IN THE absence of affordable techniques for sex selection of animals, reluctance of farmers to support unproductive cattle and stringent provisions against slaughtering, the Haryana government has an uphill task to make the state free of stray cattle by August 15 this year. The government has adopted a multi-pronged strategy to fulfill its target, including tagging of animals in cattle sheds and rehabilitation of stray cattle.
According to the 2012 Census, there are 1.17 lakh stray cattle in Haryana. Another 3.66 lakh are present in more than 400 cattle sheds across the state. Besides, there are 18.08 lakh domesticated cattle and 16 lakh buffaloes.
Buffaloes that were earlier used for work in the fields are no longer required due to the use of machines. Consequently, farmers release male calves on the roads, adding to the stray cattle populace. Further, animals that are no longer productive are also left on the road.
Dr Rajan Sharma, a scientist at National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal, says, “NDRI is working on a technology that can select X and Y sperm. Through this technology, we will be able to kill the Y sperm and only X will remain that will produce only female calves. This will solve half the problem. Male calves are unproductive. The problem is that at present, the technology is available only with two US-based companies and is expensive. The government can provide some subsidy on it.”
Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Haryana, had in 2010, procured semen straws for artificial insemination to produce female calves. Each semen straw costs $15 (approximately Rs 990). Three to four semen straws are required for each animal.
Dr G S Jakhar, Director, Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying, said, “We have raised the need for affordable sex selection technology with the Centre. Research is going on at the level of IITs to develop the technique.”
The Delhi High Court, in a judgment in 2005, had given directions that micro chips be installed in stray animals in order to keep a check on owners, who leave the cattle on the roads. An official said that after exploring this option, it was decided that it would not be feasible for cattle. Instead, the Haryana government has started the process of tagging cattle. So far, over 2.6 lakh animals have been tagged. A polyurethane tag, carrying a 12 digit unique identification number, is attached to the ear of an animal, using an ear tag applicator.
Dr Jakhar said, “By using tags, we can identify which shed the cattle belongs to. In case the owner lets the cattle out on the street, action can be initiated. The tags are distributed by Natonal Dairy Development Board and each one has a unique identification number. These are tamper proof.”
He pointed out that the use of micro chip is not feasible in such animals as the skin is thick. Due to this, it becomes difficult to scan the micro chip, said Jakhar.
Till now, three districts in Haryana, namely Mewat, Fatehabad and Yamunanagar, have been declared stray cattle free. In Fatehabad, the villagers decided to construct spaces to keep the stray cattle. The villagers have decided to contribute towards paying for cattle feed.
In Hisar, police had started mission stray cattle in 2007 and 6,000 stray animals have been rehabilitated. SP Rajendar Kumar Meena said, “We are undertaking the programme along with the district administration. We have shifted most of the stray cattle to remote areas and there, all arrangements are being taken care by the civil administration. Police personnel in Hisar are supporting the mission economically as well. We donate a day’s salary towards this cause and the donation is voluntary.”
Another problem is that farmers do not want to pay for the upkeep of unproductive cattle. Instead, they are left on the roads. Officials say that while slaughtering of cows and their progeny was not allowed earlier as well, with the rules not being so strict as is the case now, it did take place. Under the Haryana Gauvansh Sanrakshan and Gausamvardhan Act, 2015, cow slaughter in Haryana attracts rigorous imprisonment between three and 10 years and fine up to Rs 1 lakh.
“It is good that the government is making stringent laws for the protection of animals. However, the problems of farmers should also be taken into account. The cattle is productive from three to 10 years of age, but lives for several years more. The government should have a provision to take over the animals from the farmers once these are unproductive. The cost of keeping an unproductive animal is around Rs 150 per day. The government has that kind of resources and not the farmers,” said Harpal Singh, general secretary of All India Kisan Sabha.
Agriculture Minister O P Dhankar said, “The problem is going to increase in the coming years. We are looking towards using sex selection technology. The technology available at present is expensive and farmers do not use it.”
He added, “The other way is to appeal to the religious feelings of the people towards cows and their progeny. Some products can be made from cow urine, organic manure can be sold in order to make upkeep of animals economical. We need to convert gau bhakti into gau shakti. Society needs to own the animals.”