Meat of the Matter

'BJP is taking revenge on Muslims': UP's crackdown has left the meat industry panicked and scared

In a largely informal economy, why are only we being singled out for compliance by the new administration, ask Muslims in Uttar Pradesh.

Sixty-five year old Mohammad Moazzam has an interesting theory about the unintended effects of the crackdown on meat in Uttar Pradesh. “The day all meat eaters stop eating meat and attack vegetables, the price of bhindi [ladies’ finger] will shoot up to Rs 400 a kilo. Then we will see,” he said with a twinkle in his eyes as the gathering behind him broke out into laughter.

Behind Moazzam’s bravado and humour, however, is a tale of quiet desperation. He and his family own a goat meat shop in Agra’s Nai Ki Mandi that has been shut for the past two days. The Agra police demand that they sell meat procured from a licensed abattoir. But Moazzam claims there are no licensed goat meat slaughterhouses in Agra. “After three decades, suddenly the government decided what we do is illegal. And now our livelihood has been finished,” said Moazzam.

Cracking down on the meat industry was one of the first things the new Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath did after being sworn in, playing up to his hardline Hindutva image. The state administration has initiated a strict crackdown on slaughterhouses, packaging plants, meat retailers and restaurants. Any establishment unable to produce the gamut of licenses required to operate is being shut down – an unprecedented move in what was a largely unorganised industry till now. The vehemence of the administration’s actions has thrown the entire meat value chain in Uttar Pradesh into a tizzy, with exporters, butchers and anyone involved in the industry fearful for their future.

Meat freeze

In the week since the new Bharatiya Janata Party government was sworn in, it has sealed 12 buffalo slaughterhouses and arrested 43 people for allegedly smuggling cattle. Moreover, the Uttar Pradesh police across the state has stopped butchers and meat vends from operating without licenses, which has meant a shortage even of goat and chicken meat.

The crackdown has engendered enough fear amongst people involved in the meat value chain that even establishments operating entirely legally are facing disruption. The government-run Agra municipal slaughterhouse is technically open but is seeing very few people bring in animals for slaughter. At the state-of-art Allana meat processing plant on the outskirts of Aligarh, liaison manager Kuldeep Singh said, there was a sharp dip in volumes. “Earlier we would get 700-800 animals a day. Now just 100-150,” Singh said. “People are scared to bring their buffalos in since they might get attacked on the road by vigilantes.”

Export industry slaughtered

There is little due process being followed in this move, with slaughterhouses and processing plants being sealed peremptorily. “Why is the police not giving the establishments notice, so that they can respond to the charges?” asked Yusuf Qureshi, Uttar Pradesh head of the Jamiat-ul-Quresh, a body of the Qureshi community who are largely involved in the meat industry. “Our businesses are being destroyed and we are being hanged without a court hearing.”

The effect of this panic on India’s meat export industry is significant. “There is so much uncertainty now that many exporters have stopped taking further orders and are struggling to meet their current contracts,” says DB Sabharwall, secretary-general of the All India Meat and Livestock Exporters’ Association. India is the world’s largest exporter of meat with buffalo meat export valued at $4 billion. Uttar Pradesh is the largest contributor to that figure with approximately half of the $4 billion coming from the state. “The state government does not realise the harm they are doing to the economy,” said Sabharwall.

Jamil runs a small kabab stall in Agra and is struggling to get enough buffalo meat. On Thursday, he had made only 4 kilos of kababs – half his regular quantity.
Jamil runs a small kabab stall in Agra and is struggling to get enough buffalo meat. On Thursday, he had made only 4 kilos of kababs – half his regular quantity.

Meat shops

In Agra’s Nai ki Nadi grocery market, regular police raids have frozen the chicken, goat and buffalo retail trade. “We are harassed everyday, our stocks are destroyed and we are threatened with jail. I have thus had to close my shop,” complains a despondent Mohammad Amjad who runs a small chicken shop in Nai ki Mandi. Amjad claims the police ask him for licenses and permissions which he was unable to provide leading to his shop being shut. “I have seen so many governments, even BJP governments, but my shop was running fine. Now this government wants to shut me down.”

In Nai Ki Mandi, the only goat slaughterhouse has been shut for not having the requisite government permissions. Since the area’s butchers claim that there are no licensed goat meat slaughterhouses in the city, they have had to shut shop till things go back to the way they were. “Earlier, many of us would simply slaughter goats on our own. But now the police are stopping that too. What should we do?” asked Mohammad Moazzam, owner of a meat shop.

