Divisive food politics are as dangerous as sartorial politics. Adding an official stamp on what was once a choice, the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) has announced that all meat shops in the city will remain closed on Tuesdays. According to the news reports this No-Meat-Tuesday decision was taken with a view to respect religious sentiments, mostly of Hindus, some of who do not consume meat that day.
According to the provisions of the Haryana Municipal Corporation bylaws, 2008, any municipal corporation across the state has the power to close meat shops on a single day of a week, with immediate effect. Gurugram, which was once known as Gurgaon, has 129 licensed meat shops. There are more that operate without a license, these number around 150 said MCG officials cited in news reports. All of them will now have to shut down shutters on Tuesday.
Ashish Singla, MCG’s chief medical officer, who oversees the issuance of licences, fines and closure orders for meat shops in the city was quoted by Hindustan Times, announcing this: “As per the provisions of the Haryana Municipal Corporation Byelaws, 2008, any municipal corporation can close meat shops on a single day during the week. Hence, such a decision can be implemented with immediate effect.”
A proposal was also tabled before the House on restarting the issuance of licences to meat shop owners and doubling the license fee from ₹5,000 to ₹10,000 reported the Hindustan Times. Councillors Ashwani Sharma and Dharambir Singh, of wards 23 and 21, respectively, added that the civic body should raise the licensing fee to ₹50,000 and also sought that these shops be closed on Tuesdays, due to “religious sentiments.”
Meanwhile, MCG Commissioner Vinay Pratap Singh was quoted by the Indian Express saying food was an “individual choice. I eat, my wife doesn’t eat, it is independent. I cannot force her and she cannot force me. When we cannot decide on this at home itself, the House should think before making any decision regarding the entire city.”
It has already gotten the first political reaction from Hyderabad Lok Sabha MP and president of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) Asaduddin Owaisi who called meat a “food for millions of Indians” adding that “it can’t be treated as something impure.”
How can beliefs get hurt by what other people are doing in their private lives? People are buying, selling or eating meat, they’re not forcing you to partake
By this logic, close alcohol shops on Friday?
Meat is food for millions of Indians. Cannot treat it as something impure https://t.co/oY0eh0ZknT
— Asaduddin Owaisi (@asadowaisi) March 19, 2021
Apart from disregarding personal choices, the decision will also have a financial impact as there will be no sale on Tuesday. According to news reports those in the meat trade have said this closure will result in revenue losses. The HT quoted Pritam Singh, the president of Jacobpura meat shops association as saying, “If the MCG has passed this resolution, there is little else the association or the shopkeepers can do. The MCG should have taken into account that even if a few members of one community do not consume meat on Tuesday, other communities consume it. We were open seven days a week but now, will be forced to close on Tuesdays and lose revenue.”
Meat shops have often been shut down citing ‘religious reasons’ in the past few years. Most such shutdowns are often ‘enforced’ during the Hindu festival seasons of Navratri, and during the Kanwar yatra as well in many cities across the national capital region. A few months ago Nandkishore Gurjar, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) representing Loni, Ghaziabad, on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border had declared that, “No meat shop will be tolerated in Loni during Navratri.” He had also claimed that the area was under a fly path and ‘bones’ etc were dangerous as they could lure birds to circle and threaten bird hits and a potential aircraft crash. Many meat shops had shut in the area fearing unrest and right wing goons. However, it was not a rule till this one in Gurgaon. It may once again inspire others to demand closure of meat shops on a particular day.
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