Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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

October 18, 2018
Erik Molvar
The Ten Big Lies of Traditional Western Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lockheed and Loaded: How the Maker of Junk Fighters Like the F-22 and F-35 Came to Have Full-Spectrum Dominance Over the Defense Industry
Lawrence Davidson
Israel’s “Psychological Obstacles to Peace”
Brian Platt – Brynn Roth
Black-Eyed Kids and Other Nightmares From the Suburbs
John W. Whitehead
You Want to Make America Great Again? Start by Making America Free Again
Zhivko Illeieff
Why Can’t the Democrats Reach the Millennials?
Steve Kelly
Quiet, Please! The Latest Threat to the Big Wild
Manuel García, Jr.
The Inner Dimensions of Socialist Revolution
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ Over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Adam Parsons
A Global People’s Bailout for the Coming Crash
Binoy Kampmark
The Tyranny of Fashion: Shredding Banksy
Dean Baker
How Big is Big? Trump, the NYT and Foreign Aid
Vern Loomis
The Boofing of America
October 17, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
When Saudi Arabia’s Credibility is Damaged, So is America’s
John Steppling
Before the Law
Frank Stricker
Wages Rising? 
James McEnteer
Larry Summers Trips Out
Muhammad Othman
What You Can Do About the Saudi Atrocities in Yemen
Binoy Kampmark
Agents of Chaos: Trump, the Federal Reserve and Andrew Jackson
David N. Smith
George Orwell’s Message in a Bottle
Karen J. Greenberg
Justice Derailed: From Gitmo to Kavanaugh
John Feffer
Why is the Radical Right Still Winning?
Dan Corjescu
Green Tsunami in Bavaria?
Rohullah Naderi
Why Afghan Girls Are Out of School?
George Ochenski
You Have to Give Respect to Get Any, Mr. Trump
Cesar Chelala
Is China Winning the War for Africa?
Mel Gurtov
Getting Away with Murder
W. T. Whitney
Colombian Lawyer Diego Martinez Needs Solidarity Now
Dean Baker
Nothing to Brag About: Scott Walker’s Economic Record in Wisconsin:
October 16, 2018
Gregory Elich
Diplomatic Deadlock: Can U.S.-North Korea Diplomacy Survive Maximum Pressure?
Rob Seimetz
Talking About Death While In Decadence
Kent Paterson
Fifty Years of Mexican October
Robert Fantina
Trump, Iran and Sanctions
Greg Macdougall
Indigenous Suicide in Canada
Kenneth Surin
On Reading the Diaries of Tony Benn, Britain’s Greatest Labour Politician
Andrew Bacevich
Unsolicited Advice for an Undeclared Presidential Candidate: a Letter to Elizabeth Warren
Thomas Knapp
Facebook Meddles in the 2018 Midterm Elections
Muhammad Othman
Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos
Gerry Brown
Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics: How the US Weaponizes Them to Accuse  China of Debt Trap Diplomacy
Christian Ingo Lenz Dunker – Peter Lehman
The Brazilian Presidential Elections and “The Rules of The Game”
Robert Fisk
What a Forgotten Shipwreck in the Irish Sea Can Tell Us About Brexit
Martin Billheimer
Here Cochise Everywhere
David Swanson
Humanitarian Bombs
Dean Baker
The Federal Reserve is Not a Church
October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail