You might have read about a special kit that the Maharashtra government is planning to distribute to its police for the ‘detection’ of beef. But what you wouldn’t know is the back story behind the development of the equipment, as narrated to us by the man behind the ELISA test, Hyderabad-based scientist Dr Jayant Bhanushali.
Though the Ph D in Immunology from University of Georgia supported the recent Supreme Court stay orders on the Central government’s beef ban ‘since the livelihoods of many in the minority communities depends on beef trade,’ he said that he ‘isn’t aware’ of any law that allows the consumption of cow meat in the state.
Kit could save lives
“In an economy that has a buffalo meat export market worth more than $4 billion, people who are involved in legitimate beef export trade should not be punished for lack of test kits to prove that meat in question is indeed from buffalo,” he said.
The test has been validated by the University of Hyderabad and also the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL). And it becomes the first of its kind to be implemented across the globe.
“If you look it up, there are a dozen tests for different varieties of meat, but there wasn’t anything that distinguished between cow and buffalo. And when people are being killed for something that is completely legal (buffalo meat), it was my responsibility as a scientist to do something about it.”
According to the authorities, around 100 policemen will be trained initially to use these Rs 8,000-kits. Dr Bhanushali, who is the chief scientific officer of Hyderabad-based Amar Immunodiagnostics Pvt Ltd, believes that it’s a very simple test to carry out.
“If there are 500 labs with standard equipment in a city like Mumbai, at least 100 will be ready to carry out this test as early as tomorrow with the addition of this kit,” claimed the man who has developed the Chinese Cry1Ac- specific ELISA and Cry1EC- specific ELISA kits.
After the beef ban two years ago, the police gets an average of 100 beef-related cases a month. These kits were ordered to cut down on that at the crime scene, according to the FSL.
Bhanushali said that the work on these kits started around a year and a half back. “We have been associated with the Maharashtra government for developing many tests, including GMOs etc. This kit was delivered by a team of around four people within a few months.”
How does it work?
The kits will be loaded on the forensic vans that are rushed whenever the police seize suspected beef. The on-the-spot test will be followed by a DNA test if the meat test is positive. Bhanushali also explained briefly how the kit works.
Based on the ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) technique, if the enzyme conjugate results in yellow colour with the grinded meat from the sample, then the meat might be beef. The principle is the antigen antibody reaction.
Regular DNA tests cost around Rs 750 per sample and these test kits will ensure a saving of time, money and effort, the police said, adding that once they establish that meat reported is not from beef, they need not make arrests or seize it.