If you love non-vegetarian food, Chennai is not the place to be – at least till the end of this month. Because the Chennai Corporation has ordered all slaughter houses and meat and poultry shops to be shut down during the current 12-day lockdown period citing overcrowding at these outlets, especially during the weekends.
While the non-vegetarians will have to be content without mutton, chicken and fish dishes, restaurants that are allowed to supply take-away food also have to strike off non-vegetarian cuisines from their menu. “We buy mutton directly from the slaughter houses and fish in bulk from traders at Kasimedu harbour the moment the fishing boats land. Now we cannot source from these places due to the ban and this is really hurting business for non-vegetarian chains like us,” said a partner of Anjappar Chettinad Restaurant group.
Non-vegetarian eateries that source chicken from poultry farms are able to supply chicken dishes alone. Here again the restaurants have to procure e-passes for the refrigerated trucks of the poultry farms to reach Chennai. The closure of the slaughter houses and mutton stalls has hit the dozens of Biryani hotels that dot the city and do brisk business during weekends.
“When 90 per cent of the city’s population eats non-vegetarian food, it is unfair to deny them their weekly quota of protein. How many times do you expect them to eat eggs? If crowding is a problem, you should try and regulate it or stagger the working hours of these outlets. Banning them outright is no solution,” said Japayprakash, a gym instructor. Even meat outlets that supply packed meat only through direct home delivery have been asked to shut shops.
The mutton and fish markets witnessed massive crowds during the last weekend with all social distancing norms thrown to the winds. “Since meat or fish remains fresh only for a limited duration, everyone rushes to get the best pick,” observed Sanotsh, a fish trader in Santhome.
The ban has hit the fishermen and fish traders hard since all their catch is going waste. Many of them are simply dumping their rotten fish into the corporation dust bins. “The ban would really hit us bad since we sell about 250 tonnes of fish every day. Even the 30 per cent that are being exported to neighbouring states due to restriction in transport and vehicles from Chennai are not permitted into other districts of the state and cities like Bengaluru, our second largest market,” said Anthony Raj of Kasimedu Fishing Harbour Union.
A corporation official said that they may ease the curbs after putting in place strict regulations. “The police, who are already overstretched, had suggested their closure as they did not want these markets to emerge as hotspots like the Koyambedu vegetable market. We will hold discussions and see if we can allow them to reopen,” said a senior Corporation official.