Meat shortage hits populous India state


By Biswajeet Banerjee, AP

LUCKNOW, India — India’s most populous state is running out of meat.

After the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in Uttar Pradesh this month on the back of a resounding electoral victory and named a Hindu priest-cum-politician as the state’s chief minister, the government began cracking down on illegal slaughterhouses and meat shops.

The new chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, is a strong supporter of laws protecting cows, which are revered by devout Hindus, and has publicly opposed beef consumption. The slaughter of cows and the consumption of beef are taboo for most Hindus. Their slaughter is barred by law in most Indian states, including Uttar Pradesh.

“All the illegal operations in slaughterhouses should end now,” Adityanath said Sunday at a rally in his hometown of Gorakhpur, where he is also the high priest of the Gorakhnath Math, a religious order based in eastern Uttar Pradesh. “The majority of the slaughterhouses and meat shops are running without licenses and government approval. I know in the name of buffalo, cows are being slaughtered in many abattoirs. This should end.”

So far, there have been no reports that any of the slaughterhouses shut down were selling cow meat instead of the usual water buffalo meat, which is permitted.

As government officials shut down slaughterhouses and meat shops operating without licenses or adequate paperwork, tens of thousands of meat sellers across the state have closed in protest, adding to the meat shortages.

Uttar Pradesh, with a population of 204 million, is India’s largest meat-producing state and has 41 licensed slaughterhouses. Many more operate illegally by bribing local authorities, like thousands of small businesses in this corruption-plagued country. Uttar Pradesh’s government earns more than 110 billion rupees (US$1.7 billion) a year from the industry.

“We know it is a money spinner industry for the government, but the party had promised to people in its election campaign to close down illegal slaughterhouses and meat shops,” said Vijay Bahadur Pathak, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s state general secretary. “Money or no money, we will fulfill our poll promise.”

Aquil Ahmad, a meat shop owner in Lucknow, the state capital, said that even though he has a license, he has decided to close his shop in support of others in his fraternity.