The package announced by the Narendra Modi government has entirely ignored pastoralists and their livelihood. Be it the state or the central government, all are insensitive towards animal husbandry, says internationally well-known scientist Dr Chanda Nimbkar.
Chanda Nimbkar is currently a trustee of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), a CGIAR organisation with its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. She is the second Indian so far to have received this honour. She has been the director of animal husbandry at the Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), in Phaltan, Satara, Maharashtra, since 1998. She has served on the National Commission on Farmers and has advised the Government of India on livestock policy in the past.
How is the lockdown affecting pastoralists?
When the lockdown was imposed, all the decision makers were rightly worried about vegetables and food grain supply as well as farmers. But what about pastoralists, especially sheep and goat farmers? They were totally ignored in this process. Those who love non-vegetarian food also need mutton regularly like vegetables. Mutton consists of 25 per cent protein that is important for immunity.
But the government, which is taking all the efforts to deliver wine at the doorstep, is not willing to allow the smooth sale of mutton. Eating and selling mutton is being portrayed as a bad thing. For almost two months, sheep-goat farmers could not sell their sheeps or goats. Therefore, they are facing serious problems of survival, as their income has almost stopped. Due to the lockdown, mutton shop owners and traders could not buy the live stock.
What is your reaction to the package announced by the Narendra Modi government?
The PM package mentions Rs 15,000 crore allocation for the infrastructure development of animal husbandry. However, this fund is going to be spent on dairy development and value addition of dairy products. They have entirely ignored sheep-goat farmers. The package has announced some benefits of low interest loans through the Kisan Credit Card for the beneficiaries of the PM Kisan Credit Card Yojana. But the package does not offer anything for those farmers who are not covered or registered under this scheme. The allocation of 53 crore for the vaccination of cattle against Foot and Mouth Diseases and Brucellosis is not new.
The same scheme was announced in the general budget this year. Actually, farmers and sheep-goat farmers need direct cash in the current situation. However, the government is mocking them by offering them loans.
What do you expect from the state and central government for the animal husbandry sector?
The government should play a supporting role for pastoralists. But neither the central, nor the Maharashtra government, is serious about the animal husbandry department. The anti-cow slaughter act is against farmers. This decision should be reversed, as this act is one of the main hurdles for farmers to get liquidity.
This department is not glamorous. Therefore, no big leader wants to be the minister of this department. Bureaucrats too, are not inclined to work in this department. In Australia, they have a meat and livestock commission, which helps their livestock farmers.
They search for a new market for their pastoralist livestock farmers. Even they send their teams to India to search for a market for their products. New Zealand and Australia are eyeing the Indian market for sheep and goat meat.