Farmers need a helping hand from the govt for their cattle
Rearing cattle is an expensive business. But farmers have to spend a lot from their pockets because there are no facilities like good hospitals and doctors for cattle
Livestock plays an important role in rural economy as it provides livelihood to two-third of rural community. It also provides employment to about 8.8 % of the population in India. It contributes 4.11% in GDP and 25.6% of total agriculture GDP.
According to the 19th livestock census, population of India's livestock has declined by 3.33% and population of indigenous cattle has decreased by 8.94%. Lazy government machinery and unavailability of resources has led to decreasing livestock.
Following key takeaways may bring about some positive changes:
Pathetic condition of veterinary hospitals and shortage of veterinarians
Veterinary hospitals in villages are in poor health. Due to shortage of doctors and unavailability of medicines, villagers are suffering.
"There are 403 gram panchayats here. There is one veterinary hospital for 4-5 villages. But they are in poor condition. Buildings are dilapidated due to which doctors do not pay regular visits to the hospitals. In spite of existing government hospitals, animal keepers spend money in private hospitals," said Ashok Sisodia, resident of Ujjain district in Madhya Pradesh.
He added, "We do not even have any helpline number. Private veterinarians prescribe expensive medicines. We don't earn anything from milk production at present. Plus, there's an added burden of medicines. The government should provide facilities to veterinary hospital who could provide door-to-door medicare."
In 2017, under presidency of Hukmdev Narayan Yadav, MP from Madhubani in Bihar, agriculture affairs committee published a report. According to this report, there's a need of 115,000 veterinarians. On the contrary, only 60,000-70,000 veterinarians are available. Delay in medicare and unavailability of medicines account for massive deaths in livestock, said report. Due to this, poor and small-scale farmers suffer the most. Livestock now controls a quarter of the agriculture gross domestic product (GDP). In 2010-11, it generated outputs worth Rs 340,500 crore (at current prices). This was 28% of the agriculture GDP and about 5% of the country's GDP, reported Down To Earth.
Doubling farmers' income can be achieved by improving livestock sector. According to 19th livestock census, in India there are 51.2 crore bovines (cows and buffaloes), sheep, pigs, horses, pony, mule, camel and yak.
"Even though veterinary hospital was set up, but it provides no facilities. Neither doctors nor pharmacist pays a visit. Whenever our cattle fall sick we call private doctors. They visit us, but they are expensive," said Rajveer, 60, resident of Orani village in Nidhauli Kalan Block of Uttar Pradesh.
Uttar Pradesh has the largest number of cattle in India where only one veterinary hospital for 21,000 animals. Because of this animal keepers have to walk long distances in search of medicines. Due to unavailability of veterinarians and shortage of veterinary hospitals, animals lose their lives.
"There remains an acute shortage of basic medicines in the hospitals. Antipyretic and analgesics (medicines for pain relief and fever), antibiotics, dewormer vaccines should be made available for animals in hospitals, but none of this is available in majority of the hospitals," said Bablu, a veteran from Jharkhand.
Veterans are not available when needed
We also talked to various veterinarians to look into other aspects of acute shortage of medicines and unavailability of veterans.
Dr Surendra Kumar, a veterinarian from Mahigavan village of BKT Block in Lucknow told GC reasons behind delay in attending sick cattle. "We stay for three months in the hospital. Vaccination of animals is done twice a year. After which, we are assigned the task of making toilets, quota verification, duty in cleanliness campaign, mid-day meal check. It becomes difficult for us to provide treatment to all animals.
"It is necessary to free veterinary hospital from all other duties other than health check. Mobile veterinary van and medicines at cheap rate should be made available for animal keepers," said Dr Chirtan Kadiyan, president of the Veterinarian Association in Panchkula district of Hariyana.
Unavailability of multi specialty veterinary hospitals at district level
Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) set up the first multi-specialty hospital in North India in Bareli district to provide better medicare to animals. In this hospital, there're different operation theaters, minor OT, delivery room, X-ray, Ultrasound, CT scan, screening laboratories, Endoscopy, Dialysis unit and seminar room available. Besides, this hospital has facility of ICU.
"Keepers from many states visit us for their animals' treatment," said Dr Amar Pal, chief scientist of IVRI and in charge of multi specialty hospital. "But farmers who are poor are helpless. If multi specialty hospitals are set up at district level then farmers will not have to roam around. Plus, it will help small scale farmers," he added.
Para-vets are not well trained
Owing to unavailability of government and private doctors, keepers in villages prefer para-vets over them. But, these para-vets, locally called as Pashumitra, are not well trained. They also provide erroneous medication to animals due to which farmers suffer financial loss. According to Indian Veterinary Education Act 1984, a para-vet can only give basic treatment.
Arrangement for Vaccination
Even at this point in time, keepers in villages do not administer vaccination to their animals owing to lack of knowledge and awareness.
The central and state government spend generous amount of budget for medicare of the cattle. Epidemiology (foot-mouth disease) -- the most infectious and deadly viral disease and the hemorrhagic septicemia disease (locally known as khurpaka-muhpaka and galaghontu) mainly affects cows and buffaloes. It widely spreads during monsoons. It is also a bacterial disease, infectious, which spreads very fast.
"Vaccination programme is carried out throughout the year. It costs too much, but it also lacks proper execution. In such a situation, they should practice vaccinations collectively. This will add to less expenses and manpower," said Dr Om Prakash, a veterinarian from BKT Block in Lucknow.
Ice-lined refrigerators should be provided in order to ensure clean sterile vaccines. Also, it will be easy to carry vaccines from one village to another. After administering vaccinations, monitoring does not happen. In such a scenario, vaccinations get delayed.
Former union minister of agriculture & Farmers' Welfare, Krishna Raj, gave consent to joint vaccinations for food and mouth diseases (FMD) and Hemorrhagic Septicemia disease (HS) in Haryana. If this expands in the entire country then it will not only benefit farmers, but also will curb government expenses.
Suggestions for the government:
1. Door-to-door facility of mobile vans should be provided
If door-to-door facility of mobile vans is provided in villages then it will help in providing immediate medicare to the animals. Bablu Sundi, resident of Ranchi district in Jharkhand, has been providing door to door medicare using mobile van. He said, "If we provide door-to-door facility to keepers and necessary vaccines for serious diseases then it will reduce their expenses on medicines."
"It is challenging for veterans to look after treatment of animals in mountainous regions. If mobile clinic services are provided then animals will receive door-to-door treatment and it will also benefit farmers," said Dr Amit, deputy director Animal Husbandry in Uttrakhand.
2. Toll free number for immediate help
If animal keepers avail immediate treatment for their ill animals then it will benefit both animals and keepers. For that, it is necessary to provide facility of a toll free number. Telangana government started the Pashu Sanjivni programme under which keepers dial a toll-free number (1962) and explain symptoms of disease to the veterinarians over phone. In return, veterinarians explain medication to the keepers and they also come over if the sick is in a very poor health.
"In order to provide medication to animals Pashu Sanjivni Yojana was initiated in Telangana. After Telangana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana have started following this scheme. This is directly benefiting farmers. This scheme should be expanded all over the country," said Dr Chirtan Kadiyan, President of the Veterinarian Association in Panchkula district of Hariyana.