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Lucknow: Proposed Relocation of Meat Shops Will Likely Put Small Sellers Out of Business

While larger meat sellers will be able to withstand any fallout from the new program, small-scale sellers, who have not been able to get licences for their shops yet, are likely to face the harshest effects.

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New Delhi: On Saturday, April 2, Lucknow city mayor Sanyukta Bhati directed the Lucknow Municipal Corporation to map out areas in the city with high population density where meat and fish shops are located, and relocate these shops. 

Faisal, one of the many butchers and meat sellers in Lucknow who will be affected by the proposed project, says he has already started saving up for an e-rickshaw. 

“The order hasn’t come yet, but when it does, I might lose my shop and resort to becoming an e-rickshaw driver. I have no qualifications to secure any other job,” he told The Wire.

This directive came after the launch of an awareness programme on communicable diseases by the Uttar Pradesh government, set to run through the month of April. Additional municipal commissioner Abhay Pandey has been tasked with the responsibility of designating the areas for the relocation process.

Bhati also directed officials to identify which shops are not operating under the given norms or are unhygienic, and said strict punishments will be involved for the same. Instructions were also given to remove stray pigs from the city. 

Like Faisal, many shopkeepers who do not have licences for their shops are likely to be left out of this new system entirely. Most of the meat sellers The Wire spoke to said they want to get licences for their shops, but that the unending cycle of trying to obtain complicated documents required for the process has left them in a lurch.

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Haji Yusuf Qureshi, a lawyer and member of the All India Jamiat-ul-Quresh (AIJQ) says that the new guidelines include taking injections, filling up multiple forms, many rounds of inspections, and a lot of red-tape. 

The AIJQ works towards the welfare of the Qureshi community, members of which are generally involved in the meat business.

He told The Wire that demands for a ‘single window system’ for issuing and renewing licence and renewal has been growing over the last few years.

“The big traders earn enough to have savings or enter another industry. The big ones also have no problems in getting licences. We are the ones who will suffer,” he said.

Most small meat traders, who earn between Rs 300-800 a day, are scared of losing their livelihoods. 

Mahir Hasan, a social worker from Lucknow, said that most meat sellers in the city come from poor Muslim backgrounds. “They will incur the biggest losses,” he said. 

Raina Pandey, a restaurant owner in Lucknow’s Aliganj locality said that the move may also impact the quality of the meat, as the time taken to transport the meat will increase. Importantly, it will also add to the cost of the delivery.

“Added transport cost will mean that we will have to raise the cost of the food, which will impact our overall profits as customers may not be willing to pay the extra amount. The added time taken to bring the meat from a far off location will also affect the quality of the meat,” Pandey said.

At her restaurant, Raina’s Kitchen, she gets close to 15 kg of meat delivered everyday. 

“Right now, the meat shops are well within our reach and we can always get more when needed. If the shops are far, we will have to refrigerate…” she added. 

Also read: The Contradictions in the Anti-Muslim Tirade in Karnataka

In 2017, in line with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) election manifesto, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath had directed police officials to prepare an action plan for the closure of mechanised abattoirs and “unauthorised” meat shops in the state.  This left the informal meat industry reeling and since then, Uttar Pradesh’s annual meat production has been falling.

Qureshi said that he has made several requests to the Uttar Pradesh government to create modern slaughterhouses in the state, as well as designated mandis for selling meat. 

“Like mandis for fruits and vegetables, meat should be given a designated space too,” he said. 

In modern slaughterhouses, the blood and other waste material are utilised as best they can be and then disposed of, as per the norms. There are also standards of hygiene in place to be followed during the butchering of animals. 

“The government is meant to create employment for the public. This government is doing the opposite by taking away the livelihoods of the poor,” Qureshi said.