A Flagship Project in Modi’s “Adopted” Village is Funded by One of India’s Top Buff Exporters

“Modiji Ka Atal Nagar” is a housing colony located in the south-west corner of Jayapur. The colony was built by early 2015, according to the village head Narayan Patel, for members from the Musahar community. Anand Singh/ Indian Express
15 January, 2017

On 7 November 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi “adopted” the village of Jayapur under the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana—a rural development project that he had launched in October that year. Located around 30 kilometres away from Varanasi, Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency, Jayapur, according to the census report of 2011, is home to 2,974 residents. In April 2014, a month before he was elected prime minister, a high tension electric line had fallen in the village, injuring four people. Irked by the time it took for the authorities to reach the village, Modi noted on Twitter that it was “disturbing to know that the injured did not get timely medical attention.” Seven months later, as he announced his decision to take the village under his wings, the prime minister assured the villagers that they would develop a “new Jayapur” together and added, “An MP does not adopt a village. A village adopts an MP.”

Soon after, Jayapur was catapulted into the national spotlight. By 2015, several media reports were heralding the speedy progress that it had witnessed since Modi’s endorsement. Some stories claimed that Jayapur was riding the “crest of the development boom” while others declared that the village had given one year of Modi a “thumbs up.” Indeed, when I visited Jayapur in August 2016, I could not help but notice some signs of this ostensible development: the two banks in the village, an ATM, the solar-powered street-lights, and a solar power plant. However, recent dispatches from early 2016 cast a more sober light on the narrative surrounding Jayapur.

These stories pointed out that the infrastructural projects in the village had been constructed in haste and with little coordinationbetween various officials. In a report published in the Indian Express in August 2016, Vishnu Varma noted that “a majority of the development projects have landed in Jayapur, courtesy of private companies who as one official put it, ‘were inspired by the vision of Narendra Modi.’” (As of April 2015, according toa report by Manavi Kapur in Business Standard, Modi had himself spent only Rs 40 lakh from the Rs 5 crore allotted under the scheme.) During my visit to Jayapur, I learnt that one such organisation is Allanasons, a Mumbai-based food-processing company that claims to be “the largest producer and exporters [sic] of Halal Boneless Buffalo meat.” Allanasons’ product range, delivered to over 70 countries worldwide, includes frozen buffalo meat, chilled vacuum packed buffalo meat and frozen buffalo offal. “Owing to their high protein content and low fat,” the company states on its website, “the offered frozen meat is highly demanded in the market.”

In the run-up to his election as the prime minister of India, Modi frequently employed the term “pink revolution” to describe and mock the policies that, according to him, encouraged the slaughter of cows. At an election rally in Bihar in April 2014, he clarified the rationale behind this nomenclature, explaining that when an animal was killed and cut, the colour of its meat was pink. Modi condemned, with apparent disdain, the-then union government’s promotion of slaughter houses and export of meat through subsidies and tax breaks. He went on to question how the leaders of the “Yaduvansh”—the Yadavs—such as Mulayam Singh and Lalu Prasad Yadav could bear to ally with the Congress. “I am coming from Dwarka city and Dwarka has a direct connection to the Yaduvanshis,” Modi said, “And because of this connection, I feel at home here. I am therefore shocked that the same Yadavs who worship Shri Krishna—who keeps cows as livestock, who serves the cow—it is their leaders who are in bed with the same people who proudly massacre animals.” He repeated much of this in a subsequent rally at Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh, asserting that the central government’s encouragement of meat trade had meant that, “in every village, the poor farmer, ridden by difficulties, is selling his livestock because of the greed for money.” This was not the first time he had made a contemptuous reference to the government’s enthusiasm for the export of beef. In October 2012, speaking at the fourth annual general meeting of the Jain International Trade Organisation, Modi, as the chief minister of Gujarat, expressed his anguish over the central government’s announcement that India was the world’s largest exporter of beef that year. “Is this what we pride ourselves on,” he said, “Brothers and sisters, I don’t know whether this saddens you, but my heart screams out at this. I am unable to understand why you are silent, why you are taking this lying down?”

Since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014, there has been a rise in the attempts to culturally re-align the idea of India to one that is accordant with the Hindutva ideology the party espouses. These efforts have included growing restrictions on the consumption of beef across the country, which have been accompanied by the rapid evolution of violent cow vigilantism. In his story on the cow vigilantes of Haryana, Ishan Marvel, a former reporter with The Caravan, wrote that numerous Hindutva groups across the country “indoctrinate young men into deifying the cow, and into being willing to kill or die protecting it.” “Often the victims of such vigilantism,” he added, “are outsiders to mainstream Hinduism, such as Muslims and Dalits, who do not share the religious sentiments associated with the animal.”

Marvel’s observations are borne out by several incidents over the past two years. This pattern was discernible in September 2015, when Mohammad Akhlaq was killed by a mob after he was wrongly accused of having butchered a cow and eating its flesh in Bhisahda village, Uttar Pradesh. It was also evident in July 2016, when a group of vigilantes in Una, a city in Gujarat, stripped and flogged seven Dalits for skinning a dead cow. The prime minister’s response to acts such as has these has been consistently underwhelming. After Akhlaq’s death, he deemed the lynching “really sad” and evaded responsibility, while in the case of Una he chose to draw a curious distinction between “good” cow vigilantes and “bad” ones.

