New Delhi: On 24 September 2018, the Delhi High Court banned the slaughtering of birds at the sprawling Ghazipur murga mandi (chicken market) in the national capital. The court cited grim findings of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) about numerous health and waste disposal violations at the market, and called for the removal of the slaughterhouses operating “illegally” there.
The court also ordered that a designated slaughterhouse be set up, and that only the sale of live birds be allowed in the mandi.
Three years later, however, the stench and detritus of death still dominate the area. When ThePrint visited Ghazipur murga mandi this week, kites were flying low, looking to scavenge food from the market. On the ground, stray dogs nosed at discarded carcasses, feathers, bones.
It was a busy day at the market, with men briskly plucking out chickens by their legs from their tiny cages and slaughtering them in shops lined across narrow lanes.
Workers deposited the waste generated — primarily entrails and feathers — into rickshaws and transported them for disposal to a nearby drain. As for the blood, brooms and water were the only cleaning supplies, resulting in red-tinged puddles forming in front of shops.
Here, photography is not allowed and women aren’t permitted to enter the market. ThePrint’s reporter couldn’t exit the car, which was parked in the middle of the market, while the photojournalist wasn’t allowed to click pictures.
The slaughterhouses at Ghazipur are on the premises of the Delhi Agricultural Management Board (DAMB), whose chairperson is Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai.
ThePrint reached Gopal Rai via WhatsApp messages and calls but there was no response by the time of publishing this report. Mayor Shyam Sunder Agarwal of the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC), which runs the mandi, said he would look into the matter.
History of violations
India has a framework of rules that governs animal slaughter — Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughter House) Rules. These guidelines lay down certain standards for hygiene and to ensure the proper handling of animals.
Among other things, the rules call for the blood drain and collection in a slaughterhouse to “be immediate and proper”. They also urge “immediate disposal of legs, horns, hooves and
other parts of animals through spring load floor chutes or sidewall doors or closed wheelbarrows”, and “adequate facilities for hand washing, tool sterilisation and floor washing and contrivances for immediate separation and disposal of condemned material”.
In February 2017, the Supreme Court ordered state governments and UTs to follow the compendium of rules and statutes for slaughterhouses, including complying with infrastructure requirements and provisions of the Water and Air Acts.
On 4 August 2018, the office of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), East Delhi, served a notice on DAMB to stop slaughter in Ghazipur.
This notice came after the DPCC inspected the area twice and found that it was causing severe air and water pollution. Soon afterwards, the Delhi High Court also gave an order banning slaughter of birds at the site and ruled that only live birds could be sold here.
In January 2019, the DPCC gave permission for the slaughterhouses to operate under certain conditions in place, but in November the same year, it revoked the consent because of lack of compliance.
The Supreme Court-appointed Delhi Slaughterhouse Monitoring Committee also inspected the area in August 2019 and December 2020, and found that waste was still being improperly disposed of in a waterbody nearby and the blood swept into sewage drains.
In November 2021, the panel submitted a report to the Delhi urban development committee, recommending that the DPCC test the ground water and air pollution caused by the slaughterhouses.
A matter of ‘shame’
Gauri Maulekhi, an animal rights activist and a member of the Supreme Court-appointed panel, told ThePrint that the Ghazipur murga mandi was a matter of “shame”.
“Delhi people should be offended by what goes on in this hellhole. It adds to the city’s air and water pollution, and serves them extremely unhygienically and cruelly sourced meat. The good quality meat is exported and Delhiites don’t get a taste of it, while this industry is being run on their hard-earned money,” she said.
Maulekhi then described how the Ghazipur murga mandi contributes to air and water pollution.
“According to the law of nature, any creature that dies becomes a potent place for pathogens to thrive. Blood that spills after slaughtering is simply thrown around in this illegal facility that doesn’t meet the mandates of the Air and Water Acts. When you enter the Ghazipur murga mandi, suddenly your eyes will start watering, and you may cough. This is because of the huge amounts of ammonia generated over there because of faeces, carcasses etc,” Maulekhi said.
She also underlined the water pollution caused by discarding offal and blood into waterbodies and drains, as well as the increased risk of mosquito-borne diseases. “Dengue mosquitoes will probably not thrive in any water more comfortably than here. It is very nutritious and healthy for insects, it’s a little heaven for them.”
Advocate Priyanka Bangari, who is also a member of the Supreme Court committee, said that the authorities should be booked for contempt of court orders. “All authorities are blatantly violating court orders. Slaughter still goes on at Ghazipur in broad daylight. The DAMB chairperson, EDMC commissioner, the veterinarian service in-charge — they should be tried for contempt of court.”
‘Will definitely look into it’
When ThePrint approached EDMC Mayor Shyam Sunder Agarwal for comment, he said he wasn’t aware of any ban on slaughtering of animals at Ghazipur. “It is perfectly legal. I am not aware of any ban by the high court or DPCC.”
After he was sent the high court order, he said he would look into it. “I am not in Delhi right now, I’ll come back and definitely look into the matter. It’s not our intention to disobey courts like this,” he added.
The president of the Ghazipur Wholesale Poultry Association, Salauddin, also said that he wasn’t aware of any rule being broken.
“This is a matter of the court, so I won’t comment. Please speak to the agricultural board regarding this matter. The murga mandi is not a private set-up — it’s been set up by the government, and we simply do whatever the government allows or doesn’t allow.”
(Edited by Asavari Singh)
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.