The lockdown has not only affected migrant labourers and the poor adversely but it had also put a question mark on survival of livestock keepers in the state.
They are facing a shortage of fodder and a steep decline in demand and price of milk, says Sajal Kulkarni, an expert and activist in the field.
Kulkarni heads Centre for People’s Collective which works in livestock and rural development. In a special interaction with FPJ’s Pramod Chunchuwar, he shared the problems faced by pastoralists
What is the impact of lockdown on live-stock and pastoralists?
The pastoralists or livestock keepers are facing shortage of fodder. Though the state has not banned the sale of fodder, the non-availability of transport system is creating shortage. The livestock farmers are forced to buy the fodder at higher prices. While fodder is getting costly, there is no buyer for milk.
Livestock keepers have to sell the milk at a very low price. Though the state government has announced that it would buy milk from farmers, but on the ground the implementation of this announcement is hardly seen.
The Dhangar community is facing the worst impact of this lockdown. They shear their sheep before summer. This is done by the traditional shearers, but due to the lockdown, they are not able to travel. This sheep wool gives Rs 5,000 to 10,000 additional income to the herd owner.
They will miss income and this in future may impact the availability of wool in the market. Lockdown has also resulted in the non-availability of veterinary doctors in the rural part of Maharashtra. In Osmanabad, the farmers are facing the acute shortage of semen which is required for insemination of cows and buffalos.
What can be the immediate measures to increase the availability of fodder?
If the state government focus more on animal husbandry sector this will help counter the impact of financial recession as this sector gives early returns.
The govt should have an animal husbandry commission like in European countries which will regularly be in touch with all stakeholders and formulate and implement the policy for livestock keepers.
The state should have a pre-monsoon planning for fodder as the shortage of fodder is seen after the monsoon.
The ban on animal husbandry in sanctuaries and semi-forest areas should be lifted. For this, a committee of representatives of local livestock breeders, veterinary experts and NGOs working for the livestock community should be immediately set up to chalk out a policy.
There should be a separate fodder development board to increase the availability of fodder. As per forest management plan of the state government, the state has 4 lakh hectares of fodder circle.
This should be developed which will solve the fodder shortage locally. Tribal and forest dwellers have got ownership of more than 3 lakh hectares. They too can be encouraged to cultivate fodder crop. This will also help lessen the burden of reverse migration.
Question- How life- stock policy can be useful for migrant labourers?
Due to lockdown, a large number of reverse migrations has taken place. A major part of this labour force has returned to their villages. They will not return to cities for at least next one year. Their presence in villages will add burden to the rural economy. But there are lots of things that the govt can do to create employment.
For example, the state government can promote bullock based agricultural implements, this has the potential to create at least 5,000 jobs in the first stage. Many universities have done extensive research on this. These labourers can be accommodated there.