speak out against beef ban and prohibition and point out its adverse impact on the economy. His warning comes at a time when the government at the Centre is set to complete two years in office, and several states seek to strictly implement beef ban and push for prohibition close to assembly elections.
Godrej told The Indian Express that government polices over the last two years have, by and large, been good. “Ease of doing business really helps. We have also benefited from low commodity prices,” he said. He believes “India will remain the fastest growing economy in the world… India will gradually emerge as a strong developed country”.
“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,” he said.
In Vedic times, he said, Indians were beef-eaters. “There is nothing against beef in our religion. 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. Vedic Indians were beef-eaters,” Godrej said.
The Bombay High Court, he said, has given a good judgement. “Now the Bombay High Court has said that alright you can stop the slaughter of cows, but you can’t stop consumption. It’s silly to say that possession of meat, which is eaten all over the world, is a crime,” he said.
“There are certain things. Like, prohibition. 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. All over the world it has been unsuccessful. In America, it has been unsuccessful. In India, we tried prohibition, but we were unsuccessful.”
“All these negative directions for political gains can affect the economy. These (beef ban and prohibition) are the two main issues I see,” Godrej said. Asked if this distracts the government from the development agenda, he said, “These are bound to happen. We are a democracy. They have to win elections, they have to portray themselves in a certain way.”
But he said this was normal in a democratic set-up. “This is part of democracy. In democracy, you must understand, there are lots of advantages over dictatorship or autocracy,” Godrej said. “But clever democratic leaders will make sure that the disadvantages are minimised and the advantages are maximised.”