Diners and marriage feasts

Local slaughter of goats, chickens and buffalo has always existed in Uttar Pradesh and the sudden, unprecedented clampdown has thrown butchers into shock. In Shamli district, butchers have been arrested even for preparing to slaughter a buffalo and the police have even raided marriage feasts, charging people with buying unlicensed buffalo meat.

The raids have extended themselves to eateries in Muslim localities. In Agra, the owner of Labaik, a small diner, has had his restaurant license checked by the police after the new government came to power. “Yeh to sirf pareshan karne ke liye hai,” said the diner’s owner, Mohammad Imran. “This is only to harass us.”

The panic in the meat industry also means a sharp shortage in raw meat for restaurants serving buffalo meat. At the Shahi Karim diner, a short distance from Aligarh Muslim University, Mohammad Rashid was worried about meat supply. “Our customers look for cheap buffalo meat and that’s been very difficult to get the past few days,” Rashid said. “We are working at 25% capacity.”

Owner of a small eatery in Aligarh, Mohammad Rashid is struggling to procure enough buffalo meat to match demand
Owner of a small eatery in Aligarh, Mohammad Rashid is struggling to procure enough buffalo meat to match demand

Singled out

The vehemence and speed of the meat crackdown has resulted in allegations of the meat industry being singled out unfairly. “The meat industry is being targeted. No other industry is scrutinised so minutely,” said DB Sabharwall, secretary-general of the All India Meat and Livestock Exporters’ Association.

Given the over regulated nature of India, what is legal and illegal is often an arbitrary decision, Sabharwall pointed out, which depends on the administration in power and not rule of law. “You need 24 licenses and no objection certificates to run a slaughterhouse in Uttar Pradesh,” Sabharwall said. “Even if one is not there, the government is using that to immediately seal the plant.”

Muslims, who form the bulk of the industry’s workers and capitalists, feel targeted. “It’s clear that the BJP is taking revenge on Muslims after the election,” said Mohammed Amjad, whose small chicken shop has been shut as a result of the crackdown. Imran in Agra asked, “Is the police also raiding restaurants and shops in Hindu areas? Or are we the only ones who have to follow the law?”

“It is very clear why meat is being attacked like this,” said Qureshi. “It gives employment to so many Muslims – and this government does not like that.”

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

India’s urban water crisis calls for an integrated approach

We need solutions that address different aspects of the water eco-system and involve the collective participation of citizens and other stake-holders.

According to a UN report, around 1.2 billion people, or almost one fifth of the world’s population, live in areas where water is physically scarce and another 1.6 billion people, or nearly one quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage. They lack basic access to water. The criticality of the water situation across the world has in fact given rise to speculations over water wars becoming a distinct possibility in the future. In India the problem is compounded, given the rising population and urbanization. The Asian Development Bank has forecast that by 2030, India will have a water deficit of 50%.

Water challenges in urban India

For urban India, the situation is critical. In 2015, about 377 million Indians lived in urban areas and by 2030, the urban population is expected to rise to 590 million. Already, according to the National Sample Survey, only 47% of urban households have individual water connections and about 40% to 50% of water is reportedly lost in distribution systems due to various reasons. Further, as per the 2011 census, only 32.7% of urban Indian households are connected to a piped sewerage system.

Any comprehensive solution to address the water problem in urban India needs to take into account the specific challenges around water management and distribution:

Pressure on water sources: Rising demand on water means rising pressure on water sources, especially in cities. In a city like Mumbai for example, 3,750 Million Litres per Day (MLD) of water, including water for commercial and industrial use, is available, whereas 4,500 MLD is needed. The primary sources of water for cities like Mumbai are lakes created by dams across rivers near the city. Distributing the available water means providing 386,971 connections to the city’s roughly 13 million residents. When distribution becomes challenging, the workaround is to tap ground water. According to a study by the Centre for Science and Environment, 48% of urban water supply in India comes from ground water. Ground water exploitation for commercial and domestic use in most cities is leading to reduction in ground water level.

Distribution and water loss issues: Distribution challenges, such as water loss due to theft, pilferage, leaky pipes and faulty meter readings, result in unequal and unregulated distribution of water. In New Delhi, for example, water distribution loss was reported to be about 40% as per a study. In Mumbai, where most residents get only 2-5 hours of water supply per day, the non-revenue water loss is about 27% of the overall water supply. This strains the municipal body’s budget and impacts the improvement of distribution infrastructure. Factors such as difficult terrain and legal issues over buildings also affect water supply to many parts. According to a study, only 5% of piped water reaches slum areas in 42 Indian cities, including New Delhi. A 2011 study also found that 95% of households in slum areas in Mumbai’s Kaula Bunder district, in some seasons, use less than the WHO-recommended minimum of 50 litres per capita per day.

