Hyderabad: Even though researchers had found that the novel coronavirus had originated and spread through wet markets in China, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) does not appear to have any plans to improve hygiene in fish markets in the city.
This apart, it has not taken any decision pertaining to the import of fish from neighbouring states including Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra and others where Covid-19 cases have been on the rise.
On the flipside, fearing that the consumption of red meat, especially chicken, will spread Covid-19, citizens have been opting for fish. The average consumption during weekdays has increased from 120 tonnes to 160 tonnes and during the weekend, from 350 tonnes to about 500 tonnes.
According to the official records of the Telangana state fisheries department, on an average about 120 tonnes of fish per day are exported to Hyderabad from Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal and the livelihood of about 10,000 fisherpeople depends on the markets in the city.
People have been thronging in huge numbers to fish markets since other meat markets began seeing a slump with fears of coronavirus infections. Surprisingly, the city has only two operational fish markets at Begum Bazaar and Monda market in Secunderabad, which were constructed by the City Improvement Board (CIB) in the 1930s, during the erstwhile Nizam rule.
Due to the lack of markets to sell fish, they are sold on the wayside and on bicycles travelling in the city’s bylanes. While reports in Wuhan suggest that the coronavirus spread like a wild fire from wet markets, the authorities in the city are still ignorant about the fact.
When queried whether the government was taking any measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus from neighbouring states through the import of fish, fisheries minister Talasani Srinivas Yadav told Deccan Chronicle that the government is yet to take a decision.
However, the minister said that the government would certainly stop imports from August or September. Commissioner of fisheries Dr C Suvarna could not be reached despite multiple attempts to contact her.
“We have been already taking additional measures to curtail the spread of covid 19. However, we would have a special focus on fish markets and sellers,” GHMC commissioner, D S Lokesh Kumar, said. He said that he would immediately hold a review meeting and give necessary instructions to the corporation staff.
Interestingly, it was way back in February 2012, that Rs 9.9 crore was sanctioned for construction of four modern fish markets at Begum Bazaar, Domalguda, Nacharam, and Kukatpally with the government asking GHMC to construct them within a year.
The National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) had also assured GHMC that it would bear 90 per cent of the construction cost.
The NFDB had also released 50 per cent (Rs 4.4 crore) of the amount. Six years have gone by but the corporation is yet to build even one operational fish market. The only fish market for which construction began is in Begum Bazaar which is in its final stages of completion.