No mutton mania that, it's a necessity

‘Maan na maan, mein tera mehman’. So goes the saying that is sought to capture the spectacle of someone falling over his heels to oblige someone but the latter doesn’t care and doesn’t ask for the courtesy.

Right now, the valley is in a state of meat crisis which for all there is to it, appears to have been precipitated by the avoidable stubbornness of the J&K Administration to impose a retail price of the commodity that is neither reasonable nor financially sound for the meat traders. The crisis which has been around for quite some time has already cost the meat traders heavy losses. Cynics may dismiss my plea for the current meat price to stay at Rs. 600/kg as playing the Devil’s Advocate, but that doesn’t concern me. All I’m concerned with is the adverse impact of this crisis on the dastarkhwan of Kashmiri households which is known to be incomplete without a dash of mutton on the one hand and on the other, the far more deleterious effect it has had on the hotel industry of Kashmir where the exclusively mutton-based Kashmiri wazwan has all along been the most sought-after dish on the menu.

The point is that the issue would not have assumed such serious proportions if it had not been for the misplaced priorities of the J&K Administration which should have instead thrown its weight around when the valley was in the grip of a complete infrastructural breakdown marked by an absence of minimal life-easing facilities during the recent weeks of harsh winter weather in the valley that had never been experienced before. What is indeed strange is the smugness and utter indifference of the civil Administration in Kashmir which didn’t care to wake up to its bounden duty of restoring normal life by facilitating such essential public necessities as the traffic movement, restoring power and water supply or availability of provisions to the people, especially of those who were completely cut off and deprived of these facilities for much longer periods than the rest.

That having been said, it baffles common sense how the self-same Administration is going hammer and tongs while taking upon itself the task of “regulating” the price of mutton which, it needs to be emphasised, constitutes the staple diet of people in the valley. The point is that rather than expend their energies in regulating the sky rocketing prices of other commodities involving petrol, diesel, kerosene or the obscene profits being made by the land/sand/brick /timber mafia in the valley, the Administration seems to be hell-bent not upon regulating, but on insisting on a price of mutton which is, simply and obviously, unreasonable and unacceptable to the mutton supplying traders in the valley. This contention is based on my own assessment and evaluation of the expenses being incurred in ensuring the supply chain of mutton being ferried from the mandis located as far away as Delhi and Rajasthan. In the light of the heavy demand for mutton coupled with low production and the shortage of its supply from the local resources and the heavy transport costs, a market price of Rs.600/- per kg of good quality mutton sounds pretty reasonable and a price short of that would be both unfair and unjustifiable to the meat supplying traders in the valley. Of course, once the prices have been fixed and officially notified, the Administration owes it itself to take a periodical review of the prices and recommend modifications as dictated by the considerations of the market and the attendant factors. On the contrary, its insistence on the commodity being made available @Rs.480/- kg would be chimerical at best, as in that case, the quality of meat would, of necessity, be of a very poor and inferior pedigree which would also end up being harmful to the consumer if consumed on a regular basis.

Let the Administration get its act together and prioritise where it is supposed to invest its energies in order to facilitate the routine order of life of people in the valley. Those at the helm of affairs would do well to note that in the conditions of life forced upon the people here on account of the inhospitable weather prevailing in the valley, mutton constitutes an important component of the staple diet which cannot be kept off the table for a period longer than necessary. Doing such things that would deprive large sections of the population from the absolute necessity of meat on the plate would be a huge disservice to them, contrary to the avowed aim of the Administration to make their lives better. The turmoil in Kashmir is already too volatile and too deeply entrenched for the babus and bureaucrats to dissipate their energies in forcing their will in situations where it is not needed in the first place. For them it would make better sense to regulate the prices across the board, rather than dictate terms where they need not to.