The title, certainly not the best of puns, succeeds in abridging the meat scandal that has been brewing in Bengal for some time. It all began in late April when three individuals from Kolkata were arrested for passing off animal carcass meat as products of the choicest of meat processing plants, complete with the company seals and selling them to palatial restaurants and run-of-the-mill eateries alike. Such packets of meat were sold in the surrounding states of Odisha, Bihar and Jharkhand as well. More than a dozen arrests have already been made in the state capital as well as other areas while the investigation continues.
The restaurant business has taken a hit with customers either choosing to eat at home or ordering preparations of vegetables or egg, with a hint of reluctance; the dominance of fish on the menu smells even more strong. It is important to note here, that Bengalis consider cuisine in the same magnitude of ‘gravytas’ as they do a political or literary discourse in the clubhouse or at home, perhaps even more seriously. The landscape of gluttons brims with such customs as feasting on mutton dishes for lunch on the day of ‘Ashtami’, considered to be the most important day in the proceedings of the annual Durga Puja festival. Bengalis were therefore shocked to the extent that some construed this series of events as the shattering of trust between people and hurting one’s feelings in a very intimate manner. It is noteworthy how these incidents took place on the eve of the panchayat elections in West Bengal.
But the fact that scandals like these have become a dime a dozen is irrefutable. Issues like overpopulation leading to factors such as scarcity of availability of quality products for everyone at reasonable prices and the epidemic of unemployment have made the country more prone to such happenings and have made the primrose path to ‘success’ even at the cost of life or serious harm to the fellow being more desirable than hard and honest work.
This is perhaps a warning to the Bengalis and people belonging from other regions as well: to eat less and to eat better. Eating out has become a craze and in some cases, dining at a reputed restaurant from time to time is actually making some sort of fashion statement!
I still remain oblivious to such statements and would in all probability continue to choose to do so in the future. However, incidents like these send a chill down the spine thinking of the harrowing condition of not just the economy but also the degrading standards of human morality. How low can one sink in order to make a few extra pennies without giving a thought to the condition of the fellow being? As we journey through the tides and trenches of change, only time will tell.
Akash Ganguly studies History at Jamia Millia Islamia.