Pune's meat market struggles to maintain hygiene
Hygiene and cleanliness continue to be grave concerns for city slaughterhouses.
Aayush Pandey | Generations of Qasim Shaikh's family have been working as butchers at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Market Slaughterhouse in Camp, Pune, one of the biggest slaughterhouses in Pune. However, despite working at slaughterhouses all day long for years, the traditional Kasais (butchers), who work with meat, bones and blood all day ensuring a good supply of meat for households and restaurants, have witnessed no change in how the city authorities treat the cleanliness issue of the slaughterhouses. After the meat is extracted, the head, hooves, feathers, skin and blood remain. The meat gets sold to the public. Who tends to all of that which remains?
Butchering is a profession that has been going on in every part of the country for ages. There are slaughterhouses appointed by the government in almost every area of Pune, with the Shivaji Market slaughterhouses being among the biggest retailers and wholesalers of the city providing meat to people and restaurants. However, while the place that is full of swarming flies and crows, filled with remains of meat and a foul smell, is far from decent for any customer who visits, the butchers work there from 7 am till even after midnight almost every day.
“Butchering is something not meant for people of weak hearts, even watching it requires courage. Many customers have thrown up just by being here unable to tolerate the smell or the sight of butchering,” said Qasim Sheikh.
Photos: Aayush Pandey
Sheikh complains that no one has been appointed to clean the premises. “We have to clean our stalls and surrounding areas on our own. Even if someone throws up, the nearest stall owner throws some water on it. Neither the smell goes away nor the vomit. At times, the blood gets washed away and disposed into the drain and sometimes it dries up. Whenever there is a huge demand we focus more on the sale. The feathers and hooves usually get left behind even after cleaning. Much of that waste remains even after the wastepickers take away the garbage," Sheikh said.
As per the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), most of the slaughterhouses in the country are service-oriented and, as such, perform only the killing and dressing of animals without an onsite rendering operation. For slaughterhouse waste composting for decomposition, bio-methanation for degradation of waste and conversion into biogas and rendering systems for reusability are suggested. The selection of an appropriate method, however, depends mainly on its type and quantity. Incineration is the last resort for slaughterhouse wastes.
The butchers say that the city administration is responsible for keeping the slaughterhouse premises clean. “We are not expected to keep the slaughterhouse clean, we are just butchers. Waste picking truck comes daily and takes most of the skin peels, internal organs and other waste. We dispose of the chopped head, hooves, feathers and blood in some way or the other," Mohammad Gafoor, another butcher at Shivaji Market said. Shivaji Market comes under the jurisdiction area of the Pune Cantonment Board (PCB).
The butchers say that the city administration is responsible for keeping the slaughterhouse premises clean.
Riyaz T. Shaikh, Chief Health Superintendent Area Inspector at PCB's Sanitation Department says that maintaining cleanliness at the slaughterhouses at all times is rather difficult. "The slaughterhouses treat three different kinds of meat; Chicken, mutton and beef. Since slaughtering alone is a herculean job that goes on the whole day, it's not feasible to monitor and maintain hygiene after every slaughter. The stall owners are sole proprietors who manage, maintain and sell livestock and they take care of the cleanliness on their own. Solid waste management is being carried out regularly and liquid will be managed soon enough. PMC is also focusing on the modernisation of slaughterhouses, quality control of the production of the stock and rendering of wastes of all kinds," he said.
The Khadki Cantonment Board (KCB) is responsible for the treatment and disposal of slaughterhouse waste alongside processing dry and plastic waste. The waste disposal treatment plant is located in Range Hills, Khadki. Senior Sanitary Inspector (SSI) of KCB SR Patki explained the process of treatment of wastes.
“Not all that is not meat is waste. The slaughtered animal carcass is much more valuable than people assume. The skin and feathers are treated by textile and accessory industries and bones and blood are used for medicinal purposes. The blood treatment is not operational all over the city, but we are trying to make it available."
“We’re used to it all now; our family has been in this business for about three generations and have adapted to most of the ups and downs,” Gafoor says.
Baramati Agro is a private meat and poultry chain which has many branches all over Pune. Caretaker of Karve Nagar branch, Mohammad Nazim Hussain said, "We, like most legal slaughterhouses in Pune, purchase our stock from Kondhwa. Since we are a chain, it gives an advantage in business as the branch which makes more sales can also acquire more stock from the branch that is selling less, thus reducing wastage of stock.”
As most of the branches of Baramati Agro are located in residential areas, Hussain said that they keep their slaughterhouses as clean as possible. "We segregate our solid waste on our own and then send it either to the processing plant or to industries for reuse. Bones go to for pharma industries, feathers and skin to textiles and internal organs go to trash which gets collected just the next day. We dump the liquid waste down the drains," he added.
While most of the waste products after extracting meat find their way to some or the other processing unit, it's the blood that poses the major problem. Talking about the health hazards due to the lack of maintaining hygiene practices at slaughterhouses, Dr Nasir Qureshi, a physician in Camp said, “The blood does not just give off foul fumes; it could contaminate the surrounding area if left untreated. Think of it as blood erosion. The blood, mixed with water in the drains, evaporates. This is the reason for the foul smell prevailing in the area, not the fresh blood. The blood vapour, when mixed with air, can lead to problems like excessive coughing which weakens the lungs, weakened immunity and in some cases cardiovascular diseases,” said Dr Qureshi.
“Moreover, stray animals like dogs, cats and crows that are usually present around any slaughterhouse drink drain water, and while doing so, also consume that blood. This again could be disease-causing for the animals and the people around. Flies, mosquitoes and roaches often breed in such drains,” Qureshi added.
Rodents and other animals also cause a hurdle in waste processing at many slaughterhouses. "While loading or unloading our stock, stray animals, mostly cats and mice, sneak into the stock chambers. They nib on everything fresh or waste alike putting our business at risk," Hussain of Baramati Agro said.
Loading truck for waste picking carries waste from the Shivaji Market at 3 pm. Aniket Gaikwad, driver of a loader says, “When we dump waste in the loader, sometimes the waste is from a freshly deceased animal and the carcass is still spewing blood. At times, when we don’t notice, we find a trail of blood on the roads we take. The waste for slaughterhouses is treated and disposed of in Khadki.”
As far as the disposal of this waste is concerned, the head of the Sanitary Section of KCB, Bhalerao Bappu says,” We have vermicomposting and basket composting available at the Khadki plant itself. Before its construction in 2020, the waste was sent to Pimpri Chinchwad's dumping ground where only basket composting was done. Since it required a lot of time and manpower mechanisation was necessary. Thanks to our Chief Engineering Executive (CEE) Subhash Sant, the plant with the capacity of five-ton was made ready. And it will be further developed soon.
KCB's SR Patki added, "Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) received funding from World Bank to modernise slaughterhouses all over Pune and our engineers will be working alongside PMC for the construction of more such waste disposal treatment plants.”