LUCKNOW: Uttar Pradesh, the largest consumer and exporter of beef among states in India, is on the verge of turning vegetarian. Meat sellers across several districts shut shop on Saturday, protesting against the BJP government’s overdrive against unlicensed outlets.
Meat politics, seen as the first sign of resistance against saffron-clad Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s policies, was triggered off on Friday by mutton and chicken traders in Lucknow, Kanpur and Gorakhpur. Showing solidarity, famous non-vegetarian eateries too downed shutters across the State on Saturday.
The crackdown on the industry has already resulted in a sharp decline in buffalo and goat meat production, industry insiders said. According to them, buffalo meat production has fallen by 40 per cent and that of mutton by 30 per cent over the past one week. Availability of beef has come down from a whopping 36 lakh kg to under 25 lakh kg.
While there are over 50,000 meat shops across Uttar Pradesh, over 50 per cent of them lack a licence to operate and violate several norms including rules governing their location and solid waste disposal methods. With unlicensed units being the primary suppliers of meat for domestic consumption – the licensed ones focus on exports – the food habits of the local population have already taken a hit.
In an attempt to allay fears, Adityanath clarified the crackdown was only against unlicensed units; licensed ones would not be impacted. However, this assurance provided no relief for the sector in which half of the players lack a valid licence. An industry delegation met the CM to seek time for these units to obtain licences. They also raised the issue of municipal officers delaying permits.
Beyond the dietary choices, the larger question of livelihoods looms over the owners and workers of the ‘illegal’ meat industry. “We are also part of the mainstream. We also want to grow. We want the government to regularise and modernise our slaughterhouses,” said Iqbal Qureshi, president of MBVKS, an association of meat traders.
While the BJP is keeping its promise to act on illegal slaughterhouses, the BSP and the SP seem to have failed to keep their word to support their core voter base - Dalits and Muslims, who both consume and operate the trade the most. “We had applied for licences conforming to the High Court order of 2010 during Mayawati’s regime. But all that still remains only on paper,” added Qureshi.