Saturday, May 17, 2008

Meat sellers protest abattoir shutdown during Jain festival

By: Neha Arha

Mumbai, May 15 The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s decision to shut down all city slaughterhouses during the Jain festival of Paryushan has run into opposition from meat sellers. The Brihanmumbai Hindu Khatik Samaj Sanghatna, an association of meat sellers, has decided to observe a dharna on Wednesday at Azad Maidan.

The Paryushan will be observed between August 27 and September 3 this year. Those participating in the dharna will have their mouths taped and hands tied.

The BMC, at a general body meeting of the elected representatives on April 7, decided shut down all abattoirs during the nine-day Jain festival. According to the protestors, the worst hit will be the owners and the workers of the slaughterhouses.

According to the association, there are around 1,500 BMC-owned and licensed shops selling meat in Mumbai apart from illegal ones in and around suburbs. They employ over 25,000 daily-wage workers who earn a meagre Rs 100-Rs 150 per day. The closing of the slaughterhouses for nine days would mean no income for these workers for those nine days, the association said.
Sixty-five-year-old Maltibai Eknath Kothmere, a widow, earns her livelihood in the form of rent from the slaughter shop her husband had left her. Seated in her tiny one-room house, she complained: “No money means no food. We are somehow managing with the little income that we get as rent, but now with the BMC’s resolution, I do not know how we will survive for those nine days.”

Jagannath Ghodke, 75, another slaughterhouse owner, added: “Slaughterhouses, big or small, employ most of their workers on daily wages. Closing a slaughterhouse even for a day would mean no income in a house for that day. How can the municipality be so insensitive to the needs of so many people considering that we don't have any alternate source of income?”

Ratnakar R Lad, general secretary of the Maharashtra Rajya Hindu Khatik Samaj Sanghatna, said, “If the municipality agrees to the demands of one community while completely ignoring the needs of the other, then it’s quite possible that others may also demand the same in the future. We are not against the closure of these abattoirs for a day or two. But shutting them down for such a long duration will not only disrupt our profession but also related professions.”

Bhalchandra Gaikwad, the general secretary of the Mutton Dealers’ Association, said: “Around 25,000 goats are imported weekly from regions of Rajasthan and Gujarat. The whole process includes animal breeders, transport, cleaners and helpers in the slaughterhouses. The health and leather industry gets its regular work from the process of slaughtering. Shutting abattoirs will mean a huge financial loss to all. We will not hesitate moving the Supreme Court if the BMC turns a deaf ear.”

Dilip Patel, the BJP corporator who initiated the proposal to keep slaughterhouses closed during the nine-day period, said: “We have always respected and cared for the sentiments of the minorities and Jains are a minority. We have just passed a resolution as per Supreme Court order to close slaughterhouse during the period.”

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