Millennium Post

Neglecting public health discourse

If the latest reports on how slaughterhouses in the national capital, most of which are illegally run, are using injured, infected cattle and supplying poor quality meat to restaurants and private buyers in the city are anything to go by, then we are quite frankly staring at a major health catastrophe. Thousands of abattoirs in the city are using livestock reared in substandard conditions, where they pick up communicable and non-communicable diseases, including tuberculosis, bovine/avian flu, among others. In fact, hundreds of cattle are kept in unkempt and dirty mangers, as the chicken are kept in unmanaged coops, reason why the animals end up getting infected and pass on the contagion to human consumers. Slaughterhouses in the city, or anywhere else in this country, sport run-down and unhealthy look, are not maintained in a clean and hygienic manner and are also not inspected by government officials in regular intervals. Hundreds of unauthorised butcher shops, particularly in shanty towns and slum colonies in the heart of the city, have sprung up over the years without any systematic intervention on the part of civic authorities, or any attempt at undertaking official registration so as to ensure transparency and accountability in their buying and selling of cattle and meat products. In fact, illegal abattoirs specialise in processing below par meat from sick or dead animals and sell it in bulk amounts and at very cheap rate to hotels and restaurants which make up the food service sector. There have been umpteen number of cases where customers, particularly foreigners, have taken ill after consuming meat at many of the fanciest eateries in the national capital, irrespective of the exorbitant charges and the swanky interiors of bistros flaunting haute cuisine.

   The menace of unauthorised abattoirs is but one part of a huge web of connected problems that have cumulatively resulted in utter paralysis as far as our national health policy is concerned. There is an abysmal lack of a national discourse around health issues, with even the union health minister conflating morality with medical safety measures in his sermons on how to control spread of HIV/AIDS. With civic bodies light years behind global medical standards observed in any part of the civilised world, there is hardly a national health and safety guideline with which all the municipal corporations must adhere. Nor is there adequate penalty in case of norms being flouted and health standards not being met. Given that slaughter houses do not even have registered veterinary doctors to inspect and check the state of livestock before they are culled, nor is it mandatory for the abattoir owners to seek clearances for every batch of cattle or poultry before they are lined up for felling. Much like the collective apathy of authorities in dealing with the staggering scale of air, land and water pollution in this country, it seems even the health and safety of our citizens doesn’t concern our honourable government and civic authorities.                  
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