Modi’s reluctance to condemn cow vigilantes is not entirely unexpected. During his tenure as the chief minister of Gujarat, from 2001 to 2014, he appears to have extended an extraordinary amount of support to such groups. In a story for Hindustan Times, Hiral Dave reported that between 2011 and 2014, the Modi government dispensed Rs 75 lakh in cash rewards to 1,394 cow vigilantes in Gujarat for “raiding illegal cash transporters and filing FIRs against them.” The government, the report noted, increased the annual grant extended to the Gauseva and Gauchar Vikas Board—a state-run organisation that works to “co-ordinate with groups involved in preventing slaughter of cow and progeny”—from Rs 1.5 crore to Rs 150 crore. In 2011, the state—which had until then, banned the slaughter of cows, calves, bulls and bullocks—also made the transportation, consumption and sale of cows and calves illegal under the Gujarat Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act, 2011. Although the prime minister and his party has largely restricted their rhetoric to the slaughter of cows, they have often framed this opposition by criticising the killing of animals and consumption of meat. Given this context, the funding of projects in “Modiji ka Gaon” as Jayapur is known, by a company that has built a business in cattle meat invokes surprise.

“Modiji Ka Atal Nagar” is a housing colony located in the south-west corner of Jayapur. The colony was built by early 2015, according to the village head Narayan Patel, for members from the Musahar community—a Dalit sub-community, traditionally associated with rat-catching—in the village. It comprises 14 flats, all of which are painted in matching hues of bright yellow and cobalt blue. The colony has been built on the same area that the Musahars were staying in earlier. Ostracised by the rest of the community, they had been forced to construct and reside in make-shift houses.

Like the other projects in the village, the housing colony, Patel told me, is also sponsored by a private corporation—in this case, Allanasons. According to a story that was published in Business Today in June 2016, Allanasons spent Rs 75 lakh on the project. “In a way, the company has adopted this part of the village on its own, particularly because the poorest of the poor reside here,” Dayananad Mani Tripathi, the contractor for the project, who is from Anna Associates, a Delhi-based company, told Kapur in her story for the Business Standard. The head office of the company, which was established in 1865, is located at Allana House on Allana Road at Colaba in south Mumbai. Apart from the export of meat, the company’s portfolio also includes frozen fruits, vegetables, coffee and spices. A report in Business Standard from April 2013 stated that Allanasons “is not only the number one buffalo meat export but also the number one coffee exporter.”

When I asked Patel whether he knew of Allanason’s profile, he responded in the affirmative, but told me that only a few villagers were aware of the nature of its business. “Some of them do not know, but how does it matter,” he said. “It is not as though India would have stopped exporting meat, or meat would not have been consumed had they [Allanasons] not opened their company,” he continued.

According to its balance sheet, Allanasons has an annual turnover of more than Rs 500 crore. Records that I obtained from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs further indicated that it has an authorised capital—the amount of money a company is allowed to raise through the sale of shares—of Rs 2 crore and paid-up capital—the amount of money it has raised in exchange for its shares—of Rs 1,90,98,800. The balance sheet of Allanasons for the financial year ending on 31 March 2015 states that it has seven share-holders: two private companies, Phoenicia Shipping and Allana Investment Trading, along with five individuals, who are nominee share-holders. It has three serving directors: Rashid S Kadimi, Fauzan Alavi and Shakil Shaikh Ahmed.

Allanasons fulfills its corporate social responsibility through four trusts that are registered with the group: Allana Foundation, Allana Charitable Trusts, World Memon Foundation and Joosabbhoy A Allana Charities. While the organsation’s website enumerates the various causes it has supported through these trusts, there is no mention of the funds Allanasons provided for the housing colony in Jayapur.

I made several attempts to contact representatives from Allanasons to ask them about the company’s project in Jayapur, but was unable to get a response. The people I contacted either cut the call mid-way or asked me to call on the board number. My calls to the board number were fruitless too, most of them would get truncated during the time it took for the receptionist to put me in touch with the relevant department. A woman employee from the company told me that she could not reveal anything about Allanasons’ involvement with the housing colony in Jayapur as it was “confidential.” My email query to the company went unanswered as well.

On 9 November, I contacted CR Patil, a BJP member of parliament from Navsari in Gujarat. Patil is Modi’s representative in the village and is known to be extremely close to the prime minister. He divides his time between his home state and Varanasi, but is more often than not, found in Modi’s constituency. During our conversation, I asked Patil about the company that had funded the housing colony in Jayapur. He said, “Some NGO related to a food processing company from Mumbai has done this job.” Patil added that he would send me the details of the person responsible for the project.

Subsequently, on 11 November, we spoke again. When I enquired about the person Patil had earlier suggested I speak to, and had still not furnished the details of, he said he would locate the number and send it to me, but added, “I do not know him. I never met him personally. I never asked him to do work.”  At this point, I asked Patil if he knew that Allanasons is a company that exports cattle meat. He replied, a little irritated, “Gunah kar raha hai kya—are they committing a sin?