Man and animal are being deprived of their daily requirement of meat, as a thoroughly exasperated Justice S. Raghuvendra Rathore of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) summarily ordered the closure of Bhopal’s only licensed abattoir at Jinsi. Justice Rathore also directed the police SSP to provide all assistance to the Bhopal Collector to implement this order.
The government-run abattoir situated in Jehangirabad area at the city centre, had been facing protests from people residing and working in nearby areas for a long time, primarily complaints against the foul stench emanating from it. There have also been complaints over meat from the plant being transported openly in autos, without any kind of hygienic packaging.
According to the Bhopal Municipal Corporation, the city’s daily demand for mutton is only 10-12 tons and chicken about five tons. However, those in the business said the demand is actually around 25 tons, which is being met by unlicensed and illegal abattoirs at present. But the municipal corporation disputes this figure.
It has been five years, since a local resident Vinod Kumar Korey filed a petition in 2014 demanding that the abattoir be shifted. It was operating in a residential and commercial area, causing pollution as it did not even have an effluent treatment plant. Since then, every deadline set by the NGT to identify and shift the plant to an alternative site has been ignored by the state government and municipal corporation.
The first deadline set by NGT in September 2015 was September 30, 2016. The Supreme Court had then rejected the state government’s petition against this order. Subsequently, finding that the state government was making some excuse or the other for not complying with its September 2015 order, the NGT imposed a penalty of Rs 1 crore on the state government and asked it to identify an alternative site where the abattoir could be shifted by March 31, 2018, which deadline too was missed. This time, the alternative site selected by the state government at AadampurChhavani, 14.5 km from Bhopal, had to be dropped due to stiff resistance from local residents.
The NGT then increased the fine to Rs 2 crore on the state government, plus a penalty of Rs 10,000 for each day of delay till the shifting was finally done by the new deadline of June 30, 2019. By this date, the daily penalty had gone up to Rs 45.70 lakh. But even this did not make the state government take any steps to implement the NGT order.
Meanwhile, the NGT, during the hearing on July 18, 2019 further increased the fine to Rs 5 crore and set a new deadline of December 31, 2019 to identify a new site and finish construction of the abattoir. The NGT, however, has not been able to collect any of these fines, and repeated attempts to get NGT’s view on this got no response.
At a subsequent hearing on October 23rd, a day after the NGT ordered the abattoir’s closure and the filing of a compliance report, the state government again could not give any information regarding the construction of a new slaughterhouse. Additional District Magistrate (ADM) Satish Kumar told the NGT that they were looking for an alternative place, while the Commissioner of Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) said that the new abattoir would be built by December 31st, without giving any details.
Traders hit hard
Meanwhile, as the political haggling over the choice of the new site is going on, representatives of the Bhopal meat traders’ association are planning to move the Supreme Court against the NGT order. “Not only is our trade getting hit, but there is also a noticeable impact on wildlife as big carnivores like lions, tigers, and leopards at Bhopal’s Van Vihar National Park are not getting their regular supply of meat,” said Rafiq Qureshi, a representative of the association. Van Vihar National Park officials said they had been procuring meat from Raisen, some 44 km from the park.
Rafiq said the meat traders’ community is not against the modernisation of the slaughterhouse and is ready to adopt best practices as ordered by the NGT. “But for four years, the municipal authorities have failed to establish a modern abattoir,” said Qureshi.
Aslam Sarwar, who runs a meat shop in the Aishbagh area of the old city, said that the livelihood of many families are at stake. “It is the government’s responsibility to resolve this issue as soon as possible”. Islamuddin, another meat vendor in the Jehangirabad area, pointed out that the Jinsi slaughterhouse had first been shut down in June 2016, as the BMC failed to shift the facility before the deadline set by the NGT at that time. “But in August 2016, NGT had permitted resumption of abattoir operations for 18 months after the state government gave an undertaking that it would give land for a new slaughterhouse, but nothing happened,” said Islamuddin. “The closure has hit meat traders as they have no other means of livelihood.”
A meat vendor in Bagh Farhat Afza in Old Bhopal said the possibilities of illegal slaughtering are rife as nearly 4,000 families depend upon the business for their survival, even as meat prices in the city have gone up from Rs 440 per kg to Rs 480 per kg.
Shahin Khan, a housewife in the TT Nagar area of Bhopal, said that meat supply was much less after the shutdown. “The government must find a solution as this is not a good situation and has impacted both meat vendors and common people,” said Shahin. Zafar Ali, a resident of Arera Colony who works as an accountant in a private firm, said, “The closure of the slaughterhouse has affected thousands of families directly. These are people whose employment is directly or indirectly linked to the abattoir. The cattle rearers who sell animals, people who slaughter the animals and those who sell meat, all of them have been impacted. There will be illegal slaughtering in the city and it will create other problems.”
No alternative site
Political consensus on finding an alternative site remains elusive, with former chief minister Digvijaya Singh entering the fray, opposing the choice of AadampurChhavani. In a letter to his son Jaivardhan Singh, who is also the Urban Administration Minister, Digvijaya Singh demanded that the abattoir should not be built at AadampurChhavani, as proposed in 2017 by the earlier BJP government led by Shivraj Singh Chauhan, as it would be near the Kankali Mata Temple on Raisen Road, managed by the state tourism department, which is visited by lakhs of people during Navaratri. The erstwhile Chauhan government had even prepared a detailed project report for the same.
Responding to his father’s letter, Jaivardhan Singh said the slaughterhouse would not be built at AadampurChhavani as long as he was the minister and Congress government was in power in the state.
A little-known fact amidst this political wrangling is that the BMC has in hand a detailed project report for a state-of-the-art facility guaranteeing compliance of the prerequisites of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000. It only awaits a site acceptable to all. Bhopal Municipal Corporation Additional commissioner Mayank Verma insists that “we are ready to set up a new abattoir and construction can begin as soon as the land is granted.”
BMC Commissioner, B Vijay Dutta has said that “four sites are being considered for shifting of the slaughterhouse. The first is at village Jhiriniya on Raisen Road. The other three sites under consideration are at Khajuri, Berasia Road and village Kuchna, also on Berasia Road.”
With a decision on any of these sites unlikely to happen any time soon, the latest NGT deadline of December 31 2019 will also perhaps simply slip by.