Saturday, February 2, 2008
Govt is helpless: Mantri

Javed ShahSrinagar, Feb 1 The state government has expressed helplessness in dealing with the ongoing acute shortage of mutton in the Valley following a ‘ban’ by self-proclaimed animal rights activists in New Delhi. Consumer Affairs minister Taj Mohi-ud-Din told etala’at on Friday the government cannot intervene in the matter as every state has its own laws. The so-called animal rights activists led by former Indian Environment minister Maneka Gandhi have been harassing meat traders from the Valley in Delhi markets. The activists reportedly intercept sheep-loaded trucks on the highways in Delhi and extort Rs from 20,000 to 30,000 as fine. Besides, they don’t allow a load of beyond 40 sheep (per truck) against the state governments approved 160. “This is sheer harassment by the self-proclaimed upholders of animal rights. The state government should intervene to save us from perpetual trauma,” said Meraj-ud-Din Dajoo, Kashmir’s leading meat dealer.But Taj, the minister, expressed his helplessness. “I am helpless and my chief minister has also expressed his helplessness regarding the issue. How can I intervene and tell Maneka (Gandhi) to abandon her protest because I am also holding the portfolio of Animal Husbandry Department,” he said.Taj added: “Anybody who affords to have the luxury of consuming mutton can wherever he gets it. I cannot do anything for mutton lovers. It has nothing to do with Islam. Since the majority of the population of India is non-Muslim, how can I impress them?”Kashmir imports around 60 to 70 percent sheep and goats from Delhi markets besides Punjab, Rajasthan and other states of north India. “It seems Maneka Gandhi has visceral hatred for Kashmir and Kashmiris. Earlier, she was instrumental in banning the shahtoosh trade, thereby snatching the livelihood of more than 300,000 people associated with the industry,” said Ghulam Nabi Shah, an imam of a Srinagar mosque told etala’at. “Now she is adamant to turn the Kashmiris into Vaishnavi (vegetarians).”According to the mutton dealers, the import of sheep and goats from Delhi has virtually stopped. The shortage has forced mutton sellers and others related to the trade in the Valley to shut down their shops. And if mutton is available anywhere, it’s sold at Rs 200 a kg against the normal rate of Rs 160.With higher consumption of mutton during winters in the Valley, the residents are also feeling the pinch. "Due to extreme winters, meat is preferred the most. Meat is very important part of our diet during winters. The demand is also high but unfortunately we are facing huge shortage in the market," said Shabir Ahmed, a Srinagar resident.Before the present crisis, over 20 truckloads of sheep would arrive in the Kashmir Valley daily. The traders at the sheep and goat markets have alleged that the trucks are stopped at the checkposts ostensibly to control overcrowding of animals in the vehicles, but the purpose is to extract money. They said that the laws in various Indian states specify different number of animals that can be carried in each truck, which worsens their problem."They unnecessarily stop the trucks and keep harassing us. They extract huge amount of money from the truck drivers and we are compelled to pay the amount," said Dajoo, the mutton importer.According to him, the market has suffered losses amounting to Rs 10.5 million since the unofficial ban.

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