CHENNAI: Vinod, as a weekend ritual, went to his usual chicken centre near his house to buy meat on Saturday morning. When he reached the centre, he was surprised to see that shop was shut. He stood clueless in front of the shop till he read a notice board hung in front of the shop: “The shop is shut till the end of the month as per the order of Greater Chennai Corporation to deal with COVID-19 pandemic”.
Disappointed by the sudden disappearance of meat from the market, he says he could have stored enough chicken meat in his refrigerator if he was made aware of the shutdown earlier. "Why the order is issued over night?," he asks in desperation.
Vinod is not an exception, but almost all non-vegetarians in the city have been irked by the decision of authorities to shut all slaughterhouses, meat centres and poultry shops during the current 12-day lockdown period that got underway on Friday, citing overcrowding at these outlets, especially during the weekends.
Adam Basha, who is a meat merchant at Adyar for the last two decades, has still not come to terms with the shutdown order that brought him loss of at least Rs 5,000 to 10,000 a day. "I don’t know how to manage the situation as days to come. Government should compensate for the loss we have suffered. The sudden implementation of the order has affected not only the livelihood of my family but also the entire supply chain," he laments.
“We used to buy meat directly from the slaughter houses and fish in bulk from traders at Kasimedu harbour. Now supply chain has crashed due to the ban," Zaheerudeen, a restaurant owner in Vepery, points out
Though non-vegetarian eateries that source chicken from poultry farms are able to supply chicken dishes alone, the business has become more difficult since the restaurants have to procure e-passes for the refrigerated trucks of the poultry farms to reach Chennai. The closure of the slaughter houses and mutton stalls has hit Biryani hotels that experience brisk business during weekends.
Muhammad Sahiya, a meat shop owner in Nungambakkom, says due to the ban he has got additional liability of taking care of four employees at his shop. He says his staff members were working at the shop with the daily wage Rs 700. "How can I pay them if I can’t run the business? At the end of the day, we all are destined to suffer," he rues.
He also said that he came to know about the order only Thursday night as breaking news on the TV channels. He says he couldn’t cancel the order given to meat suppliers from Andhra Pradesh, which has added additional burden on his business.
“The ban would really hit us bad since we sell about 250 tonnes of fish every day. Now we are unable to export the catch to neighbouring states due to restriction in transport. Usually, we export 30 percent of the catch. Even vehicles from Chennai are not permitted into other districts of the state and cities like Bengaluru, which is our second market,” according to Anthony Raj, member, Kasimedu Fishing Harbour Union.
A survey carried out by the Department of Meat Science and Technology, Madras Veterinary College, on meat and processed meat products in the city has revealed that the monthly average meat purchase for a household is 6.27kg. When it comes to fish consumption, it is 5.83kg per month. Most of the non-vegetarians in the town consume meat twice a week at home and at hotels, regardless of religion. And the average consumption of meat among the consumers in Chennai is well above the national per capita consumption, the survey report says.
The corporation officials say they imposed a ban as they did not want the meat and fish selling shops to emerge as hotspots like Koyambedu. It was police that suggested the closure of shops, say Corporation officials....