Yogi’s Hindutva agenda hits meat industry badly as it remains shut since lockdown began

According to the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), UP is the highest producer of meat in the country with a share of almost 20 %

Meat seller outside his closed shop
Meat seller outside his closed shop
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NH Correspondent/Lucknow

Does meat have a political colour? This is the question being asked by Muslims and people associated with the meat business in Uttar Pradesh. The answer seems to be in the affirmative because they believe the Hindutva regime, led by UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, has wilfully disallowed mutton and chicken shops to function “because a majority of the people associated with this trade are Muslims.”

The slaughterhouses and the roadside mutton shops are closed since March 20 when Janata Curfew was declared followed by Yogi’s three day curfew and then national lockdown from March 25. “It has been over 70 days since the mutton shops opened across Uttar Pradesh despite Central government’s guidelines that mutton, poultry and fish markets can open. The UP government follows the guidelines of the Central government guidelines in letter and in spirit but has overlooked this important sector for obvious reasons,” Hamid R Qureshi, a meat exporter, told this reporter from Meerut on telephone.

But the politics of meat unfolding in this politically-sensitive cow-belt is not beef – but chicken, mutton and buffalo. “There is a Hindutva tradition for vegetarianism. We respect that. But the way political masters frown on meat and those dealing with this business is disheartening because it is weakening the once flourishing mutton export business,” he said.

He hit the nail on the head. The over two month long lockdown has surely impacted the buffalo meat export from Uttar Pradesh adversely. As the slaughter houses are closed, the consumption of meat even in the domestic market is almost nil.

“There is no sale but there is an investment we incur as we need to maintain these cattle. No one is thinking about this cost which we are incurring,” he said.

When ‘Unlock1.0’ began on June 1, the Uttar Pradesh government issued an order saying licensed slaughterhouses will start functioning. An order regarding this was issued by District Magistrate, Lucknow bringing smiles on the faces of meat and chicken sellers.

“Bhai, we will open shops from June 3,” said a meat seller in Gandhi market in Lucknow. “I have a license and the government has allowed us to operate,” he said.

However, June 3 came and went and the shops did not open. An enquiry from Additional Chief secretary Awanish Awasthi drew a muted smile. There was no verbal response.

It is not only the mutton but even the poultry industry in UP which has suffered massive losses. According to the Poultry Farmers Broilers Welfare Federation, a national group for poultry farmers, there are more than 12 lakh families engaged in poultry farming in Uttar Pradesh and their annual turnover is ₹ 250,000 million.

“In February, there was a rumour that consumption of chicken or eggs may cause Coronavirus infections and the industry witnessed a 70 per cent dip in consumption of chicken,” said the federation’s convener, Arun Gulati alias Annu. “The government came up with a clarification but by then the damage was done,” he said

As per records in Delhi, where sale of meat is allowed, around 15,000 to 20,000 goats are slaughtered every day, besides around 2,000 buffaloes. There is no record of illegal animal slaughterhouses and the quantity of meat produced from animals butchered illegally.

In UP this figure should have been between 25,000 and 30,000 if slaughtering been allowed.

According to the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), UP is the highest producer of meat with a share of almost 20 per cent, followed by Andhra Pradesh at 15 % and West Bengal at 10.9%. Slaughtering is open both in Bengal and AP/ Telangana.

Meanwhile, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India sent a letter urging the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to call for the closure of all licensed slaughterhouses, at least until a suitable daily COVID-19 testing programme is in place for workers.

"If COVID-19 spreads like wildfire through blood-soaked slaughterhouses, as it has in other countries, workers will become major transmitters of the disease to their families and communities," says PETA India Vegan Outreach Coordinator Dr Kiran Ahuja.

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