Lucknow/New Delhi, March 27 (IANS) Thousands of meat sellers in Uttar Pradesh shut shops for an indefinite period from Monday against Chief Minister Aditya Nath Yogis decision to close down illegal slaughterhouses, causing concerns over Rs 15,000-crore industry that employs 25 lakh people in the state.
The issue also came up for a discussion in Parliament with the central government claiming that only illegal slaughterhouses were closed down in Uttar Pradesh.
Meat sellers in the sprawling Uttar Pradesh, however, allege that police were raiding the shops and forcing the closure of their establishments despite having valid licences.
They said the ban on slaughterhouses has caused a shortage in meat supply across the state, as thousands of meat sellers have been forced to shut their shops for an indefinite period in an air of uncertainty over the state government policy.
“We have decided to intensify our strike. All (meat) shops will remain closed. The crackdown on slaughterhouses has adversely hit the livelihood of lakhs of people,” Mubeen Qureshi of the Lucknow Bakra Gosht Vypar Mandal told reporters.
In Noida, the national capital’s suburb in Uttar Pradesh, meat shops were open but many sellers said their daily income has fallen nearly by half due to the crackdown on slaughterhouses.
“I have sold only half of (meat) what I would sell normally,” Chand Qureshi, a meat seller in Shahberi market of Noida Extension, told IANS.
He said meat shops at some other places like in Ghaziabad were asked to put up curtains on shop fronts.
The allegations came despite the state government cautioning police against any vigilantism.
Uttar Pradesh Health Minister Siddharth Nath Singh said in state capital Lucknow those who have licences need not worry, and urged civil and police officials “not to be overexcited” while imposing the ban, which was promised by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its state election manifesto.
The BJP had also vowed to shut down all illegal slaughterhouses and place curbs on all mechanical abattoirs in the state.
The minister said Chief Minister Yogi, in line with the party poll manifesto, had sought action “only against illegal slaughterhouses”.
“Abattoirs operating legally will not be touched,” he stressed.
In Delhi, the issue was raised in Parliament by AIMIM President and Lok Sabha member Asaduddin Owaisi, who asked the state government to give time to illegal abattoirs for regularisation instead of just recklessly closing them down.
Replying to a related question from Owaisi, Union Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said: “What is being done in Uttar Pradesh is about illegal slaughterhouses. I think even the honourable member (Owaisi) would not want illegal slaughterhouses to function. There cannot be a difference of opinion here.”
The Hyderabad MP also raised the issue of the decrease in the export of buffalo meat, which is mostly supplied from Uttar Pradesh that houses 38 of the 72 government-approved abattoirs across the country.
There are no records of illegal slaughterhouses available officially. However, according to industry insiders, there could be an estimated 140 abattoirs and over 50,000 meat shops that don’t have permission to operate.
The ban has caused serious concerns about the meat industry in Uttar Pradesh, which according to APEDA, an export regulator for agricultural and processed food products, is the highest producer of meat with 19.1 per cent share of the national figure, followed by Andhra Pradesh at 15.2 per cent and West Bengal at 10.9 per cent.