ISLAMABAD, Oct 26: For the faithful, Eidul Azha is about obeying a command of Allah, but for many it means earthly business also.
Garment manufacturers, cattle sellers, seasonal butchers and hide seekers are visible to everyone but lost among them are the bone pickers.
They are ever present collecting thrown away bones. They only get busier – and happier – during the meaty festival. Their collection is raw material for the gelatin and glue producing factories in Lahore, Wazirabad, Sialkot and Karachi.
“We have to arrange extra finances for purchasing the huge amount of bones that the slaughtering of animals produce during the three-day Eidul Azha festival,” Jahangir Gul, the president of the Punjab Bone Crushing Mills, told Dawn.
Bone crushing mills sell their product mostly to pharmaceutical companies which produce Halal gelatin for the food industry and other uses, Mr Gul said, too busy discussing business deals on his phone to talk about profits.
It appeared big business, though, as contractors and slaughter house supervisors promised to supply him more than 1,000 tons of bones in the coming weeks.
However, the poor boy seen making rounds of communities on his bicycle collecting bones gets Rs100 per day if working for a contractor or Rs20 per kilogramme of bones if he is self-employed.
“We collect bones from across Pakistan, mainly from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” added Mr Gul during a break in his business talks.
“We wash the bones with water for four to five days. Then they are sun-dried which takes one month in summer and two in winter. Once dried, the crushing process starts to turn the bones into powder form, according to the size of granule the food and pharmaceutical companies require for producing Edible Gelatin, Pharma Gelatin and Photographic Gelatin.”
Apart from the companies at home, the crushed bone powder is also exported to Iran, Japan and Thailand.
A Lahore-based pharmaceutical company manager told Dawn that his company found the locally manufactured bone powder of international quality, and cheaper, and produced capsule shells from it.
Rafiullah Khan, an assistant manager of a food and beverage company of Islamabad, explains that commercially processed edible gelatin is a tasteless beige or pale yellow powder, composed of protein, with a small percentage of mineral salts and water.
It is used by the processed food industry as a thickener, a jelling agent, a stabiliser, and is used in food as diverse as yogurt, gummy candy, soups and even in salad dressings.
Irfan Sharif, the owner of a bone crushing company, said his product was bought by poultry farm owners as poultry feed. “Even horns and hoofs of animals are used as poultry feed,” he said, quickly adding that “the horns and hoofs came from Halal animals only.”
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