Slaughterhouse Diary III: Blossoms of Hope
Noor Hassan, a 55-year-old mango-grower from Dhanaura village in Amroha, Uttar Pradesh, saw his trees go barren because of effluents from a nearby abattoir. His annual income dwindled from a few lakhs of rupees to nothing. Today, with the closure of the slaughterhouse, he looks forward to revived fortunes.
It was almost a decade ago, in 2009, when we first saw this slaughterhouse coming up in our village. Behanji (Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati) was the chief minister then I remember, and many of us felt it would create jobs for the local youth and improve the roads linking our village to the highway. Our optimism was shortlived, for we soon realized the slaughterhouse had only brought misfortune. It was not just my mango orchard but all the farmland falling within a radius of 3 km of the slaughterhouse was affected. Grain crops, fruits and vegetables: all suffered in quality and yield. The following season, my trees stopped flowering and bearing fruit. We sought help and were told that the chimney of the ‘butcherkhana’ spewed toxic and chemical-laden fumes. This had a disastrous effect on the crops. We also ran from pillar to post, raising the alarm on this environmental disaster in our lives, but nobody cared. The owner of the slaughterhouse had deep pockets and high reach in the establishment. My income dried up. I left the orchard to the mercy of Allah and diverted my focus to our fields that were far away from the factory. I managed to keep the kitchen going at home. With a change of guard in 2012 (when Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Government came to power), we saw hope as the Yadav family had roots in farming. We went to Lucknow several times but all we got were false assurances. Apparently, an ex-minister and SP leader was a partner in the factory. The problems only grew from there, affecting not just the air but the groundwater as well. Our water pumps started pulling up dirty- foul-smelling water. It had become quite unbearable. In August 2014, we organised a huge panchayat in Dhanaura where hundreds of farmers gathered. Our protest continued for 95 days, and the authorities finally woke up and took note. The factory was sealed by the administration. It didn’t last. The owners of the slaughterhouse approached the High Court and the closure notice was stayed. I have three children and during this time, all were studying in Meerut. My children would often advise me to sell all the land we had and move out. But I am a firm believer in Allah, and decided to wait. A farmer will sell his land only when all options run out. The Yogi government was an answer to our prayers. In less than two months of his assuming power, district officials sealed this house of evil. The problems have not gone immediately, but did we didn’t expect them to. In time, the land would heal itself, I knew. Then, one day, for the first time in the last eight years, I saw blossoms on some of my mango trees. I cried. I am thankful to Allah and confident now that my good fortune will return.
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-With editorial assistance from Lokmarg