After remaining free from incidents of the dreaded foot and mouth disease (FMD) for more than three years, Maharashtra’s livestock is now facing the threat from a completely unexpected source. Technical issues plaguing the procurement process for the vaccine now threaten to delay the next round of vaccination supposed to be held in January. Ironically, the tender trouble comes within months of the state being officially declared a ‘controlled’ area — the penultimate step before the state is declared ‘free’ from the disease.
Caused by the virus of the same name, FMD is a highly infectious disease of the domestic and wild bovidae.
The disease, with its high mortality rate, also causes productivity of the animals to drastically drop. Crossbred animals are highly susceptible to the disease, while virulence among indigenous animals is relatively low.
In Maharashtra, of the 2.9 crore animals, over 36 lakh are crossbred, concentrated mainly in the districts of Pune, Satara, Sangli, Solapur, Kolhapur, Nashik, Ahmednagar and Jalgaon. And 74 per cent of the over 1 crore litres of milk collected in the state incidentally come from these districts.
The last confirmed case of FMD in Maharashtra was reported in 2013-14, when 725 animals were infected and 26 animals died. Since 2014, the Department of Animal Husbandry has ensured vaccination of animals twice a year. Over 180 lakh animals are vaccinated annually, with special attention on the border areas. The first round of vaccines is held in the months of January and February, while the second round is organised between August and September.
However, the ensuing round of vaccination has come under a cloud as the process of procurement of vaccines is yet to be completed. Kantilal Umap, Commissioner, Animal Husbandry, said the process got delayed due to problems in the tendering process. FMD vaccines, he said, was being manufactured by just three companies in the country. “In the first tender process, the laboratory report of one of the companies had come negative and as per norms just two companies can’t qualify for the first tender. The process was repeated once again, which saw two companies participating,” said Umap.
The process could not be completed due to issues with the amount quoted and the tender process again held up due to legal challenges.
Finally, the tender process was held for the third time and the commissionerate is waiting for the state government’s green signal to go ahead with procurement.
Umap said he expected the matter to be resolved in the next few days and the actual process of vaccination to start within the next fortnight or so.