Close on heels of the Gujarat HC recently issuing a directive to ensure licensing and hygiene standards are met with for shops selling poultry and meat, civic bodies across the state have cracked the whip on meat vendors, traders and shops. In effects, in Vadodara and Surat, livestock meat remained unavailable for the seventh day in a row, Monday.
Finally on Wednesday, meat vendors claimed that officials were forcing even licensed shops to discontinue the sale of meat. Civic bodies across the state have sealed over 800 unlicensed meat shops, as per data registered with the High Court.
On Wednesday, Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) continued to down the shutters of several shops in Machhipeeth area while in Sehra in Panchmahal, sanitation inspectors issued notices to a dozen butchering shops. A shop owner in Vadodara, who has the requisite licenses from the civic body and FSSAI as well as a separate slaughter section said that officials of the VMC had prohibited the sale of livestock meat.
“The officials of the VMC arrived last week and said that the livestock slaughter should be avoided for a few days. When we asked them what was lacking in our records, they just told us that as per HC directive, the sale has been prohibited for some time,” the trader added.
A vendor from Anand had a similar grouse. “Officials from the sanitary department have been closing down unlicensed shops. However, outlets like mine, which meet all the standards laid down and also have valid licenses are being forced to skip business.”
Members of the poultry associations from Banaskantha and Surat have already filed civil appeal rejoinders in the High Court, seeking a direction to civic bodies to stop “harassment” of valid license holders.
Naeem Kinariwala of Surat Poultry Traders Association, which has moved a civil appeal in the HC stated: “The directive of the High Court is very clear. But this (drive) has turned into harassment for all traders. We are not against the crackdown on illegal shops or even roadside butchers, who slaughter in public and could offend sentiments.”
According to Surat Chicken and Mutton Shops Association president Yusuf Memon, sale of only live birds is being allowed, not slaughtered chicken. “For marriage events, we have to sell live birds from our shops and the birds will be slaughtered at marriage halls. Even the mutton sellers’ condition is pitiful, as a majority of the mutton shops in the city are closed,” he rued.
Anvesh Patel, President of the Gujarat Broiler Farmers Coordination Committee (GBFCC) has also decided to move a petition in the HC.
Patel said, “In the name of effecting directions of the HC, civic bodies are resorting to arm twisting and oppression of those involved in the business of poultry and livestock.”
When asked to comment on the alleged harassment, Medical Officer of Health, VMC, Dr Devesh Patel, stated: “VMC is only following the directive. There are three types of inspections and closures– of shops that have no license at all, those that do not have the FSSAI licenses, and finally those shops that have the licenses but are functioning in unhygienic conditions.”
For his part, Deputy Commissioner of Health with Surat Municipal Corporation Dr Ashish Naik confirmed the closures on grounds of “unhygienic practices.” As he put it: “We have sealed 437 mutton and chicken shops and 147 fish shops in the city so far. Many of them were running in unhygienic conditions, with no slaughtering facility and our teams found unstamped meat (having a certificate from a veterinary doctor about the meat).”