Water pollution and contamination: In India, almost 400,000 children die every year of diarrhea, primarily due to contaminated water. According to a 2017 report, 630 million people in the South East Asian countries, including India, use faeces-contaminated drinking water source, becoming susceptible to a range of diseases. Industrial waste is also a major cause for water contamination, particularly antibiotic ingredients released into rivers and soils by pharma companies. A Guardian report talks about pollution from drug companies, particularly those in India and China, resulting in the creation of drug-resistant superbugs. The report cites a study which indicates that by 2050, the total death toll worldwide due to infection by drug resistant bacteria could reach 10 million people.

A holistic approach to tackling water challenges

Addressing these challenges and improving access to clean water for all needs a combination of short-term and medium-term solutions. It also means involving the community and various stakeholders in implementing the solutions. This is the crux of the recommendations put forth by BASF.

The proposed solutions, based on a study of water issues in cities such as Mumbai, take into account different aspects of water management and distribution. Backed by a close understanding of the cost implications, they can make a difference in tackling urban water challenges. These solutions include:

Recycling and harvesting: Raw sewage water which is dumped into oceans damages the coastal eco-system. Instead, this could be used as a cheaper alternative to fresh water for industrial purposes. According to a 2011 World Bank report, 13% of total freshwater withdrawal in India is for industrial use. What’s more, the industrial demand for water is expected to grow at a rate of 4.2% per year till 2025. Much of this demand can be met by recycling and treating sewage water. In Mumbai for example, 3000 MLD of sewage water is released, almost 80% of fresh water availability. This can be purified and utilised for industrial needs. An example of recycled sewage water being used for industrial purpose is the 30 MLD waste water treatment facility at Gandhinagar and Anjar in Gujarat set up by Welspun India Ltd.

Another example is the proposal by Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) to recycle and reclaim sewage water treated at its existing facilities to meet the secondary purposes of both industries and residential complexes. In fact, residential complexes can similarly recycle and re-use their waste water for secondary purposes such as gardening.

Also, alternative rain water harvesting methods such as harvesting rain water from concrete surfaces using porous concrete can be used to supplement roof-top rain water harvesting, to help replenish ground water.

Community initiatives to supplement regular water supply: Initiatives such as community water storage and decentralised treatment facilities, including elevated water towers or reservoirs and water ATMs, based on a realistic understanding of the costs involved, can help support the city’s water distribution. Water towers or elevated reservoirs with onsite filters can also help optimise the space available for water distribution in congested cities. Water ATMs, which are automated water dispensing units that can be accessed with a smart card or an app, can ensure metered supply of safe water.

Testing and purification: With water contamination being a big challenge, the adoption of affordable and reliable multi-household water filter systems which are electricity free and easy to use can help, to some extent, access to safe drinking water at a domestic level. Also, the use of household water testing kits and the installation of water quality sensors on pipes, that send out alerts on water contamination, can create awareness of water contamination and drive suitable preventive steps.

Public awareness and use of technology: Public awareness campaigns, tax incentives for water conservation and the use of technology interfaces can also go a long way in addressing the water problem. For example, measures such as water credits can be introduced with tax benefits as incentives for efficient use and recycling of water. Similarly, government water apps, like that of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, can be used to spread tips on water saving, report leakage or send updates on water quality.

Collaborative approach: Finally, a collaborative approach like the adoption of a public-private partnership model for water projects can help. There are already examples of best practices here. For example, in Netherlands, water companies are incorporated as private companies, with the local and national governments being majority shareholders. Involving citizens through social business models for decentralised water supply, treatment or storage installations like water ATMs, as also the appointment of water guardians who can report on various aspects of water supply and usage can help in efficient water management. Grass-root level organizations could be partnered with for programmes to spread awareness on water safety and conservation.

For BASF, the proposed solutions are an extension of their close engagement with developing water management and water treatment solutions. The products developed specially for waste and drinking water treatment, such as Zetag® ULTRA and Magnafloc® LT, focus on ensuring sustainability, efficiency and cost effectiveness in the water and sludge treatment process.

BASF is also associated with operations of Reliance Industries’ desalination plant at Jamnagar in Gujarat.The thermal plant is designed to deliver up to 170,000 cubic meters of processed water per day. The use of inge® ultrafiltration technologies allows a continuous delivery of pre-filtered water at a consistent high-quality level, while the dosage of the Sokalan® PM 15 I protects the desalination plant from scaling. This combination of BASF’s expertise minimises the energy footprint of the plant and secures water supply independent of the seasonal fluctuations. To know more about BASF’s range of sustainable solutions and innovative chemical products for the water industry, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of BASF and not by the Scroll editorial team.