Meat sellers, especially mutton vendors, on Monday kept their shops closed on the first day of their indefinite strike against the state-wide crackdown on illegal and mechanised slaughter houses.
Reports from several districts said goat meat was not easily available, even as chicken was being sold in few shops.
In Lucknow, most of the shops selling mutton downed their shutters. They, however, sold chicken, eggs and fish after Uttar Pradesh Health Minister Siddhartha Nath Singh clarified that action was being taken only against the illegal abattoirs.
“We are acting only against illegal abattoirs. Licensed slaughter houses are requested to stick to the norms,” he told reporters, while making it clear that no orders have been issued to take any action against any shop selling chicken, fish or eggs.
“The licensed slaughter houses should comply with the norms mentioned in the licence. No orders have been issued to take any action against any shop selling chicken, fish or eggs. They need not to fear,” he clarified.
He directed the officials that they should not act in over-enthusiasm nor should they overstep their jurisdiction.
When contacted, Lucknow Municipal Corporation Chief Veterinary Officer A K Rao said, “Within the municipal limits, there are 330 meat shops.”
A rough estimate suggests that there could be around 5,000 meat shops in the capital operating from shanties and huts.
The China Gate area near Lucknow Press Club, which houses a dozen shops selling non-vegetarian items, wore a deserted look as they were not able to serve food as per their menu.
The Akbari Gate locality of Old Lucknow area saw a few shops opening to sell their remaining stock, while many others decided not to open.
The Lucknow Bakra Gosht Vypar Mandal intensified its strike, threatening that there was no question of calling it off.
“We are on strike and all the meat shops (mutton) were closed today. There is no question of the strike being called off anytime soon. It will go on indefinitely,” Mubin Qureshi, an office bearer of the mandal, said.
“The meat sellers are worried over the crackdown on slaughter houses, which has adversely hit the livelihood of lakhs of people,” he said.
In eastern UP, shortage of meat, especially mutton, was reported from various places.
In Ballia, people experienced shortage of chicken and fish as well. However, licensed shops were allowed to sell meat in Allahabad and Bahraich. Sale of fish and eggs was normal.
Jhansi witnessed non-availability of mutton. Even chicken and fish connoisseurs could get these items only at a few outlets. A number of shops selling mutton remained closed throughout the day.
In Agra, the stock of the non-vegetarian raw food items declined rapidly during the day. No sale of mutton has been reported, while people were purchasing fish and eggs.
After taking over, the Adityanath government has ordered closure of illegal slaughter houses and strict enforcement of the ban on cow smuggling to fulfil a key electoral promise.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary Rahul Bhatnagar has set up committees in each district headed by the district magistrate and comprising 10 officials each. The committee is visiting every slaughter house to see if they are being run legally and submitting a report every day.
The chief minister had on Saturday said that abattoirs operating legally will not be touched, but action will be taken against those running illegally.
“The government will not touch those (abattoirs) which are operating as per the law and have a valid licence. But those violating the orders of the National Green Tribunal and compromising health of the public will not be spared,” he had said.
As the mutton traders were up in arms against the government order, UP Health Minister Siddhartha Nath Singh sought to clear the confusion, saying the government was acting only against the illegal abattoirs.
“We are acting only against illegal abattoirs. Licensed slaughter houses are requested to stick to the norms,” he told reporters.
“The licensed slaughter houses should comply with the norms mentioned in the licence. No orders have been issued to take any action against any shop selling chicken, fish or eggs. They need not to fear,” Singh clarified.
Though sale of fish and poultry items eased a bit after his clarification, mutton sellers kept their shutters down throughout the day.
Singh said, “One of the norms mentioned in the licence is installation of CCTV cameras on the premises of the slaughter house. If this norm is not complied with, then instead of ordering the closure of the slaughter house, a notice may be issued to its owner, and he be instructed to take necessary remedial steps within a specific time frame.”
He also directed the officials that they should not act in over-enthusiasm nor they should overstep their jurisdiction.
Noting that the National Green Tribunal had insisted on closure of illegal slaughter houses, he said, “The NGT had in 2015 observed that illegal slaughter houses are a concern for the environment, while insisting on their closure. However, the previous government did not do anything to ensure the closure of these illegal abattoirs.”
Singh said propaganda has been launched through various social media platforms, “especially by those who do not agree to our ideology. Please do not fall prey to the propaganda”.
On whether the state government is open to holding talks with the meat sellers, the minister said, “So far, no delegation of meat sellers has approached us.
“They are most welcome to meet us and convey their point of view. We would meet them with an open mind, but will not allow illegal things,” he added.
Representative image only.