FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

There’s No Such Thing as a Free Cow

“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.

 

 

 

More articles by:

P Sainath is the founder and editor of the People’s Archive of Rural India. He has been a rural reporter for decades and is the author of ‘Everybody Loves a Good Drought.’ You can contact the author here: @PSainath_org

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
August 16, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Uncle Sam was Born Lethal
Jennifer Matsui
La Danse Mossad: Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein
Rob Urie
Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity
Stuart A. Newman
The Biotech-Industrial Complex Gets Ready to Define What is Human
Nick Alexandrov
Prevention Through Deterrence: The Strategy Shared by the El Paso Shooter and the U.S. Border Patrol
Jeffrey St. Clair
The First Dambuster: a Coyote Tale
Eric Draitser
“Bernie is Trump” (and other Corporate Media Bullsh*t)
Nick Pemberton
Is White Supremacism a Mental Illness?
Jim Kavanagh
Dead Man’s Hand: The Impeachment Gambit
Andrew Levine
Have They No Decency?
David Yearsley
Kind of Blue at 60
Ramzy Baroud
Manifestos of Hate: What White Terrorists Have in Common
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The War on Nature
Martha Rosenberg
Catch and Hang Live Chickens for Slaughter: $11 an Hour Possible!
Yoav Litvin
Israel Fears a Visit by Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib
Neve Gordon
It’s No Wonder the Military likes Violent Video Games, They Can Help Train Civilians to Become Warriors
Susan Miller
That Debacle at the Border is Genocide
Ralph Nader
With the Boeing 737 MAX Grounded, Top Boeing Bosses Must Testify Before Congress Now
Victor Grossman
Warnings, Ancient and Modern
Meena Miriam Yust - Arshad Khan
The Microplastic Threat
Kavitha Muralidharan
‘Today We Seek Those Fish in Discovery Channel’
Louis Proyect
The Vanity Cinema of Quentin Tarantino
Bob Scofield
Tit For Tat: Baltimore Takes Another Hit, This Time From Uruguay
Nozomi Hayase
The Prosecution of Julian Assange Affects Us All
Ron Jacobs
People’s Music for the Soul
John Feffer
Is America Crazy?
Jonathan Power
Russia and China are Growing Closer Again
John W. Whitehead
Who Inflicts the Most Gun Violence in America? The U.S. Government and Its Police Forces
Justin Vest
ICE: You’re Not Welcome in the South
Jill Richardson
Race is a Social Construct, But It Still Matters
Dean Baker
The NYT Gets the Story on Automation and Inequality Completely Wrong
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Retains Political Control After New US Coercive Measures
Gary Leupp
MSNBC and the Next Election: Racism is the Issue (and Don’t Talk about Socialism)
R. G. Davis
Paul Krassner: Investigative Satirist
Negin Owliaei
Red State Rip Off: Cutting Worker Pay by $1.5 Billion
Christopher Brauchli
The Side of Trump We Rarely See
Curtis Johnson
The Unbroken Line: From Slavery to the El Paso Shooting
Jesse Jackson
End Endless War and Bring Peace to Korea
Adolf Alzuphar
Diary: What About a New City Center?
Tracey L. Rogers
Candidates Need a Moral Vision
Nicky Reid
I Was a Red Flag Kid
John Kendall Hawkins
The Sixties Victory Lap in an Empty Arena
Stephen Cooper
Tony Chin’s Unstoppable, Historic Career in Music
Charles R. Larson
Review: Bruno Latour’s Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime
Elizabeth Keyes
Haiku Fighting
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail