Farmers in Maharashtra have threatened to abandon their cattle in cities, a fallout of the ban on beef. Maharashtra’s new law has led to the closure of most cattle markets — 80 per cent as estimated by farmers as well as Department of Animal Husbandry officials — and the unsold stock is more than the already packed shelters can accommodate.
The cattle that farmers want to dump on the streets are the old, infirm ones, said Swambhimani Shetkari Sanghatana youth president Ravikant Tupkar. Farmers would otherwise have sold these off so that they could invest in new cattle. Such transactions mostly happen during April-May, allowing farmers to buy the new cattle ahead of June-July sowing season, Tupkar said.
Tupkar said farmers cannot afford the upkeep of the old cattle, which would cost them Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000 every month. The normal life span of a cow or a bull is 20 years and it remains active for 10 to 12 years. Farmers would soon transport these infirm animals to urban centres, Tupkar said.
“The ban is a result of pressure from sethjis in the cities, so let them look after the animals. With repeated droughts and a complete breakdown of the agrarian economy, the farmer will not be able to look after them,” Tupkar said.
Until the ban, trade in Maharashtra’s cattle markets reached an average 3 to 4 lakh stock every year. Prices have dropped by half since the ban. “There are more than 100 cattle markets in the state where such trading happens. The biggest of such markets is near Ahmednagar, but since the ban has come into force, most of the markets have closed down.” Tupkar said.
Tupkar said the organisation is in the process of finalising a massive agitation. “If the government does not provide a financial package to help farmers look after such cattle, we will transport the animals to the sethjis who brought about the ban,” he said.
The question of dealing with such animals has been discussed by the animal husbandry department too. Its commissioner, A T Kumbhar, said since the government has banned the slaughter of animals of the cow progeny, they are implementing the ban. Asked what the government plans to do with the lakhs of such animals, Kumbhar conceded he has no answers. “We are waiting for government directions on this,” he said.
Senior officers too admitted that their office is not clear about how they should deal with the old and infirm animals whose numbers will keep swelling year after year. “The state has 140 cow shelters but all of them are run by private parties. The government should now clarify where we can accommodate these animals,” said a senior officer.