Non-veg, Guwahati Style

The Administrator of the Gauhati Municipal Corporation, Phani Sarma, has a strange way of describing the non-functioning of his department: “the lack of administrative and implementing authority”. Any question that begins “Why is this …” is met with “Sorry I have no information. If you do please tell me …” One does, actually have some: that out of the 800 meat shops in the city, only 150 have licences. Mercifully, that is the only piece of information that Sarma says he has, as well, but, obviously can do nothing about. Any reference to any of the rest, including the fact that many of the city’s butchers routinely put out the meat of sick or dead animals in their stalls, is met with his favourite, “I will look into it.” For a city that is predominantly non-vegetarian, Guwahati is a health disaster in the making.

People falling ill after consuming meat has become a common phenomenon in Guwahati. Anupam Hazarika, 21, fell violently ill after eating a meat dish. Rajib Kaushik, on a visit to the city from Dibrugarh in Upper Assam, developed a skin infection after eating meat. The list goes on, even as the sale of meat continues unabated, in the most unhygienic of conditions, and without licence. Among the butchers’ favourite: slaughtering animals near drains and sometimes even using dirty water from the drains to increase the weight of the meat.

Hardly a few meat shops in the city have deep freezes, routinely selling stale, leftover meat. Even those who have bonafide licences from the GMC flout the rules: not many, for example, have the mandatory glass cases to keep away flies. In the city’s Kahilipara area, adjacent to the capital complex at Dispur, there are nine shops that sell pork. Of them, only one has a licence. Worse still, the only government slaughter-house at Bhootnath, close to the Kamakhya temple is meant only for mutton. The result: those selling pork are accountable to just about nobody, with their animals (and this applies to goats as well) never checked by doctors before they are slaughtered. Ditto for the dozen or more shops that sell beef in the city.

For now, running an unlicenced meat shop in Guwahati comes for a small price, by way of a monthly Rs 100 to Rs 500 payable as bribe to the GMC enforcement officer, according to vendors. And it keeps getting worse. Ask Muktali Ali, who sells mutton in the city’s Noonmati area near Gauhati Refinery, what he does with with his leftover, unsold meat, and pat comes the reply: “I sell it to the hotel,” he says, referring to a nearby restaurant. The mouth-watering ‘mutton masala’ you see in the menus of Guwahati’s eating places is obviously not what you get on your table.

By Monalisa Gogoi (