The guys who sit on park benches and drink alcohol in my local North London park know how to get the biggest bang for their buck. They’re not in it for the taste, just sweet oblivion, a.s.a.p. Maximum millilitres of alcohol per pound is the goal. I haven’t looked lately, but it used to be cans of ‘K’ cider (8% for £1.30).
Likewise, in India, people like Untouchables at the bottom of the Hindu heap, know how to get the most ounces of protein for their rupee. (I’m sure they know the cheapest booze too.) It’s not chicken, it’s not mutton: the cheapest meat on the market is actually beef!
Although beef and buffalo consumption has in recent years been frowned upon by strict upper caste Hindus, this was not always the case, and ancient Sanskrit scriptures document that beef eating was once common among Hindus. It is an important and affordable source of protein for India’s poor. An example of how widespread malnutrition is, consider the appalling statistic that 42% of women are underweight when they begin their pregnancies, which in turn fuels high rates of infant mortality and malnutrition among surviving children.
The Hindu Nationalist BJP party have taken over in Maharashtra state, which includes the city of Mumbai. Are they concerned with underweight mothers-to-be? Or perhaps with the erratic electricity supplies, with unclean drinking water, with slum clearance or with inadequate health and education systems?
No, they have made their priorities clear. Cows are sacred, and anyone slaughtering a cow, selling the meat or even just possessing a piece of beef can expect to get 5 years in prison! This pleases the upper castes who revere the cow as a sacred animal, but it means spreading protein deficiency for people on a low income. Plus, of course, it penalises the Moslems and Christians in the state who normally eat beef.
Once again, religion is harming peoples’ health.
FT 4 March 2015
Related Zingcreed Post:
How faith can harm your health #2: Hindus poisoned by Holy Mother Ganges