“Mere mann ko bhaya, main kutta kaat ke khaya” said Jageera, the iconic villain of the 1998 movie ‘China Gate’. That line became a catch phrase for those who wanted to display their braggadocio. But will anyone actually have a kutta (dog) on their plates? Sounds regurgitating, doesn’t it? That was the exact feeling many in Kolkata had when they were alerted by reports which revealed a massive carcass meat racket in West Bengal.
It all began on 19 April when members of a locality in Budge Budge caught two people smuggling meat from a nearby dumping ground in a taxi. When the police came to know, they began an investigation. Seven days later, on 26 April, they raided a cold storage in Rajabazar market area. Located just a stone’s throw away from the eternally-busy Sealdah Railway Station, Rajabazar market boasts of everything from shops to small-scale industries. Hospitals, schools, colleges and nearly every civic infrastructure that can be thought can be found in the locality.
The police were looking for something horrible, and they found it – 20 tonnes of rotten meat. The meat was ready to be shipped to restaurants and other meat sellers in the state and beyond.
The news of the raid and the discovery gripped the denizens of the city, renowned throughout the country for its cuisines, like terror grips the hearts of the innocents. The police said that the rotten meat was obtained from certain dumping grounds where carcasses of all kinds of strays can be found on any given day.
Dogs and cats are among the two most commonly found carcasses in a dumping ground near Budge Budge, around 25 kilometres from Rajabazar (a very short distance in the very well-connected Kolkata). That yard was one of the places from where the culprits obtained the meat.
The modus operandi, as reports say, was carefully planned. Informers at the dumping ground would pass on the availability of carcasses being dumped in any of the yards. Those involved in the racket would then go to the area with ice, cut off the carcass and carried it back to the cold storage where it was kept for five days at around -44 degrees Celsius temperature.
The culprits used to mix the rotten meat with regular meat before supplying the same to their customers.
But how did they beat the noxious stench of rotten carcasses?
On Saturday, 28 April, the Police said that the sellers of the rotten carcass meat were using chemicals such as formalin, calcium propanoate, aluminium sulphate and lead sulphate to remove the fetid stench.
“First they would wash the meat with formalin. Then they separated the fat from the meat to arrest rotting and inject calcium propanoate (as a food additive). After that, it was mixed with aluminium sulphate and lead sulphate to get rid of the foul smell and then packed and supplied to different markets and restaurants,” an officer said.
According to the police, the carcass meat was supplied to sellers of frozen food items, eateries, and departmental stores in the state and its neighbouring areas in Jharkhand, Odisha and Bihar. They also suspect that the meat may have also been supplied to Nepal.
The news sent the food-loving people of the state into a state of shock. They could not believe that the ‘delectable’ meat on their plates could be that of a dog.
Obviously, the state, which has a sizeable number of non-vegetarian lovers, witnessed a sharp fall in the sale of meat of any kind ever since reports of the massive seizure came out.
While a lot of people in Kolkata have stopped eating out at places that serve meat products, there are some who are treading cautiously.
Several locals said they were not buying packaged and frozen products and were only buying fresh meat and cooking it at home.
Carcass meat scam: What is the state government doing?
The West Bengal government has directed all police stations in the metropolis and the districts to keep a watch on the sale of meat in their areas.
Police arrested around 11 people, including the leader of the gang from Bihar, in connection with the Rajabazar case.
On Tuesday, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee formed a high-powered committee to keep a check on such malpractices.
Banerjee appointed Chief Secretary Malay De to head an eight-member committee, including the DGP and the Kolkata Police Commissioner, to devise a mechanism to deal with the issue.
“People have stopped eating meat after reports of the carcass racket scam surfaced,” admitted Banerjee. Indeed, reports indicate that footfalls at popular restaurants and other eateries have gone south. While the scare makes people more concerned about their health, it worries the government on three fronts – public health, economy and crime rate.
Mamata Banerjee praised the police for doing a commendable job but added that the racket was operated from other states too.
“We want the people to eat what they like and enjoy. Once the mechanism is devised, we will tell people that they can have their meat items without any fear,” she said trying to allay the fears of the people.
The West Bengal government has directed all police stations in the metropolis and the surrounding districts to keep a watch on the sale of meat in their areas.
It is noteworthy that Mamata’s statement came a day after the Enforcement Branch (EB) and the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) reportedly began a probe into the illegal supply of left-over meat meant for animals at the Kolkata Zoo to restaurants in the city.
The thought of having the meat of dog on the plate is scary to the people of Kolkata. After all, not every city in the world, however famous for culinary delights, is Yulin – the city located in Guangxi province in China known for its annual dog meat festival.