Mutton and chicken are suddenly dirty words in large parts of Kolkata after reports of meat from carcass being picked up from dump yards and sold. The sale of meat has dropped in restaurants, markets and outlets selling frozen products. A city of passionate carnivores is turning to vegetarian meals and fish.
- The sale of meat has dropped in Kolkata markets
- Police raids last week unlidded tonnes of meat of suspicious origin
- At least 10 men have been arrested, many more detained for questioning
Over the weekend, the owner of a wholesale chicken outlet at Laketown near the Kolkata airport escaped before he could be caught. Rotting chicken was found in freezers inside the shop by the police.
Police raids last week unlidded tonnes of packaged meat of suspicious origin after men caught transporting meat from a dead animal dump revealed an illegal network of rotten meat being sold alongside the fresh version, in and around Kolkata - a city known for its roadside chicken rolls and mutton biryani.
At least 10 men have been arrested and many more detained for questioning.
Friday's horror story emerged from behind Kolkata's high-rises in Newtown.
A wholesale chicken outlet -- Dhali Chicken Center -- was raided and was found full of sickly birds and, worse, five freezers full of rotting meat.
Police were tipped off by two men caught near the airport with 70 kg rotten chicken, apparently for sale to local eateries.
Newtown is in North 24 Parganas district; the carcass racket surfaced in South 24 Parganas district on 19 April.
Locals stopped a taxi coming out of the animal carcass dump-yard with two men in it. In the trunk was meat, allegedly from dead animals.
More cases came tumbling out. Last Friday, 20 tonnes of suspect packaged meat was found at a cold storage in the Rajabazar-Narkeldanga area in Kolkata.
A whole organized enterprise emerged in stages.
Senior police officer Koteswar Rao said it was clear that a full-scale market of rotting or carcass meat was thriving and big operators may be involved.
"They had informers. Whenever a dead animal was dumped, immediately a team would come and get the flesh off the carcass. That would be sent to a cold storage for processing, then sold to different places," he said.
Soumen Mondal, a resident near the Dhali Chicken Center, felt queasy as it dawned on him why he was getting cheaper chicken from the shop. "I have bought and eaten chicken from this centre. If the price at the market was Rs 150 a kilo, here it sold for Rs 140 or 145," he said.
That was the retail price. At wholesale rates, Dhali's price was Rs 50 less than market price. Customers queued up.
Police are now investigating a seized notebook listing customers with abbreviated names, some of which seem disconcertingly familiar.
Meat samples have gone to the forensics for testing. The Kolkata Municipal Corporation is taking steps to curb the problem at source -- put incinerators at animal dumps so carcasses don't lie around.