Editor's Note: A few days after Yogi Adityanath took charge as the new chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, and issued proclamations that his government would vigorously pursue and prosecute those "malfeasants" engaged in — variously — the running of illegal slaughterhouses, and harassing women on the streets, Firstpost asked Arpit Parashar to file ground reports documenting the doings of law enforcement forces deployed to shut meat shops, and apprehend "Romeos". This is the first in a multi-part series of stories Parashar sent us.
Driving to Meerut city from the Hapur town, which was earlier in the Ghaziabad district of the National Capital Region (NCR) but is a separate district since five years under the Meerut zone, a peculiar smell, allegedly of rotting carcasses, used to greet the traveller before the Meerut city limits began. The residents had been alleging for years that the slaughterhouses and meat export centres along the road in many villages leading up to the city were the culprits since they did not dispose of the remains of the slaughtered animals ‘properly’.
Today, however, the stench from the area is worse than it was till a few weeks back when the slaughterhouses and meat export companies like Al-Saqib Exports (P) Ltd and Al-Faheem Meatex Pvt Ltd, situated in the Alipur Jijmana and Dhikri villages along the road were still open. Some local residents allege that the carcasses were not disposed of by slaughterhouses before being sealed, but the fact is the Meerut Development Authority (MDA) has been managing its dumping grounds along the main road in a highly incompetent manner.
Every time the issue of stench was raised by politicians, mostly from the BJP, and the local residents they conveniently blamed the buffalo meat exporters for it. After the sealing of slaughterhouses, allegedly due to non-compliance of norms set by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in 2015, they have been blaming the export house owners but not everyone is buying their arguments now. “We have been having a tough time telling the people that work is underway to better manage the waste disposal sites and workers have been working overtime to clean them up,” an MDA official told Firstpost.
This trend has been common to various stretches in the western Uttar Pradesh region, including along the Dasna-Hapur road in the Ghaziabad district where too many export centres of both sheep/goat and buffalo meats are located. While previously the Ghaziabad Development Authority (GDA) too blamed the meat exporters for the stench and the alleged unhygienic conditions created by the rotting carcasses, they too have been having long field days cleaning up the garbage for which they are responsible in any case.
The negligence of the local authorities was taken advantage of by political leaders from the BJP over the years. A riot-like situation was created in Meerut in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 when rumors of bloodied water coming out of hand pumps located around slaughterhouses started doing the rounds in the district. BJP leaders took to the streets alleging that the abattoirs had been draining blood into the ground in order to push residents away from around their centres. The issue also took religious turn as the MDA received complaints of Muslims deliberately trying to ‘insult’ Hindus, which in turn helped the BJP consolidate votes of Hindus in the Lok Sabha elections.
While the BJP could not win the Meerut city seat this time in the assembly polls, losing badly owing to the gunda culture promoted by them ahead of the elections in the city, party workers have been harassing the workers from the meat export centres, who are out of work already, alleging that they have created the unhygienic environment deliberately because of the sealing of the slaughter houses. However, the blame lies solely with the authorities.
Fahad Husain, senior official at one of the many export centres, says, "Every time we implemented the guidelines laid out by the NGT and other agencies like the pollution board (Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board) and asked for permission locally they would ask for huge amount of money as bribe to grant them. Since the government was supportive of us in general, we continued running our centers while renewals of licenses were pending. Now, they have found reason to extort more money from us by sealing our properties and alleging non-compliance of laws.”
A bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar in 2015 had ordered that slaughterhouses will have to take permission from the UPPCB and/or environmental clearance from State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) besides permission from local authorities to keep running shop. While UPPCB and SEIAA permissions have generally only been delayed for some time and have been granted eventually for most slaughter houses, the local authorities have not done so. “They are now working under the BJP leaders and harassing us economically in order to warm up their pockets,” Hussain alleges.
One of the main reasons for sealing of the slaughterhouses is that the MDA and other such authorities in various districts have not been able to implement the directions of the NGT. With the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh pushing for implementation of all the guidelines, the officials are on the back foot and transferring the blame squarely on meat exporters as a result. The NGT had said that animal waste shall not be thrown in the municipal drains or any part of the streets or roads but that it should be “collected, transported and disposed of strictly in accordance with the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000”. While the slaughter houses eventually found ways to dispose of their waste as per the rules, the authorities simply did not work.
One of the main reasons for the delays caused by local authorities has been that the ward-level politics in various municipalities has come to be dominated by the BJP since the elections, which took place barely a year after BJP’s 2014 Lok Sabha victory. Local authorities receive complaints from the ward leaders and local-level in-charges of the BJP and decide to deny the required permission for small shops, meat export centres and also the slaughter houses under pressure. “We deny the permission so as to save ourselves from attacks by the ward leaders and local BJP goons. But since the Samajwadi Party (SP) was in power they could not be shut down. Now that the BJP has to come to power in Lucknow, we have no option but to seal them and go over the process all over again,” a senior MDA official said.
“This is nothing but political backlash which is affecting the poor workers and rendering them jobless. The BJP tried its arm-twisting tactics earlier too but did not succeed. Now that it has won, it will do anything to deprive the Muslims of economic benefits and opportunities,” a senior SP leader, who won his seat from Muzaffarnagar in the Assembly elections, alleged and requested anonymity.
Meanwhile, the so-called unhygienic conditions created by the slaughter houses have turned worse as workers from the slaughter houses, who would help dispose of a lot of the waste for the local authorities, have been rendered jobless and so are no long available. The stench along the Meerut-Hapur road turning worse is evidence enough of that.
Updated Date: Apr 05, 2017 16:30 PM