Lucknow, for ages, has had the distinction of serving the most authentic Awadhi and Mughlai non-vegetarian cuisine. It's a foodie paradise. The taste of the food has remained distinct through the generations but the irony is that the recipe has not travelled even to the national capital, Delhi.
Each region of Uttar Pradesh has its own list of non-vegetarian delicacies and that perhaps has been the reason why chefs or the cooks have relied on their homegrown recipes rather than borrowing them from Lucknow or Moradabad. But now the kebabis and dastarkhans in Lucknow are faced with a rare problem, procuring the very basic raw materials — beef, mutton and chicken — for the mouth watering dishes they have been serving for decades or even centuries.
Several of these outlets and their suppliers never bothered about the legality of procuring and supplying meat — from where it was procured, how it was procured and who supplied it — as long as the supply was regular, not really unhealthy and within the stipulated price. The licensing issue was there, it had to be as in any civilised society but then business was, as usual, no one cared for it. If questions were asked then they were only to grease palms of officials concerned or to raise the bribe bargain.
Livestock thefts and their smuggling to slaughter houses had grown into a huge nuisance in the state. Since no remains or evidence was left of a stolen cattle, the problem was becoming alarming and the state needed to put its act together with required administrative will. By making it a big pre-poll issue, BJP has conveyed the message home: that business on this aspect can't remain, as usual.
A thumping victory by the BJP and advent Yogi Adityanath at the helm changed it all. A message said: "What PETA couldn't achieve (number of slaughter houses closed) since its existence, Yogi Adityanath has achieved in less than a week."
But a mindless overdrive by the police and other state officials is now pinching the UP government for the issue was as legal as cultural. After a severe crack down on slaughter houses by the police and vigilantism by some private groups, the political leadership in the government is talking in a manner the government is expected to talk, or in the manner should talk in a democratic society — law must be enforced, illegal slaughter and illegal trade should be stopped, and those operating with prescribed license need not worry and those entrusted with law enforcement should not cross their official brief.
Mark the words of newly appointed health minister, Sidharth Nath Singh, who is also the designated spokesman for UP government. He said the word "avaidh" (unauthorised) was important. The government has directed closure of only unauthorised slaughter houses. Those running with valid licenses to slaughter need not worry. He also cautioned some over-enthusiastic officials, in police and other departments, not to misread or interpret the directive in a way which was never meant to be.
Singh made it clear that mutton, chicken and egg shops should not be shut. There never was a direction to shut such shops. The officials looking for minor deviations like not having a CCTV camera installed in legally-permitted slaughterhouses as an excuse should use prudent discretion and not indulge in high handedness. He even sent out a stern warning against policemen crossing the brief and harassing genuine meat sellers. "Vigilantism by police is unacceptable," he said.
Given the fact that Singh is also the spokesperson of the government, it should be assumed that he was speaking on the subject after due deliberation with the leadership in the government.
Responding to All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen Party (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owasi's charge in the Parliament on the issue, Union commerce minister Nirmala Sitaraman too emphasised that on the legality of the issue, adding that only illegal slaughter houses are being closed.
Though this has been a pre-poll issue for the BJP, and senior leaders including party president Amit Shah talked at length about the issue in his public rallies, the issue now has acquired political-religious overtones.
With saffron-clad Yogi Adityanath steering the government, the issue has got into a domain where one could suspect would go — the secular-communal debate — irrespective of merits of the issue. It's true that those engaged in running slaughterhouses and meat trade belong to the Muslim community but a number of Hindus are also in this business. The argument that this is an alibi to force vegetarianism on people of UP is devoid of any merit. Non-vegetarianism does not distinguish religion, just that most Hindus don't touch beef, least of all cow meat.
There could be temporary disruptions in meat supply but a regulated slaughterhouse and supply will make meat more hygienic. Animals butchered on the streets and sold without any hygiene standards is not a healthy sight in a modern society. The challenge before Yogi Adityanath government is to stop thefts, smuggling and raise hygiene standards of procurement and supply.
The move has provoked all kinds of thoughts. One interesting message said: "Koi Yogi aaye bewafaon ke shahar me bhi, khwahison ke katalkhane wahan bhi band karwane hain."
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Updated Date: Mar 27, 2017 20:39:13 IST