Lucknow: Even as meat sellers, especially mutton vendors, Monday kept their shops closed on the first day of their indefinite strike over Yogi Adityanath government's crackdown against them, former minister and senior Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Azam Khan demanded closure of all slaughterhouses operational in the country.
“Our children will at least get cow and buffalo milk if the slaughterhouses across the country are banned," he said.
Azam Khan also said that Muslims don’t have to necessarily eat beef.
Azam Khan's demand came after meat sellers across the state went of indefinite strike from today to protest against the crackdown on slaughterhouses by the newly formed BJP government.
A rough estimate suggests that there could be around 5,000 meat shops in the capital operating from shanties and huts, according to PTI.
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.
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," Mubin Qureshi, an office bearer of the Mandal, said.
"The meat sellers are worried over the crackdown on slaughter houses, which has adversely hit the livelihood of lakhs of people," he 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.
Former Meerut Mayor and Lok Sabha MP from 2004 to 2009 Haji Shahid Akhlaq said that the government order against "illegal abattoirs" in the state has led to unwanted collateral damage.
Akhlaq, who is also the chairman and MD of Al-Saqib Meat Exporters, said this was caused by overzealous officials eager to please the ruling party.
“I have been on both sides of the table. I am one of the largest meat exporters in the region and I have also been in-charge of the civic body as Mayor. The problem is that officials don’t even understand the difference between a slaughterhouse and other meat-related businesses. I own one integrated slaughterhouse and three meat processing plants.
Imran Qureshi, son of veteran BSP leader Yaqub Qureshi and the Managing Director of Al-Faheem Meat Exports, said the worst of the impact had been on small-scale meat sellers.
“For many people, this is their only source of income. The BJP came to power on the promise of ‘Sabka saath, sabka vikaas’ (Development for all). How can they condone a move that causes such large scale unemployment? Legal abattoirs employ lakhs across the state.
"My company owns one integrated slaughterhouse in Meerut. That alone employs 800 people directly and over 1,500 people, including contractors and transporters, depend on us for work", he said.
Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh Health Minister Siddhartha Nath Singh on Monday said that action was being taken only against the illegal abattoirs.
"We are acting only against illegal abattoirs. Licenced slaughter houses are requested to stick to the norms," he told reporters here, while making it clear that no orders have been issued to take any action against any shop selling chicken, fish or eggs.
"The licenced slaughter houses should comply with the norms mentioned in the licence. No orders have been issued to take any action against any shop selling chicken, fish or eggs. They need not to fear," he clarified.