The shutters to Yasin Khan’s 36-year-old meat shop in Delhi’s INA market are half open, but the 51-year-old politely refuses as a customer stops by for mutton on Tuesday afternoon. His is not the only one – around 40 other meat shops in the south Delhi market are shut too. “But what can we do? This is the first time that something like this is happening here,” said Khan.
The INA Market is known for fresh seafood and meat, besides other perishables.
On Monday evening, a vaguely written letter by the mayor of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation sought the closure of meat shops during the nine-day Navratri festival from April 2 to April 11. There are around 1,500 registered meat shops in the SDMC’s jurisdiction.
While the mayor said that the ban on meat shops will be “strictly enforced”, an official order or communication to such shop owners is yet to be issued.
This triggered confusion on Tuesday – most shops in other south Delhi localities such as C R Park and Kalkaji were open while establishments such as Khan’s in INA market were shut. In CR Park, a shopkeeper said that he will shut the shop if someone from MCD comes to tell him the same.
But as information about the order spread through news and social media networks, many shut their shops fearing that their licenses will be revoked.
“If we were told before, we would have managed things better...If this doesn’t get sorted soon, I’ll go back home for a week,” said Khan, who gets 30-50 animals every morning from Ghazipur and has employed three workers to cut the meat – there are around 400 labourers in the market.
However, Amit Kumar, director of SDMC’s press and information bureau, told Newslaundry that the letter should not be taken as an order yet. “The mayor has written a letter to the Commissioner about the same but it is yet to be examined. It is not an order. We will examine it and issue directives in a day or two,” he said, adding that shops can continue to remain open as of now and a decision will be taken based on the “law”.
The Foodhall store at the DLF Vasant Kunj mall also closed its meat section.
‘We eat based on the work we do here’
Mohammad Aftar, who has been working as a labourer at a shop in INA since 20 years, earns Rs 700 a day. He sends money to his home in UP, where his five children and wife reside, every month. With the impromptu ban, Aftar is worried about how he will manage now.
“If the shop doesn’t open, what will we labourers do? We eat based on the work we do here…People are scared. They read in the papers that the mayor said that if we keep the shops open, our licenses will be taken away. If we knew beforehand, the shop owners wouldn't have bought stuff, which will now go to waste.”
His worries are echoed by other workers, sitting outside shops that are shut, speaking to each other and the occasional customer. Losing out on just a week’s work could result in heavy losses for many who are yet to recover from the blow of the pandemic.
Consider the example of Mohammad Sajid, who lives in Ghazipur and travels to INA every morning for work. Sitting with two other workers opposite the shop he has worked at for 20 years, he wonders how he will manage income, especially in this festive month of Ramzan.
“Without money, there will be no celebration. I want to ask the MCD where we labourers should go? What are we supposed to do? If they wanted to implement this, why didn’t they give notice? If no one is complaining, what is the problem? There is no temple or masjid around here.”
Mohammad Sabir, 48, has 10 labourers and has been running a shop here since 1974 – a responsibility passed down from his father. “Where will the labourers go? How will all of us eat, drink, make ends meet? All I have is this shop,” he said, adding that they have started noticing changes such as these since the BJP government came to power. “Government should work to give employment, but here, they are taking it away from us, stealing.”
SDMC Mayor Mukkesh Suryan did not respond to requests for comment.
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