The aim of the rules is to cover meat being sold outside shops in the area and to carefully dispose of waste, so that birds are not attracted close to the airport – causing an accident hazard to planes.
Officials of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), the licensing authority, have told meat retailers in this zone that they must first secure a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation. Arvind D Gosavi, the corporation’s chief inspector of shops and other commercial establishments, told GlobalMeatNews: “The airport authority has told us not to give a licence to any [meat shop] without its approval.”
However, Mohammed Ali Qureshi, president of Mumbai Meat Traders’ Welfare Association, accused the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which rules both in the Mumbai’s home state of Maharashtra and the central government, of being behind the tightening of restrictions. He told GlobalMeatNews: “This is unnecessary harassment and it seems the intention is to shut all meat shops and make everyone vegetarian.” Supporters of the restrictions also include many pro-vegetarian activists.
According to Qureshi, Mumbai has 1,000 mutton and 700 buffalo meat traders, along with a much larger number of chicken retailers, although they are not part of any industry association.
Of the 75% of these traders that are in the airport zone, Qureshi said that 300 to 350 NOC applications had so far been submitted to the airport authorities, but no approvals had been granted as yet. “The last date for renewal of the licence is 31 March and, without this licence, most of the shops would have to be shut,” he said. “Shopkeepers are very worried.”
Qureshi said the 10km radius was too wide, and the order would only have been acceptable if it covered shops in the close proximity to the airport.
Possible legal action
Vijay Prakash Agarwal, a former chairman of Airports Authority of India (AAI), told GlobalMeatNews that there was no blanket ban on operating meat shops in this area. The only requirement was that “the shops should have proper cover, all disposal methods are taken care of and they do not attract birds”, he said.
According to Agarwal, birds pose a serious threat to aircraft and, every year, 50 to 60 bird hits are reported across India. “Especially in Mumbai there are many slums around the airport that attract scavengers like kites and crows,” he said.
Almost all traditional meat shops in India hang large pieces of meat at their entrance and chickens are mostly slaughtered in front of the customers. “Some customers prefer fatty meat, some want boneless, some want them in small pieces, some wants to make keema [minced meat], while many of them take portions of same meat in different cut sizes,” said Qureshi. This is one reason why the frozen meat industry has not become popular in India, he added. “Everyone wants to buy fresh meat,” he said.
For now, Mumbai meat traders are holding off from staging political agitation or legal action. “We are waiting for what happens after 31 March,” said Qureshi. “Maybe the authorities will back out at the last moment.”