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Meat sellers strike following crackdown in India

By Raghavendra Verma , 04-Apr-2017
Last updated on 04-Apr-2017 at 13:24 GMT2017-04-04T13:24:51Z

Some butchers could struggle to meet new and improved hygiene standards
Some butchers could struggle to meet new and improved hygiene standards

Meat traders from India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, are on indefinite strike to protest the new Hindu nationalist state government’s forced closure of slaughterhouses and meat shops. 

Traders allege the government action specifically targets Uttar Pradesh’s minority Muslim community. “We are facing harassment,” Mohammad Yusuf Qureshi, state president of All India Jamaat-ul-Quraish, a meat traders’ association, told GlobalMeatNews.

The problems have emerged following the victory by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the state assembly elections held in March – the party had “promised during the election campaign that they will close down the abattoirs”, noted Qureshi.

Hindu nationalist leaders allege that many of the targeted abattoirs routinely slaughter cows , which is a criminal offence in the state of 204 million inhabitants, as cows are considered holy by Hindus. Qureshi claimed that soon after the new government took office on 19 March, officials were given verbal orders to be very strict with the meat industry, which is almost entirely run by Muslims (who make up about 19% of the population) and generate annual sales of US$2.6 billion.

Small butchers may struggle

It was an easy target because many meat businesses were operating without proper licences as previous administration was lax in processing documents, he said. “If they do not follow the rules, they have to be shut down,” P K Singh, a health officer for the municipal corporation of state capital Lucknow told GlobalMeatNews. The various requirements for securing government approval for operations as listed by Singh include demonstrating slaughterhouses are clean, have proper waste disposal, do not slaughter in the streets or near residences and (for retailers) do not hang meat outside their shops.

Small roadside butchers’ shops will struggle to meet these norms, although larger slaughterhouses have the capacity to improve. In Lucknow’s Motijheel slaughterhouse, visited by GlobalMeatNews after its closure on 23 March, conditions were grim. Situated in the middle of a graveyard, its walls were broken, its roof was crumbling, the place was full of flies and birds. There was no provision for liquid waste disposal and bones and dirt were scattered all around.

Qureshi said that it was unfair to expect butchers to maintain the abattoirs when their premises (as in this case) belonged to the municipal authorities. “An alternative arrangement should have been made before ordering their closure,” he said. However, he admitted: “There have been some shortcomings at our end also.” For that reason, he said that meat professionals from all over the state would assemble on 6 April in Lucknow, where they would be told to maintain hygiene and make structural changes to conform to the newly enforced norms at the earliest opportunity.

Health authorities do not expect that to happen immediately. “As soon as they do it, they will be allowed to restart the business,” said Singh. “Let’s see if they manage it in 10 to 15 days.

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