In the past five decades, Maharashtra’s population has shown a decennial growth of between 16 to 27.5 per cent. While its human population has zoomed up by nearly 183 per cent from 3.96 crore in 1961 to 11.24 crore in 2011, the growth in the number of livestock, which help in labour and producing commodities, has dipped substantially. In 1961, Maharashtra had 66,000 livestock animals for every one lakh resident in the state. The number has now gone down to 29,000 livestock animals per lakh residents. The state government’s recently released Economic Survey Report has pegged the total number of livestock based on the 2012 Livestock census at 3.24 crore. The number is only a 25 per cent increase over 1961, when there were 2.60 crore livestock animals.
Livestock species consist of cattle (cow and its progeny), buffalo, sheep, goat, pig, horse and pony, mule, donkey, camel, mithun and yak. Experts say the slow growth in livestock is basically due to a drop in their use for farming, which is increasingly mechanised. Another reason has been the declining land holdings of farmers, which makes buying and retaining of cattle an expensive exercise.
What is striking is the fact that while the number of buffaloes, sheep and goat have grown in the state, the number of cattle has been fairly static in the last five decades.
The number of buffaloes has grown by 81 per cent in the past 50 years, from 30.87 lakh to 55.95 lakh. Sheep and goat have grown by 51 per cent from 72.73 lakh to 1.10 crore. However, the cow and its progeny have grown by only one per cent from 1.53 crore to 1.54 crore.
The total livestock has actually dipped in the state as against the last census of 2007 from 3.59 crore to 3.24 crore.
The BJP government, soon after it came to power in the state, had passed an order banning slaughter of bulls and buffaloes. The state already had a ban on cow slaughter.The present census does not reflect the effect of the slaughter ban, as it was completed before the order. The only category of animals that seem to have flourished in this period is poultry, which grew at a rate of 635 per cent in the last half century. Their numbers grew from 1.05 crore in 1961 to 7.77 crore in 2012.