Goa Chief Minister has directed police to take strict action against vigilante groups harassing traders
It is 6 am at Keri, the border town of Karnataka-Goa, a place where meat traders claim they were harassed while transporting bovine from Belgaun in Karnataka to Goa. On the intermittent night of December 24, 2017, Bhim Rao along with his driver was transporting buffalo meat in a truck. Merely 10 kilometres out of Panaji, two men and two women dressed in civil clothes, accompanied by two policemen, stop his truck. Bhim Rao shows them the documents required to transport meat.
"I have been transporting meat for three years now and been carrying these documents. But that morning, they verbally abused me and said I was indulging in illegal trade. They put my driver in jail for five days and kept me at a police station for nine hours without giving me any more information. They then said the meat was imported illegally and had to be disposed of. A bucket full of phenyl was thrown on the meat that was inside our truck," says Mr Rao.
Beef traders across Goa are finding it difficult to run their business as the supplies from Karnataka have resumed but are limited. Hussain is a meat shop owner in Panjim's meat market. On an average day, he receives 300 kg of buffalo meat but in the last two days only 70 to 100 kg has been supplied. "Traders coming from Karnataka are scared. We have seen what has been happening around the country. We were only short of being physically abused so we want the support of government to continue trading," he says.
The Panjim meat market had to manage with six tonnes of cold meat that was brought in by cold meat traders. Goa requires between 20 and 25 tonnes of buffalo meat per day.
Sources in the Department of Animal Husbandry tell NDTV that to import buffalo meat into Goa, the cold meat has to be brought in an insulated freezer van. They must also carry ante-mortem and post mortem certificates showing the meat is fit for consumption. Moreover, the meat must be slaughtered from an authorised slaughter house. While bringing in live cattle, the traders need to obtain a fitness certificate as per the 1996 rules, something the traders claim they were not aware of.
Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has directed state police to take strict action against vigilante groups harassing traders. But for restaurant owners, the damage is already done. Virendra Sinh is an award winning restaurateur with patrons returning for the signature dishes.
"Not just international tourists but also locals come to our restaurant for some of our popular beef dishes. In Goa, you cannot put restrictions based on food choices else business, the culture will suffer," he says.