FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

There’s No Such Thing as a Free Cow

by P. SAINATH

“This is my demand,” says Ravindra Gowarkar bitterly. “I want every beneficiary of the Sixth Pay Commission to get a cow like the one the government gave me.” No pay hike the next time. “Give them an acre of land each if you like. And let the babus try and earn from this system,” says the angry, educated farmer in Vanjiri. “This animal is destroying us.”

“They landed up at my house and made me take this cow,” protests Kamlabai Gudhe in Lonsawala, Wardha. This Dalit farmer’s husband committed suicide five months ago. “I said we don’t want this. We have never kept cattle and don’t know how to. Give one of us a job, any work. Instead, my son is full time in service of this cow. Were he not tied down by it, he would earn Rs.50 a day [i.e., about $1] as a labourer. This brute eats more than all us in this house put together. And we don’t get more than four litres of milk in a day from it.”

“The buffalo I got through the government cost me Rs.120-Rs.150 a day,” says Mr. Gowarkar’s neighbour. “It never stopped eating.” He and several others have sold their animals. Next door, Anjanabai Dolaskar still has hers. “I feed it the wheat meant for my son – who was the `beneficiary.'” As for suicide-hit households, says a top official in Amravati, “none of them even applied to government for an animal.”

Giving quality cows to thousands of poor farmers was a high-profile element in the relief `packages’ of both Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The first would bring 40,000 new cows to the district in three years. The second, 18,000 in the same period. Even at the time, the idea was attacked as “insane” by critics from Planning Commission members to farm activists and others (The Hindu, July 14, 2006). Now the Chief Minister’s package has crashed. The Prime Minister’s hasn’t even taken off.

The chaos, points out Vijay Jawandia, one of the region’s foremost thinkers and activists, was predictable. “It was not clever to give poor farmers costly cows in places where there is no water or fodder.” Which describes much of Vidharbha. And the result is familiar. Farmers without food, cows without fodder. No less predictable: the State’s fodder assistance scheme is a mess. Much of what the farmers have got is inadequate, inedible, and the animals won’t have it.

At first, the `beneficiary’ was to go to the market with an official of the Animal Husbandry Department and choose his or her cow. In practice, the AHD soon began `choosing’ on its own. The type of animal also changed. The original plan was to buy sturdy local breeds. Or a buffalo. Soon, as in much of the country, the idea of `Jersey’ cows slipped in. With each change, the costs of the game rose. Ms. Gudhe’s cow is worth Rs.17,500 [i.e., c. $350] . In theory, at least. She calls the sorry creature an “aadha Jersey.”

Mr. Jawandia, amongst others, had demanded that the crores of rupees [crore = 10 million] directed at these schemes be used to promote the growth of jowar instead. Vidharbha’s livestock disaster began with the decline of food crop in the region. Jowar is where the fodder comes from. Up to 30 per cent of the land in some districts here was once under jowar.

Today, that’s less than five per cent. Less fodder implies fewer cows, less milk. Importantly, it means less manure too, which affects soil fertility.

So milk production in the region collapsed some years ago. Yavatmal district is a good example, says Dada Rhode. He has been a milk collection contractor for decades. “Just 12 years ago,” he says, “around 35,000 litres a day was procured in this district. Today, that’s around 7,000 litres daily.” An 80 per cent fall. In contrast, western Maharashtra could produce three quarters of a million litres in a day. Just two districts there, Kolhapur and Sangli, produce more milk than all of Vidharbha and Marathwada together.
Over there, points out Mr. Jawandia, “there is irrigation and water. The top of the sugarcane, a local by-product, is good green fodder. And the climatic conditions are better for dairying. For four months of the year, Vidharbha gets far hotter. The other regions have Pune and Mumbai as major markets. That doesn’t exist here.”

“Now,” says Mr. Rhode, “milk comes in here from all over. From other districts and other States. Even all the way from Kakinada in coastal Andhra Pradesh. Private companies have gained from the collapse. And you’ll find packaged milk all over the place.”

“If jowar comes back,” say farmers here, “farmers will begin to keep cattle once again.” Just now, farmers are trying to give them away. Several have sold the animals. And lost money doing it. For these cattle, though subsidised (between 50 per cent and 75 per cent), did not come free. Ms. Gudhe in Wardha, for instance, paid more than the Rs.5,000 required of her for the cow. The AHD man extracted the standard Rs.500 bribe from her, tagging it on to the price. This happened to most others who got a cow. If all these schemes were fully implemented, the region’s struggling farmers would part with over Rs.25 crore for the animals. Not counting what they would spend on maintaining them.

The cows given out may be “half” jerseys, but their appetites are not. The animal needs five kg of oil cake daily, which costs about Rs.45. Then there’s the green fodder it needs. There is also the cost of labor in looking after a Rs.17,500 cow. “I’m tied to this thing,” complains Bhaskar Gudhe, son of Ms. Kamlabai Gudhe in Lonsawala. “Don’t forget I lose Rs.50 at least from not working elsewhere.” There is also, as Ashok Manchalwar in Vanjiri says, “the bus ticket when I go to sell the milk.” That’s nearly Rs.30 for each trip. All in all, the costs of keeping the animal range from between Rs.85 and Rs.150 a day depending on who you are and where you live. Mr. Bhaskar Gudhe gets four litres and Mr. Manchalwar eight in a day. With a

litre selling at Rs.9, they make between Rs.36 and Rs.70 at the most. “Remember it eats in the non-milking season as well,” says a disgruntled Mr. Bhaskar Gudhe.

“I think I’ll go and leave this creature at the Collector’s house,” says Mr. Bhaskar Gudhe. “Let him raise it.” If other angry `beneficiaries’ here act the same way, the Collector could end up with the biggest herd in the region. And he won’t have to wait till the cows come home.

P. SAINATH is the rural affairs editor of The Hindu and the author of Everybody Loves a Good Drought. He can be reached at: psainath@vsnl.com.

 

 

 

P. SAINATH is the rural affairs editor of The Hindu, and is the author of Everybody Loves a Good Drought. He can be reached at: psainath@mtnl.net.in

More articles by:
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Russell Mokhiber
Bernie Delegates Take on Bernie Sanders
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
Robert Fisk
The Hypocrisies of Terror Talk
Lee Hall
Purloined Platitudes and Bipartisan Bunk: An Adjunct’s View
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of Collective Punishment: Russia, Doping and WADA
Nozomi Hayase
Cryptography as Democratic Weapon Against Demagoguery
Cesar Chelala
The Real Donald Trump
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Propaganda Machinery and State Surveillance of Muslim Children
Denis Conroy
Australia: Election Time Blues for Clones
Marjorie Cohn
Killing With Robots Increases Militarization of Police
David Swanson
RNC War Party, DNC War Makers
Eugene Schulman
The US Role in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict
Nauman Sadiq
Imran Khan’s Faustian Bargain
Peter Breschard
Kaine the Weepy Executioner
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail