Even as the nation is embroiled in the beef ban controversy, sparked off by the Centre's new rule prohibiting the sale of cattle for slaughter, the BJP-led Assam Government has decided to shut down illegal meat and fish shops in Guwahati, the biggest such market in the North East region.
The decision is likely to add fuel to the already raging debate, as meat and fish are integral to the food habits of the people of North East and the drive may cause scarcity of these items.
A press release issued by the office of the deputy commissioner of Kamrup (metro) district, said, "It has been observed that a number of unhygienic and unauthorised fish and meat sellers operating in Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) area are posing an instant health threat and, in public interest, it is of utmost importance to stop such activities immediately."
The deputy commissioner's office has also formed six teams to execute the eviction order. "These teams will start operations very soon," said the release.
A report in Guwahati Plus said that the Assam Government had decided to carry out a drive against illegal fish and meat sellers a few days back.
"The decision has been taken in a meeting chaired by additional chief secretary in-charge of Guwahati Development, MGVK Bhanu. He has also ordered deputy commissioner Kamrup metropolitan district, commissioner of police, commissioner GMC, CEO Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority and the chief food safety commissioner to work jointly as a team in this regard," the report said.
It further stated that the government had appealed to unauthorised vendors to shut their shops voluntarily by 28 May, failing which the government will forcibly shut them down.
The report quoted Manoj Saikia, chairman of Assam Livestock and Poultry Corporation, who endorsed the decision, saying that Assam imports 20,000 kilograms of live chicken every day from neighbouring states and a big number of these birds die during transportation.
"The companies which buy the chicken do not discard the dead birds as payments are made in advance... so, they distribute dead chicken among hotels and restaurants," he said.
But a source in the office of the deputy commissioner told Firstpost that this is not the first time the government is making an effort to get rid of illegal meat shops.
"Three years ago, during Congress' rule, Assam government made an effort to implement the Guwahati slaughterhouse bye-laws and instructed the meat dealers to slaughter the animals and birds in licensed slaughterhouses. But many vendors still do not follow the norms," said the official.
The implementation of the slaughterhouse bye-laws rests on the GMC.
"GMC has only one veterinary doctor to implement the bye-laws. It is quite a big task for him to implement these laws in a city with a municipal corporation area covering 216 square kilometres," says Apurba Das, a senior citizen in Guwahati.
Mrigen Saraniya, mayor GMC, told Firstpost, "There are nearly 1,500 licensed fish and meat shops. But many meat shops do not follow the rules related to slaughter and storage. Slaughtering and storing of meat in unhygienic conditions has been a reason for the spread of diseases."
He also said that the GMC has been doing its job by closing down illegal slaughterhouses.
But the Congress sees a hidden agenda behind this move.
Apurba Bhattacharjee, general secretary of Assam Pradesh Congress Committee said, "We have seen that the BJP has implemented the so-called crackdown just after a similar move left a big number of people belonging to a certain section in Uttar Pradesh jobless."
He adds, "If there is no hidden agenda to make a section of the society jobless, then why such a decision was not taken earlier? Why the Assam government has to follow the footsteps of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath?"
Updated Date: Jun 02, 2017 14:29 PM