The camel population has nosedived in Rajasthan by a staggering 34.69 per cent between the years 2012 and 2019, the latest figures from the 20th Livestock Census show.
Being a desert state, Rajasthan has the highest number of camels in India. In 2012, the figure was 3.26 lakh, which has declined to 2.13 lakh as of 2019. Other major states for camels have also registered a decline in their population, with their number decreasing from 30,000 to 28,000 in Gujarat, from 19,000 to 5,000 in Haryana and from 8,000 to just 2,000 in Uttar Pradesh.
Overall, the camel population in India has declined from 4 lakh in 2012 to just 2.5 lakh in 2019. While overall, the livestock population has grown in the country by 4.63 per cent, it has declined in Rajasthan by 1.66 per cent, from 57.7 million in 2012 to 56.8 million in 2019.
However, the decline is not new, as per Livestock Census figures available with the Animal Husbandry department of the state government.
Between 1951 and 1992, the number of camels in Rajasthan continued to increase, bar a small decline in 1988. The first major decline was registered between 1992 and 1997, when the number of camels declined from 7.46 lakh to 6.69 lakh; the highest-ever camel population in the state was 7.56 lakh in the year 1983.
However, the current figure of 2.13 lakh camels in the state is lower than 3.41 lakh camels in the year 1951.
Hanwant Singh, secretary of Lokhit Pashu Palak Sansthan, an NGO which works with camel pastoralists, claims that the actual number of camels in the state is closer to 1.5 lakh.
“In 2014, pastoralists used to get up to Rs 50,000 for a camel, but then the state government declared it the State Animal and then [in 2015] passed a law that banned the slaughter, trading and unauthorised transportation of camels,” says Singh, adding, “We wanted the government to impose a ban only on female camels.”
He says that this disrupted camel trade – with help from some NGOs which used to prevent transportation of camels – and camel breeders were forced to set male camels free. The earnings from camels have declined and thus some also indulge in surreptitiously selling camels, he said.
Aware of the impact of the law, the state government launched a scheme in 2016 to pay Rs 10,000, in three installments, to a camel farmer for each calf born. Singh alleges that few received the second installment and fewer received a third, “and moreover, the Congress government has stopped the scheme altogether.”
Animal Husbandry department director Sailesh Sharma refused to comment on the decline.
As for other livestock in the state, cattle population has increased by 4.41 per cent, buffalo population has increased by 5.53 per cent, while sheep population has decreased by 12.95 per cent, goat population has decreased by 3.81 per cent, horse and pony population has decreased by 10.85 per cent, and donkey population too has declined by 71.31 per cent.
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