Eating a steak dinner in Mumbai nowadays could land you in prison for up to five years and cost you more than $150 in fines.
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee today approved a bill that strictly bans the slaughter of cows, along with the sale, consumption or even possession of beef in the state of Maharashtra, where Mumbai is located. The bill will also include a ban on the slaughter of bulls and bullocks, but not water buffaloes.
India's Hindu majority reveres cows, and several states already restrict the sale or consumption of beef. According to the BBC, the Maharashtra beef ban is the toughest in India so far.
The broadcaster says Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who led the nationalist Bharartiya Janata Party to a landslide victory last year, has in the past complained about rising meat exports, and expressed hope of bringing in a national ban on cow slaughter.
The Express Tribune says the Maharashtra Animal Preservation bill was first passed by the state's parliament in 1995 and was sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where it languished for almost 20 years. It got new life when the BJP regained power in Maharashtra state last year.
The newspaper says new Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis tweeted his thanks to President Mukherjee: "Our dream of ban on cow slaughter becomes a reality now."
However, the BBC says the ban has generated one of the world's top trending hashtags. It says #BeefBan has soared up Twitter's trending charts, and much of the reaction is critical. One tweet points out that someone can get a two-year prison term for drunken driving or manslaughter, but five years for eating beef.
Despite the sensitivities, Reuters reports, India has become one of the top exporters of beef after Brazil. The industry in Maharashtra is run predominantly by Muslims, who make up roughly 13 percent of India's 1.2 billion population. There are efforts underway to challenge the ban.
The wire service says there was a surge of raids in February on trucks carrying cattle headed for slaughter. Owners say Hindu nationalists stopped about 10 trucks, released the cattle and beat the drivers.