Meat sellers, especially mutton vendors, on Monday kept their shops closed on the first day of their indefinite strike against the statewide crackdown on illegal and mechanised slaughterhouses. 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. 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 Lucknow, 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.
Iqbal Qureshi, president of Uttar Pradesh Meet-Murga Vyapari Kalyan Samiti said they would continue the strike and are preparing a memorandum to be placed before the state government. “We will continue our strike, as the actions which have been taken are arbitrary. We will try to meet the chief minister… if we do not get time, we will meet senior officers or the minister for urban development,” he added.
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… The meat sellers are worried over the crackdown on slaughterhouses, which has adversely hit the livelihood of lakhs of people,” Mubin Qureshi, an office-bearer of the Mandal, 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, licenced 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-veg raw food items declined rapidly during the day. No sale of mutton has been reported, while people were purchasing fish and eggs.
Clarifying that its crackdown is directed only against illegal slaughterhouses, the BJP government on Monday said attempts to associate this drive with a particular religion were part of a conspiracy to defame it.
The Adityanath government’s move aims to ensure health and safety of people by ensuring safe and clean meat to them, state Cabinet Minister Shrikant Sharma said.
“Our government is going by the rule book and following the orders of Supreme Court and National Green Tribunal. The action is against only illegal slaughterhouses. As far as meat shop owners are concerned, I would suggest that rather than go on strike, its better that they follow the rules,” Sharma told PTI.
“Some political outfits are associating this step with one specific religion as a part of larger conspiracy to defame the state government… People are intelligent they will not fall prey to this,” he added.
Echoing Sharma, Cabinet minister Sidharth Nath Singh said no orders have been issued for taking any action against shops selling chicken, fish or eggs. He claimed that he had directed officials not to act in over-enthusiasm or overstep their jurisdiction.
Noting that the NGT had insisted on closure of illegal slaughter houses, Singh said: “The NGT, in 2015, had observed that illegal slaughter houses are a concern for the environment, while insisting on their closure.”
– With inputs from PTI