• By Abid Bashir
  • Publish Date: Oct 1 2018 4:50AM
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  • Updated Date: Oct 1 2018 4:51AM
IS IT SAFERepresentational Pic

It is beyond doubt that people of Kashmir are voracious meat eaters. From an ordinary house to parties to marriages, mouth watering mutton dishes are an inseparable part of life in the Valley. Besides mutton, poultry consumption too has cemented its place in the region. But a million dollar question: is mutton and the poultry, which people of Kashmir consume every day, safe and hygienic?

Though the Jammu and Kashmir government has put some mechanism in place to ensure that the people consume safe and disease free mutton and poultry, but at the same time there are major loopholes in the existing system that may force a common man think twice before consuming meat and chicken. One of the major challenges, which perhaps is the mother of all problems, is just one single abattoir in Rainawari area of downtown where not more than a dozen sheep can be slaughtered at a time, given its capacity.

The officials at the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) claim that all the livestock which primarily includes sheep, goat and poultry entering into Kashmir after a thorough check by teams of experts including veterinary doctors is hundred per cent safe for consumption.

What poses a threat is there exists no monitoring mechanism for the butchers who slaughter sheep, goat within their premises. Also, no check on the slaughtering of poultry birds sets alarm bells ringing. This is what raises doubts in the minds of people whether the mutton and chicken consumed by them is safe for their health.

Beyond slaughtering of sheep, goat and poultry, what poses a serious threat to the environment is the waste they produce. In majority of Srinagar parts, wastes from sheep and goat slaughter can be seen flowing through the main drains—a serious threat to the environment and also a major causes of infection due to pollution it develops in the area. Though officials stress that sheep, goat once slaughtered doesn’t produce much waste as most of that which includes hides, head and feet of sheep or goat, are sold and consumed. But, they admit the huge waste produced by slaughtering of poultry is of course a problem, even though SMC vehicles collect it in a large quantity.

At the same time, officials at the SMC confess that whatever waste produced after slaughtering of sheep, goat and poultry has a major drawback—it gives stray dogs a field day and increases their number. However, officials assert that they have launched a major counter as well to bring down the numbers of stray dogs.

Doctor Javaid Ahmed Rather, who is the Veterinary Officer with the SMC, said a multi-layer grid is in place to ensure every truck laden with the livestock—sheep, goat and poultry—entering Kashmir from Jammu goes through a proper check. “First check point is at Zig, Qazigund, where a joint team of experts from Animal Husbandry department, Food Safety Department and SMC jointly check every single sheep and goat,” he said. “The dead sheep or goat, if found in the truck are immediately removed. Second round of check entails checking the health of livestock and if need arises, we take blood and other samples for tests.”

He said normally blood  samples of the livestock is collected whenever there is an input or an alert about any outbreak of disease in any part of India like the foot and mouth diseases found in some states. Dr Javaid said the second round of checking and monitoring takes place at Pantha Chowk where a similar team thoroughly checks the livestock before allowing the truck to enter into city premises.

“No truck is allowed to enter city premises without clearance paper that has two seals—that of Qazigund and Pantha chowk check posts,” he said.  However, the new express highway from Lasjan to Galander has thrown a big challenge for the government. “Most of the trucks prefer this route as it cuts the travel duration and helps the driver reach city quickly,” Dr Javaid said. “We have decided to set up another check point at Nowgam for which tenders are already issued.” If any truck driver violates the rules, there is a provision of imposing a fine of Rs 10000 on him. “We can also seize his license,” he said.

However, a source said that there is a nexus between SMC officials and some mutton distributors. “The dead sheep or goat is supplied to some mutton distributors in lieu of the amount agreed. This mutton is used in some hotels and restaurants,” he alleged. The SMC officials, however, said: “It is not possible given the proper disposal mechanism set up for dead sheep or goat.”

The Veterinary Officer SMC, however, said that if there is any such case, “people should report it along with proof.”

The figures about slaughtering of sheep, goat and poultry are surprising for sure. “In Srinagar district alone, 2500 sheep and goat are slaughter every day. As far as chicken consumption is concerned, in Srinagar district 90,000 to 1,00,000 birds (chicken) are slaughtered and consumed every day,” Dr Javaid said.

On how modernized was the inspection being carried out at Zig, Qazigund, and Pantha chowk, he said: “I can say with full authority that 99 per cent of the inspection is done on the lines of modern techniques. Primary focus remains on to find out whether the sheep, goat or poultry is carrying any parasitic, viral or bacterial infection. That is gauged through symptoms and behavior of the stock.”

