Mumbai: Reopen Deonar abattoir, say meat traders, suppliers

Updated: Jun 24, 2020, 07:52 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

Proposal to reopen abattoir with the civic chief for approval as several workers whose livelihood depends on the slaughterhouse count days until they can resume work

A pre-COVID-19 picture of Babu Shaikh (extreme left in grey shirt) with other workers taken at Deonar Abattoir
A pre-COVID-19 picture of Babu Shaikh (extreme left in grey shirt) with other workers taken at Deonar Abattoir

Although it has been three weeks since the lifting of lockdown restrictions, the supply of meat in the city remains limited due to a still-closed Deonar abattoir. Around 1,500 people, whose livelihoods are tied to the abattoir, are desperate to resume work. A proposal for reopening is awaiting the nod from civic chief Iqbal Singh Chahal.

The Bombay Suburban Beef Dealers Welfare Association wrote to the civic chief in the first week of June asking to resume operations. "Traders, workers, shopkeepers and the staff have had no income for three months. In Vashi, meat supply has resumed. It is high time they start the Deonar Abattoir so that incomes resume and Mumbaikars get affordable meat," Mohammed Qureshi, president of the association said.

Every week has been rougher than the last for workers like Babu Ghulam Rasool Shaikh, 48, who, in his 25 years of employment, was never out of work for such a long time. Shaikh, who earns between Rs 10,000 and Rs 15,000 a month, said that he ran out of savings in May and had hoped to go back to work on June 1. "I spent my savings to feed my family. I have four children and to take care of them, I started borrowing money. I have been calling the abattoir every two days to know when I can rejoin," said Shaikh.

Shaikh added that some buffalo and goat meat is coming from other sources and due to the shortage, prices have spiked. The abattoir's closure forced meat shop owners to shut their shops too. Sharafat Qureshi, who owns a meat shop in Mahim, said that he has not been able to pay full wages to his workers. "I have been giving my workers some money but with the shop closed for three months, I cannot afford to give full salaries. Even if the abattoir starts with less supply, it will help us start our livelihood again. We are willing to follow all precautions," he said.

According to Mohammed, there are 1,500 workers at the abattoir and 700 meat shop owners who have an average of three staffers each. Earlier, the abattoir was shut down after COVID-19 surged in M East ward and most of the nearby area came under Containment Zones. Civic officials said that the proposal for reopening was discussed during a meeting of senior civic officials a week ago.

The proposal suggests that the abattoir start again at half capacity. "While earlier, animal traders would bring the livestock in more than 100 vehicles, now only 10-12 will be allowed. All safety precautions will have to be taken including, a thorough screening of workers and wearing masks and gloves. The proposal has bee submitted to the commissioner for approval," said a civic official. Chahal told mid-day that the proposal is on his radar and is being considered.

No. of workers employed at the abattoir

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