There are a large number of livestock farmers in Maharashtra. The animals live in natural surroundings and consume plants of medicinal value, which enables them to provide high quality meat, eggs and milk.
But no one cares for the problems of these non-unionised livestock owners and neither does the government have any concrete plans and policies for their welfare. The Nagpur-based people's collective, Anthra Pune, in collaboration with the pastoral and livestock keeping communities in Maharashtra have prepared a manifesto of their demands, to bring these issues to the fore.
The following is a summation of the manifesto:
"We are demanding that the Maharashtra government formulate a comprehensive policy for them, taking into account the problems and needs of livestock farmers. We will continue to support only those political parties and people’s representatives in the upcoming assembly elections, who will accept our demands and make the policies of the livestock community a reality.
"With this statement, we appeal to all candidates and the general public that they read our manifesto and offer their suggestions. Responders should mention their name, address, phone and signature, for future communication.
"Here, it is assumed that livestock includes cows, buffaloes, horses, camels, goats, sheep, pigs, donkeys and poultry.
1.1) Livestock farmers should get identity cards or it should be mentioned on the Aadhaar card. So that when these animals migrate, it will be possible for these farmers to get prompt assistance for various problems. A special drive should be carried out to ensure that those without Aadhaar cards or those who have not applied for one, should get it immediately.
1.2) This nomadic community has no birth certificate and proof of residency. Livestock breeders are unable to utilise government schemes or obtain assistance after they migrate to another place. Often, they are subjected to harassment by criminals. Special efforts should be made to prevent such abuse and harassment.
Measures should be taken to minimise problems affecting the livestock and their owners, residency and caste certification for the owners. Special camps should be organized to get them certificates. They should be able to vote in the village where they are migrating and also be provided with rations.
1.3) Cases of exploitation, abuse and torture of migrants and livestock, women, children and the elderly in the community have been increasing. Victims' complaints should be addressed promptly and culprits should be brought to justice. Livestock breeders should get protection.
2.1) All animals in the village should be registered.
2.2) Representatives of the livestock community should get membership of the milk co-operative or collective in the region.
2.3) Protection and conservation of indigenous breeds of animals like cows. If an animal dies in an accident, the Karnataka government provides livestock breeders Rs 5,000 per animal. Can the government of Maharashtra come out with a similar policy?
2.4) Encourage research on livestock, with inputs from the breeders, to increase the latter's income from animals such as goats, sheep, camels and donkeys.
2.5) Incentives should be offered to ensure the quality of clean, pure suckling milk and other livestock products. Creation of a positive environment.
2.6) For lack of veterinarians, in many villages, sick animals suffer, indirectly causing immense losses to livestock breeders. Veterinarians should be hired based on the livestock population in an area. The government should also provide power banks, mobile chargers and solar lamps, in case of power outage.
2.7) A policy to encourage agri-produce companies and farmer-producers to enable livestock farmers to get the right price for their products.
3.1) Government should plan on increasing pastoral area.
3.2) A fodder policy should be announced. This should include the number of animals in the state, the demand for cattle, the production, and the total pastoral area. A white paper should be published on the losses of the past ten years.
3.3) Pastures mainly reserved for livestock, should only be used for grazing. The lands are being used for other purposes, as a result of which the animals are deprived of their grazing rights. The change of land use policy, failure to evict and regularization of encroachments has resulted in this situation.
3.4) Rules should be applicable so that nomads receive their traditional share, occupancy and usage of grazing land.
3.5) Village-wise, proper reservation should be made so that the pastures, fodder and water sources are permanently available to the animals. Expert help can be used to formulate such a policy.
3.6) The ban on animal husbandry in sanctuaries, government and semi-forest areas should be lifted. For this, a committee of representatives of local livestock breeders, veterinary experts, NGOs working for the livestock community should be set up to formulate a policy.
3.7) Livestock breeders should not be prevented from carrying out their traditional rituals in forests or restricted areas. In this period, an allowance should be made for them.
3.8) Grazing land in forests is lost when a dam is being built or development projects are undertaken. But the system does not compensate the breeders or provide them with alternatives. This situation must change.
4) Projects such as moving schools, anganwadis should be available for the children of the breeders so that these children are able to get an education. During resettlement, the children should get education in schools within town limits. School buses should be provided for these children. Residential accommodation should be reserved for children of migratory livestock producers.
5.1) Because of the grazing ban, the number of animals have been reduced. Therefore, a large number of livestock breeders have raised questions about their livelihoods. These people should be provided with business and employment options. Youth should be trained in various skills. Special schemes and policies should be formulated to provide employment in the forest, agriculture and animal husbandry departments.
5.2) For those who want to settle in villages, such as Dhangars, Gopals, Bharwads, Maldharis, Mathuras Labhans, Vaidus, Vadars etc, special provisions should be made.
5.3) The Raje Yashwantrao Holkar Mahamesh Yojana was announced to promote sheep-rearing in the state under the Punyashlok Ahilyadevi Maharashtra Sheep and Goat Development Corporation. To be eligible for this scheme, the applicant should have received training in sheep farming. We demand that this condition be relaxed for traditional sheep breeders. For those who are shepherds by tradition, such a condition is a mockery of their wisdom."
(The writer is a livestock expert and head of CPC Nagpur)