The government, however, admits that absence of a modernized slaughter house is a big problem. “At present, we have only one slaughter house in Rainawari area of downtown. But that doesn’t have too much of a capacity. There we can only slaughter almost a dozen sheep at a time,” said Dr Javaid.

Asked about the much talked about state of the art abattoir, he said the project had got stuck for some reasons but its detailed project report (DPR), soil clearance test, and tendering process has already been completed. “The new slaughter house is coming up at Aloochibagh Srinagar at an estimated cost of Rs 25 crore. There will be a capacity to slaughter 5000 sheep and goat at a time,” he said. “We have received the response from two departments to our tenders—JK Projects Construction Corporation and Mechanical Engineering Department (MED),” he said.

A source in the SMC, however, said that project to set up state or the art slaughter house has remained stuck in the technical hitches for the past eight years. “One can only hope that work is started on it, sooner the better,” he said. He admitted that the exiting abattoir at Rainawari was catering to the needs of only a dozen butchers, that too who have shops adjacent to it.

“We come here early in the morning to slaughter sheep. It’s a good place and has almost every facility including water, drainage and waste disposal system. But it’s a very small space for us,” said Ali Muhammad Najar, a local butcher. “Since downtown is a congested place, I suggest slaughter houses should be constructed on the lines of marriage halls. This is the need of the hour.” He said one small slaughter house can’t cater to the need of a city of 1.5 million people. “There is hardly any house in the city that doesn’t consume meat at least twice a week,” he said.

Asked where do other butchers of the city slaughter the sheep, Shabir Ahmed, another butcher present in the Rainawari abattoir said: “They have no place other than their homes. They have no other choice.” At Rainawari slaughter house, every sheep is stamped by the officials of SMC.

The SMC officials, however, say waste produced by the sheep or goat is not that much compared to waste produced by poultry. “Once a sheep is slaughter, it produces blood as the main waste. Poultry waste is a big issue,” said an official. He said Srinagar alone where 90,000 to 1,00,000 poultry birds are slaughtered every day, produces an estimated waste of 40,000 kgs.

Health Officer SMC, Dr Qazi Javaid said that the waste of sheep or goat that flows in the drains is ultimately cleaned by the SMC. “It doesn’t pose a health hazard. Yes, poultry waste is huge and for that our vehicles called scoopers visit the localities already identified where poultry birds are used in large number and the waste is collected,” he said. “The poultry waste is disposed off on modern lines and there is need to panic.” He, however, said that since SMC can’t reach everywhere, people must develop a civic sense to keep their surroundings clean. There are 150 scoopers (modern garbage lifting vehicles) and 30 old garbage collecting vehicles in the SMC’s fleet.

An SMC official said people selling poultry had developed a habit of throwing poultry waste directly in the river Jehlum. “At most of the bridges, fencing was done to ensure no one throws the waste into the river, which is our lifeline as majority of areas get drinking water supply from it,” he said. “Everything can’t be left on the government.”

He, however, admitted that butchers living in the city are not adhering to the four conditions already set for them for slaughtering sheep in their own premises. “The area for slaughtering should be neat and clean, there should be proper drainage within the premises like septic tank system, tiles should be fixed on the floor and spraying of disinfectants were the conditions set for butchers,” the official said. “In Srinagar outskirts, where there is no drainage system, butchers do follow these directions, but yes, in main city including downtown, majority of butchers pay no heed to them.” 

He said officials from the SMC fined a few butchers for violating the norms, but the drive “triggered law and order problem and we decided to stop it for some time.” He admitted that no hygiene is maintained while transporting the slaughtered sheep from butcher’s home to his shop. “Here, the slaughtered sheep or goat can catch infection which can later transmit into human body and result in various infections,” the officer said.

Convener Environmental Policy Group (EPG) of Kashmir Faiz Bakshi said there is no solid or liquid waste management policy in the Valley. “The waste of sheep and goat flows openly in drains that ultimately go into our lakes and other water bodies from where we drink the water. Plus, there is no scientific waste disposal mechanism in place in Kashmir,” he said. “If there is any, let the SMC explain. The waste produced by poultry and sheep and goat after they are slaughtered, poses major environmental threat. Our almost all water bodies are polluted because of this waste.” The EPG has filed a public interest litigation in this regard. “SMC is bound to explain where it dumps the waste produced in Kashmir including the poultry, sheep and goat waste,” he said. “An environmental disaster is in the making and only God knows what will happen.”