Srinagar: The disappearance of mutton from valley markets has forced Kashmiris go without their favourite food for weeks.
Following the revised rate of mutton announced by the Divisional Administration Kashmir, the butchers have closed down their shops, resulted in the vanishing of mutton from the markets.
The non-availability of mutton has forced many people to go great lengths, and distances, to fetch a pound of their preferred food commodity.
“Mutton is not available at the shops, but several butchers sell it clandestinely at much higher rates,” said Farooq Ahmad, a City resident.
Kashmir has the highest per capita mutton consumption. The high demand has led to inflated rates, much higher than the rates fixed by the Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution department.
“Authorities have left people at the mercy of butchers as mutton supply has been stopped for about a month now, it seems, the government has surrendered before the diktat of ever strong mutton mafia leaving consumers in the valley craving for mutton,” said another city resident, Bashir Ahmad.
“After fixing rate, the arrogant butcher community decided to teach a lesson to both people as well well as the government by closing their shops during the day time,” Bashir added.
Kashmiris have more liking for mutton sourced from sheep, unlike in other parts were goat meat is preferred.
Locals believe that availability of mutton in Kashmir markets reduces drastically whenever government fixes any genuine price for mutton.
“Daring authorities to act against them, butchers open their shops early morning and sell the meat at Rs 600 till 10am, and the unfortunate part is, concerned officials do not act against the mafia,” said Syed Bilal, of Kamarwari area.
Another city resident Mukhtaar Ahmad said, “I purchased meat for Rs 600 per KG today; the meat seller simply told me that it was not possible for him to sell at government fixed rates,” Ahtisham Bhat of Dalgate said.
Director, Food Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs (FCSCA), Bashir Ahmad Khan, blames the huge mutton demand for the high retail rates.
“The huge demand of mutton in Kashmir gives butchers a leverage to have a free hand to decide the rates. They never following the prices set by the government,” Director FCSCA, Bashir Ahmad Khan said. Adding that the department can’t force butchers to open their shops. “If they don’t want to do their routine business, how can we force them to open their shops,” he said.
When asked that the concerned department has to maintain regular supplies, Khan said, “People can live without mutton, it’s not the need, which one has to fulfill everyday. Instead of mutton, people should purchase chicken and other varieties,” he said. Adding, “It is this liking (for mutton) that is resulting in exploiting of consumers. We always pay more for mutton, though better sources of protein are available in the shape of meat sourced from other animals, which we shy away from even tasting,” Khan said.
Khan requested consumers to use helpline number in case any butcher overcharges them.
“We have registered various FIRs against butchers who were overcharging. We have made helpline number public and I request every consumer to use that helpline number in case any butcher overcharges them,” Director CAPD said.
He said that the new rates have been decided by the mutton price fixation committee. “We are here for public and nobody will be allowed to loot public. Overcharging won’t be taken easily. It is the responsibility of consumers to complain against those who overcharge, I assure them of strict action,” he said.
“The administration earlier woke up to fix the meat prices. And, after fixing the prices, the butchers have decided to teach both people and government a lesson by closing their shops, which is unfortunate and the most unfortunate part is that after fixing rates, the authorities are not taking any action against these butchers, who have closed their shops,” said another city resident.
One of the butcher here in HSHS told GMK that none of any butcher can sell mutton on government rates. Adding that they are getting 556 as a wholesale rate from dealers.
“We are getting 556 as a wholesale rate, so how will we sell at 480? We have talked to the mutton dealers to provide us mutton as per government rates and only when they provide us at that rate can we start selling. Till that time shops will remain closed as we cannot suffer losses and humiliate ourselves,” said one of the butcher on conditions of anonymity.
“Shops are closed because of government action, we are compelled to sell the meat at low prices, which we cannot afford to do,” he added.
Director, Food Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs (FCSCA) further added that, “We urge people to have some patience. They (Butchers) have some so called union leaders, we will check whether they are involved in this move (Closing shops), we will also talk to them regarding this issue” he said.