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Monday, May 23, 2022

Display to specific type: Delhi MCDs’ long beef with meat

From banning display to asking outlets to specify type of meat, Delhi MCDs have passed many orders in last 5 years

Written by Abhinav Rajput | New Delhi |
Updated: April 6, 2022 11:07:30 am
A number of meat shops in Delhi's popular INA market remained shut after the SDMC directive. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

In November 2017, BJP’s Shikha Rai, then leader of the House of South Delhi Municipal Corporation, approved a proposal by the SDMC to ban the display of non-vegetarian food in the open.” “Non-vegetarian food items cannot be displayed in the open… It is to maintain hygiene and to respect people’s sentiments since not everyone eats non-vegetarian food”, she had said.

Almost instantly, the news was all over social media platforms and Rai, who till then was relatively unknown in political circles, appeared on television debates justifying her stand.

While that proposal — which had to then be sent to the SDMC commissioner to become a rule – remained on the back burner, in the following years, similar suggestions found their way into the Municipal Corporation of Delhi’s rule book. And now as a letter by the South MCD mayor directing meat shops in South Delhi to shut during Navratri sparks fear among shopkeepers again, the issue is back in focus.

“Instant media attention, attempts to please a section of Hindu voters, a chance to brand the Opposition as anti-Hindu if they protest against such moves is the reason that drives such proposals,” said a senior Delhi Congress leader who did not wish to be identified.

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In August 2018, the East MCD passed a rule directing all restaurants and eateries in the region to put up prominent boards, specifying if they were serving ‘halal’ or ‘jhatka’ meat. In subsequent years, the South and North MCDs also put similar rules in place.

Last year, the South MCD made it compulsory for both restaurants and shops to “mandatorily” display whether the meat they sell or serve is cut using the ‘halal’ or ‘jhatka’ method, and the East and North MCDs followed in its footsteps.

Following the South Delhi MCD proposal, then Leader of House of the corporation Narendra Chawla had said that the move will increase employment opportunities for the Khatik community, some of whose members slaughter animals using the jhatka method. Khatiks are Scheduled Castes who live in Delhi and several parts of North India.

“Such rules get passed due to political pressure but on ground, it is very difficult to implement them. We do not even encourage it too much as it will lead to harassment of traders,” said a senior official of South MCD.

“It is not possible to identify whether a chunk of meat has been cut using the halal or jhatka method, and so it is best to leave it to the judgement of the seller and the buyer, and what they want to eat and sell,” the official added.

While data on the nature of action taken in cases where the rules were flouted has not been provided by the corporations, sources said the numbers are negligible.

Congress vice-president Abhishek Dutt slammed the move, pointing out that the 2021 Meat Policy also says that meat shops should not be situated within 150-metre distance of religious places like temples, “but there are several such shops opened near them.”

“If BJP is serious about the religious sentiments then why are they not controlling this, there should be action against all such illegal shops,” he said.

By directing shops selling meat to remain shut during Navratri, the South MCD mayor has once again overstepped his jurisdiction, as it is the commissioner who has power to implement such orders.

The Director of Press and Information, South MCD, said that no communication has been made through any official channels nor has any direction been given to traders to shut shop.

“These issues are raked up so that we oppose them… The moment we oppose it, they will say we are anti-Hindu,” said an AAP leader.

A senior official in the SDMC said, “We are trapped… The mayor wants to shut shops while there is no order from the commissioner. So, the best we can do is to request traders to shut their shops for a day or two and when the news dies down, they can continue their business as usual.”

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