Notwithstanding the severe mutton shortage across the Valley, a meeting held between the divisional administration and the mutton dealers on Saturday failed to break the deadlock over the prices.
The meeting chaired by Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Pandurang K Pole and attended by officials of departments of Food Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs, Sheep Husbandry also saw participation of mutton retailers, wholesalers but the meeting did not yield any results. The members of Kashmir Economic Alliance which had submitted a “fact finding report” with the government on what should be the ideal meat prices were also a part of the meeting.
Speaking with Greater Kashmir after the meeting, the Div Com said considering the dealers did not agree with the new proposed rate of mutton at Rs 515 per kg, the government rate of Rs 480 per kg decided by a Price Fixation Committee in October will continue.
“Taking into account the public interest, we will continue to have the rate of Rs 480 per kg of mutton remain effective. This rate is also justified by a scientific report which our two-member committee submitted after visiting livestock mandis outside the Valley” Pole said.
Earlier, while addressing the meeting, the Div Com stressed upon officials of FCSCA and directed them to take “strict action against mutton dealers who were found selling meat at exorbitant prices”. The Div Com was informed by Director FCSCA Bashir Ahmad Khan that 200 FIRs were filed against erring mutton dealers and 88 butcher shops sealed during the last 5 months after they were found to be selling meat at exorbitant prices. However, the Div Com has asked the FCSCA department to make its enforcement stricter by booking more erring butchers. “There has to be stricter enforcement as these people (butchers, mutton dealers) cannot take people hostage by creating an artificial shortage and going on strike every now and then” Pole said.
The Div Com also said that unregistered mutton wholesalers will not be allowed to operate their businesses from April 1. “All the wholesalers who supply livestock to the Valley will not be allowed to cross Lakhanpur and Jawahar Tunnel in case they are found to be unregistered,” Pole said.
During the meeting there was discussion on whether there could be rate fixation of mutton as per the grading. However, mutton dealers said this was not possible due to lack of slaughter houses in the Valley where one could have categorised mutton into different grades. A “fact finding committee” led by Kashmir Economic Alliance said that the retail dealers in Kashmir procure grade-A meat at Rs 518 per kilogram while a government appointed two member committee put the rate at Rs 517 per kg.
General secretary All Kashmir Wholesale Mutton Dealers Association Mehraj-u-din Ganai said that the proposed price of Rs 515 per kg in the retail market for meat is “unacceptable” to the dealers who have been suffering huge losses.
“We have been demanding that such a rate be fixed which ensures that 30000 families involved in livestock trade across Kashmir don’t get affected due to losses suffered. The KEA report and government-committee led report have both suggested their respective point of views but the government is not being realistic while deciding mutton prices,” Ganai said.
While the mutton dealers have been on a strike for the last several days resulting in shortage of mutton, in several areas of the Valley, as well as in the summer capital Srinagar, some butchers continue to sell meat at exorbitant prices. After the government issued the fixed price for mutton last year, the Divisional administration had launched a helpline 1800-180-7114 on which consumers can call to register complaints of overpricing by butchers.