"We are forced to do other official work besides immunization. When do we treat animals?" ask Livestock Extension Officers
In the animal husbandry department, livestock extension officers are the second-biggest technical cadre after veterinary officer cadre. The employees’ associations have alleged that they are forced to do other official works due to which they are unable to attend to the animals
Diti Bajpai 9 Oct 2019 11:07 AM GMT
A few days ago, prime minister Narendra Modi had announced the beginning of a nationwide immunization drive for the animals in Mathura. The animals were to be immunized against diseases like foot and mouth disease and brucellosis under the drive. The government officials responsible for the immunization in Uttar Pradesh have, however, have resolved to boycott the drive.
The employees' associations have alleged that they are forced to do other official works besides immunization due to which they are unable to attend to the animals. Animal service centers remain closed most of the time which affects the animal keepers badly. The animal keepers are then forced to private vets or quacks for paid treatment or for immunization of their animals.
"Today the number of para-vets and quacks is on a steady rise because most of the time livestock extension officers are engaged in immunization and deputed to other government duties like polio or quota verification. It is but natural if animal service centres are almost always closed the animal keeper will have to use the services of quacks," said Nitin Singh, the regional head of the Livestock Extension Officers Union."
He added: "For the past several years, we have been demanding to remove pay discrepancy, removal of livestock extension officers from jobs other than immunization and for educational qualifications. In the latest meeting, we have decided to boycott the 25th stage of the immunization drive against foot and mouth disease if our demands are not addressed."
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Nitin has been talking about boycotting the same foot and mouth immunization mission for which PM Modi had recently initiated an animal disease control program in Mathura's Veterinary University aiming to immunize more than 51 crore animals. The role of livestock extension officer is central to the immunization drive.
His job involves first-aid, immunization, artificial insemination, gelding and promotion and extension of various schemes of the animal husbandry department, but they are able to do little else besides immunization. After the veterinary officer, livestock extension officers form the biggest technical cadre. Beneath every veterinary hospital come two-three animal service centers, which are manned by livestock extension officers only.
Sen Singh, the livestock extension officer of Uttar Pradesh's Mirzapur district informed, "Sometimes, we are stationed at cattle shelter homes, sometimes to disburse food grains as per quota or duty at some fair — all these jobs affect our primary job. Seldom are we able to go to our centers to work there."
He added: "The animal service centre is a one-man institution where the livelihood extension officer works alone unsupported by any other staff. When we are out on some other work the centres are to be kept shut. So, the animal keepers have begun shying away from us and approaching untrained para-vets and quacks paying hefty sum as fees."
Indian Veterinary Council Act 1984 has stipulated that para-vets can only provide primary treatment, but these day para-vets seeking to maximize their incomes are openly defying the act and abandoning their duty to propagate government schemes to provide unlawful treatment.
As per the records of Uttar Pradesh livestock development council there are about eight thousand para-vets out of which six thousand are active in their respective areas. One para-vet is appointed per 1,800 animals to provide departmental information and for the immunization purposes.
Sen Singh rued, "Often para-vets provide misdiagnosis for the animals and we are made to face the ire of the administration. So, we demand from the government to allow us to do only our job which is possible when all other responsibilities are taken off our shoulders."
As per the records of the Animal Husbandry Department, Uttar Pradesh has 300 animal service centres, out of which 2,600 posts are occupied and remaining are vacant so not only livestock extension officer but also veterinarians are in short supply. As per National Agriculture Commission, there should be one veterinary hospital for every 5,000 animals in the country, but in Uttar Pradesh which has the largest population of animals has one veterinary hospital per 21,000 animals. In such a situation the animal keeper has to face several difficulties besides economic loss.
The 19th Animal Census estimates 205.66 lakh cows, 306.25 lakh buffaloes, 13.54 lakh sheep, 155.86 lakh goat, 13.34 lakh pigs and 186.68 lakh chickens in Uttar Pradesh. The state has 70 per cent of small, remote and landless farmers doing animal farming.
When the Gaon Connection spokesperson contacted Dr UP Singh, director, Animal Husbandry Department of Uttar Pradesh government, regarding the woes of the livestock extension officers, he informed: "It has been decided in the meeting that there shall be no boycotting of the foot and mouth disease immunization." When inquired about the demands of the livestock extension officers, Dr Singh told that it was the prerogative of the Administration and only the government can decide upon it."
Besides removal from duties of other works, livestock extension officers are also campaigning for the wage discrepancy and educational qualifications for the post. Sen Singh informed, "We have already presented counter statements. Besides if we are next in line to the veterinarians our grade pay should also be based on the II standard post to be Rs 4,600-4,800."
Citing the example of Uttarakhand Sen Singh said: "Seeing the work of the livestock extension officer in Uttarakhand their educational qualification has been increased to BSc (Bio) and their grade pay also has been enhanced. Our government should also follow the Uttarakhand government in this regard."
To protect the cattle against the severe disease like foot and mouth disease (FMD) the government operates the immunization drive twice each yeah year. The Union government has released FMD CP Manual of India which has clearly stated the guidelines that every state shall appoint a team to work towards immunization comprising of a veterinarian under whom there shall be two livestock extension officers and two Class IV workers.
Telling about the reason of boycotting the 25th cycle of FMD immunization, Nitin Singh, the state head of the livestock extension officers Union said: "The Indian government has ordered that if the manpower falls short during immunization drive the additional manpower may be provided from other department or by hiring a private agency. However, in our department, the manpower shortage is not being met and instead our livestock extension officers are pressurized
He further said: "Whether there are 25 livestock officers or 100, eight lakh animals are to be immunized every district. Where there are only 25 officers, they forced to work straight from 8 am to 9 pm. So, we shall boycott the immunization. Whichever duties are allocated to us by the administration only those duties we must do not any other additional job.
Three stages of the immunization drives go unpaid for yet
Hariom Sharma, district head of livestock extension union in Bulandshaher district, said: "Ours is the pivotal role in the immunization drive but despite this big-budget drive, our payments for its three stages have not been cleared so far. Whenever we inquire we get the same response that there isn't any budget. So, the pending payment amount is mounting. It is difficult to operate the immunization drive in such a circumstance."
Also saddled with the charge of the veterinary pharmacist
Shivam, district head of the livestock extension union in Sambhal district informed, "Whenever the post of a veterinary pharmacist gets vacated its charge is also imposed on the livestock extension officer despite clear instruction from the directorate that the charge of the veterinary pharmacist is not to be handed over to anyone else."
He added: "Pay discrepancy is a very old issue and is a primary demand from the government. Previously, for example, a veterinary pharmacist used to be promoted to the post of a livelihood extension officer, but not anymore. We have no avenue of promotion and so far as pay-discrepancy goes we get pay-scale than a veterinary pharmacist."