About 100 policemen will be trained initially to use the kits, which determine within half an hour whether the meat being tested is meat from cows. Beef and the slaughter of cows, bulls, and bullocks is banned in the state under the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, 1976.
Maharashtra is the first state to equip its police with such kits and they hope these will help curb cow vigilantism, amid a spate of attacks across the country by mobs on people they accuse of eating beef or of cow slaughter.
The kits were ordered last year from a Hyderabad-based company, which developed them over five months. They have been delivered in under a year and critics have compared this to a purchase order for 5,000 bullet-proof vests for the 2-lakh strong Mumbai police force pending for the last six years.
"Awful case of misplaced priorities. We have nothing more important to spend state resources on? Beef detection kits!" tweeted Congress leader Shashi Tharoor.
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.
"We are getting a huge number of samples. To cut down on that, at the crime scene we have got these kits made. We don't declare at the location that it's cow meat. We bring it back to the lab and do a DNA test," said Dr Neelima Bakshi, Assistant Director at the FSL.
She explained how the kit works. "First we extract a sample and if we get a yellow colour of that sample with the enzyme conjugate then it's possible that it's cow meat", she said, adding that the technology is simple and based on the ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) technique. 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.