Ground Report: Livestock and livelihoods swept away in floods in Haryana
As farmers in Ambala, Haryana grapple with staggering losses with their inundated paddy fields, livestock owners are dealing with drowned cows, buffaloes, pigs and poultry, the main source of their livelihood.
Brijendra Dubey 21 July 2023 1:16 PM GMT
Naggal (Ambala), Haryana
As villagers in Haryana and Punjab are dragging themselves up to their feet after torrential rains and floods, they are waking up each day to new woes and realisations. While their fields planted with paddy have turned into brown quagmire, there is worse as every now and then the bloated carcass of a cow or buffalo turns up.
A large number of rural families have lost their cattle — cows and buffaloes — which were a source of their income through the dairy business, and also helped feed their own families (milk). There are farmers who have lost their poultry and pigs, and are yet to make sense of the losses in the wake of the devastating floods in the region.
“We had floodwaters till the roof of our house. Our cow tried to swim to safety, but she died. In my neighbouring village, I heard some families have lost 10 cows,” Manmohan Singh, of Naggal village in Ambala, Haryana, told Gaon Connection. “Imagine what will happen to such families. Their only source of income — cows — are gone,” he added.
Manmohan Singh was torn between grief for his cow which he said was like the member of his family, that he had brought up just like one of his children, and worried about his tractor that the mechanic said needed major repairs. And amid the catastrophe, Manmohan Singh has little money to spare.
In the neighbouring village Khaira village in Ambala, several families complained of losing their cattle in the flood. “I lost a buffalo. She drank some dirty flood waters and died. I had bought her for Rs 30, 000 and she gave us four to five litres of milk a day. She has gone,” Gurmeet Singh from Khaira village told Gaon Connection. He has lost some pigs and some hens too, he said, and is yet to make an assessment of his losses.
Village after village in Ambala many people are realising that they cannot account for their livestock. And, they cannot even go looking for them as many places are unreachable for now, having been cut off by water, broken trees or just washed away roads.
All clothes, bedding, kitchen utensils and stored grains were washed away in the floods, said Sunita Devi of Khaira village. “Along with them we lost 50 hens. They were in their coop and they drowned. They were a source of income for us,” the woman told Gaon Connection.
For many of the elders of the villages, this has been a flood like none before. “I have never seen one like this. When the waters hit, we released as many cattle as we could so that they could move to safety themselves. But, in the panic and confusion, and in our haste to save our own lives, a few cattle could not be saved. My buffalo drowned,” Gujan Singh from Khaira village, told Gaon Connection.
The dairy farmer said that his livelihood had depended on that buffalo and now he was not sure what he was going to do next. “We are eating thanks to langars being organised by villages in Punjab and the Kisan Union. I know nothing about whether I will get any compensation or not,” said the distressed farmer.
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“My son’s buffalo died. She fell sick but we could not get a vet to her because of the floods, and we watched her breathe her last, helplessly. We don’t know if we will get any compensation, but we have lost her, ” Hardam Sing from Ambi Pur, told Gaon Connection.
There is simmering anger as farmers say no help has been extended from the government. “Our neighbours helped us. While we managed to save some buffaloes by taking them to higher ground, people lost their pigs and poultry,” Gurnam Singh, ex-sarpanch, Khaira village, told Gaon Connection.
“When the waters entered the village, I called the District Development and Panchayat Officer, Ambala. He did not respond to my calls. I called 112 (Emergency Response Support System in India ), and even they responded after 24 hours. But they sent two boats and with the help of Army jawans, two women who were pregnant were taken to a hospital in Ambala,” narrated Gurnam Singh.
He said the villagers were grateful to the people of the neighbouring villages that continued to supply them with drinking water and food, and the Indian army for their timely help.
Meanwhile the cattle have returned to their damp sheds, where they share the meagre quantity of fodder they have been given. Sheep and goats sit by the highway. And, farmers wade knee deep into their paddy fields, side stepping floating garbage that has been swept in, trying to make sense of their losses and struggling to think of what they should do next.