Take steps to renew meat shop licences

The new Uttar Pradesh government under Yogi Adityanath has hit the ground running with a crackdown on eve-teasing and meat shops in the state. The government’s action against harassment of women and girls and illegal meat business had been promised in the BJP election manifesto. But in both the cases, the idea is being overdone and in the case of closure of meat shops, the action is obviously targeted at the Muslim community. The ‘anti-Romeo squads’ of the police which are now roaming the streets, are actually harassing couples, men and even women instead of ensuring the safety of women. Many innocent men and women have been dragged to police stations for being seen together. Threats and intimidations, bullying, informal punishments and extortions are part of the
police conduct, which in any case is not supported by any law. More importantly, it hurts the idea of freedom. Men and women have the right to freely interact on the road or anywhere. It is wrong to make it unsafe and illegal for women to be seen with men, and the existence of police squads will legitimise vigilante actions.

The drive against the meat business is more serious and can have a damaging impact on the livelihoods of people and the state’s economy. The government has sealed over 40 slaughter houses and hundreds of meat shops. Many cases have been registered. A number of people have been arrested on the charge of cattle smuggling. Meat sellers have protested by shutting shops and meat has disappeared from shops and kitchens. Buffalo meat and mutton production have sharply fallen and beef exports have declined. Though the drive is apparently against illegal slaughter houses, it has hit all meat shops. Most shops that supply meat locally are unlicensed. Obtaining a licence is difficult and sometimes impossible. The shops should have been given time to renew their licences before being told to shut down. Even where there is a licence, there is much harassment. The drive is ill-planned and the need actually is to open more legal abattoirs.

There are many other unlicensed shops and businesses even in the food sector like sweetmeat shops and dairy establishments which do not follow rules and regulations. The impression is that the axe has fallen on meat shops because most of them are owned by Muslims. It has thrown tens of thousands of people out of jobs. The citizens’ freedom is again in focus because professional and dietary choices are being restricted and denied. The right to free movement and the right to eat are basic rights which are under attack with the overzealous and discriminatory actions of the government.

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