Uttar Pradesh residents are likely to be forced to go on vegetarian diets in the days ahead, with meat sellers across the state planning to go on an indefinite strike beginning Monday.
News agency PTI reported that the strike is in protest of the Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government's crackdown on illegal and mechanized slaughter houses.
Meat vendors in several places in Uttar Pradesh, especially Lucknow, have already stopped selling their products, and this stir is expected to intensify from today with even fish sellers joining the protest.
"We have decided to intensify our strike from tomorrow. All shops will remain closed. Fish sellers too have joined us and are extending support to us," Lucknow Bakra Gosht Vypar Mandal office bearer Mubeen Qureshi told PTI.
MEAT GOES OFF PLATES
The non-availability of buffalo meat has already affected noted non-vegetarian establishments such as Tunday Kebabs and Rahim's, both of which have been forced t o move to mutton and chicken dishes.
However, with meat sellers refusing to back down from their protest and vowing to go on a state-wide agitation, even the availability of mutton, chicken and dish is likely to come under threat.
The owner of a famous eatery, who spoke to PTI on the condition of anonymity, said restaurateurs could be forced to source their meat from Delhi in the face of the strike. He however supported the crackdown against illegal slaughterhouses.
"This is not a religious issue. In fact, it is directly linked to the health of people, who have the right to good quality of meat and fish," he told PTI, alleging that many illegally operated meat processing units even indulged in slaughtering dogs.
UP GOVT: LEGAL SHOPS WON'T BE AFFECTED
The strike comes even as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, as well as other officials, promised that meat shops and abattoirs operating legally won't be targeted in the government's crackdown.
"The government will not touch those (abattoirs) which are operating as per the provisions of law and have a valid licence. But those that are violating the orders of the NGT and playing with the health of the public would not be spared...," Adityanath has said.
The clampdown was launched within days of Adityanath of taking office. During the Assembly election campaigning, the Bharatiya Janata Party had vowed to strictly enforce the ban on cow slaughter and to take severe action against illegal abattoir.
The meat industry, however, alleges that the government action is affecting the livelihood of the poor. "The meat sellers are piqued over the crackdown on slaughter houses which has adversely hit the livelihood of lakhs of people," Mubeen Qureshi said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, on the other hand, reiterated that the legally run meat units won't be targeted but said that any large-scale disruption, with regards to availability of meat of loss of livelihood, would be looked into and addressed by the state government.
"The state's Chief Secretary has constituted committees in each district headed by the Collector and comprising ten people each. The committee is visiting every slaughterhouse to see if they are being run legally and submitting a report every day," the party's national spokesperson Sambit Patra said.
The Congress, meanwhile, has alleged that small vendors were the only ones being targeted. "How is it that the small shops are getting closed and meat exports are going up. The government should have made people aware of the laws and rules before launching the drive," senior Uttar Pradesh Congress leader Akhilesh Pratap Singh said.
(With inputs from PTI)