Slaughterhouses in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s largest meat exporting state, appear to be caught in a tangle of numerous laws and regulations that have put the brakes on the meat industry.
With the Yogi Adityanath government ruthlessly applying all these rules to weed out illegal abattoirs in line with the BJP’s election manifesto, even most of the licenced slaughterhouses have failed to pass legal scrutiny and hence forced to close down.
A slaughterhouse, according to the law, is a building or place where 10 or more animals are butchered for food every day.
The abattoirs in the state, probably like in any other state, have to comply with the sections of at least two dozen Acts and Rules even after they procure a licence to save animals from cruelty by butchers, protect human health by ensuring sale of meat that is fit for human consumption, protect the air and ground water from getting contaminated by reckless slaughter of animas, among other things.
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, Transport of Animals Rules, 1978, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughterhouse) Rules, 2001,
Central Motor Vehicle , Rules 2015, Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, Agriculture and Processed Food Product Export Development Authority (Amendment) Act, 2009, Environment Protection Act, 1986, Water (Preservation and Control of Pollution) Ac t, 1974, Air (Prevention of and Control) Act, 1981, and Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000 are some of the laws that are applicable.
Little wonder then, not only have the legal slaughterhouses and meat shops been closed but a large number of abattoirs, otherwise legal, have also been sealed by the administration since over the past week for violating of one rule or another.
Sample this. As many as 185 duly licenced and authorised slaughterhouses possessed the mandatory no-objection certificate (NoC) issued to them by the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board to run their business. This simply means only 185 abattoirs in the state were legal and the rest illegal since an NoC is a must for anyone to run a slaughterhouse. But 140 of the 185 legal slaughterhouses along with hundreds of illegal ones have been closed down so far since the government’s statewide crackdown began on March 21. The 140 ‘legal’ abattoirs were sealed because they were found violating one rule or the other.
“So, now it can be said that only 45 slaughterhouses in the state are legal as on date and the rest illegal even though 140 others had been issued an NoC,” Suresh Yadav, member-secretary of the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board told Hindustan Times.
Thousands of meat shops also shut down either voluntarily in solidarity with other slaughterhouses or due to a shortage of meat supply or because they simply did not comply with the terms and conditions of the licence issued to them.
Impact on Muslims
Bearing the brunt of the crackdown financially are obviously Muslims because it is mostly they who are into the meat business.
“Thousands of Muslim families that sustain on meat trade in the city are facing a very difficult time,” said Zafar Alam, owner of Nizam Meat Shop in Kanpur. He claimed the local police inspector came to him on Tuesday night ordering him to shut down his slaughterhouse without citing any reasons.
Alam blamed corruption in the departments concerned for forcing even authorised slaughterhouses to violate rules. Airing similar views, Alam, of Nizam Meat Shop in Lucknow, said, “Though I have a licence, I have shut down the shop in solidarity with fellow traders whom the police are harassing every day citing government orders.”
Some welcome crackdown
However, not all meat traders are upset. In fact, within the Muslim community there are people who have welcomed the crackdown.
Shamil Shamsi, Lucknow’s well-known chef and hotel owner, says there is no reason the government’s legitimate action should be condemned just because it is affecting the livelihood of owners of illegal abattoirs and meat shops which are playing havoc with the health of people and the environment.
“Should the Punjab government not act against the illicit drug peddling in the state just because it will harm the economic interests of the drug peddlers?” he questioned, adding, “We demanded from the Akhilesh Yadav government in 2014 to act against the illegal slaughterhouses but it did not because of political reasons and now when the new government is taking action according to the law, people are making foolish arguments to discredit it.
According to Shamsi, slaughtering sick animals and eating their meat is against Islam.
SC , NGT on illegal traders
The government’s action, as Shamsi pointed out, is legally tenable. In fact, there are the Supreme Court
(Laxmi Narayan Modi vs Union of India and others) and the National Green Tribunal (Shailesh Kumar Singh vs Government of UP and Others) orders based on which even the previous government had issued a Government Order (GO) on August 8, 2014 asking the bodies concerned to take action.
“But hardly any action was taken till October 2016 when a few slaughterhouses were ordered to close down after the NGT held DMs (district magistrates) accountable for the action,” revealed an official.
Fresh guidelines, orders Now, Uttar Pradesh chief secretary, Rahul Bhatnagar has again issued a fresh GO with fresh guidelines. The new GO, issued on March 24, asks DMs to appoint a 10-member committee to collect details on slaughter houses, number and kinds of animals being slaughtered there in their districts and seal the illegal ones.
Much of the hue and cry, according to sources, was also because of the fact that the action, even if legitimate, has been initiated by a BJP government under a ‘Hindu hardliner’ chief minister.
“This is because the action has been taken by the BJP government against a trade dominated by Muslims that political parties and others are raising questions. Otherwise, the government, in a way, is only enforcing the
SC and NGT’s judgments,” an official in the animal husbandry department said.
Ajit Kumar Singh, an analyst and former director of Giri Institute of Development Studies, Lucknow, also feels that there were gross violations of rules in the meat industry calling for action.
“But the possibility of the BJP government cracking down on the illegal abattoirs largely owned by Muslims to please the majority community cannot be ruled out,” he argued.
According to Singh, the new government should have allowed some reasonable time, may be two weeks, to the slaughterhouses to mend their ways before launching the drive.
“This would have saved the
government from much of the criticism as well as avoided inconvenience to the legal meat traders as well as their customers,” he suggested.