`Open forests for live­stock graz­ing'

Down to Earth - - LIVESTOCK ECONOMY -

You claim to be the coun­try's first cow min­is­ter. What is your depart­ment do­ing for the wel­fare of cows in Ra­jasthan? We want to de­velop the 1,450 reg­is­tered (cow sheds) in the state in such a way that they be­come self-re­liant. We also want to de­velop in­dige­nous breeds so that peo­ple con­sider it prof­itable to rear them. But what about small farm­ers and herds? Peo­ple will keep cows only if there is po­ten­tial to earn from them. That is why we want to bring

con­struc­tion un­der Ma­hatma Gandhi Na­tional Ru­ral Em­ploy­ment Guar­an­tee Scheme.

Otaram De­wasi What is the sta­tus of other live­stock an­i­mals? As chair­per­son of Ra­jasthan Live­stock Board, I had started in­sur­ance schemes such as Kamd­henu for cows, Avika Kavach for sheep and so on. We have made hos­tels for chil­dren of shep­herds who mi­grate. The pop­u­la­tion of camels and sheep has de­clined greatly. What is the gov­ern­ment do­ing for them? To ad­dress this prob­lem, the gov­ern­ment just de­clared camel the state an­i­mal and sent a pro­posal to the Cen­tre to make camel the na­tional an­i­mal. It will be a pri­or­ity for us to stop camel slaugh­ter and we are try­ing to in­clude camel milk in the Food Se­cu­rity Act. Live­stock keep­ers say there is not enough fod­der. What is the so­lu­tion? Forests should be opened up for graz­ing. We will send a pro­posal to the gov­ern­ment in this re­gard. We are de­vel­op­ing a fod­der which grows in 15 days. states shied away from the fair last year.The de­mand fell, lead­ing to a crash in prices. “Ear­lier, we used to get 30,000-`40,000 for ev­ery male camel. But this time, camels were sold for just 10,000-`12,000, and the younger ones for as low as 6,000. How will we sur­vive?”asks Go­tam,a 55-year-old Raika from Desuri tehsil of Pali dis­trict.

While the laws paral­yse tra­di­tional eco­nomic in­cen­tives of keep­ers, a more crit­i­cal prob­lem threat­ens the very sur­vival of all live­stock.

Shrink­ing pas­ture land

In Ch­hoti Mo­raval vil­lage of Ra­jsamand dis­trict, a thick layer of white mar­ble dust chokes five hectares (ha) of graz­ing land. Sit­u­ated in the Aravalli hills, this land was once the ideal pas­ture for cat­tle from nearby pan­chay­ats. A small nat­u­ral lake sus­tained veg­e­ta­tion and pro­vided wa­ter. But the land was forcibly ac­quired by min­ing com­pa­nies.The lake slowly dried up, veg­e­ta­tion dis­ap­peared and the live­stock lost a sub­stan­tial source of food.

“In rev­enue records, it is still pas­ture land,” says So­han Lal Puro­hit, a se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial. “The Supreme Court has strictly pro­hib­ited min­ing on pas­ture land. But it has been go­ing on unchecked here for eight years.”

Sto­ries of dis­ap­pear­ing graz­ing land persist through­out Ra­jasthan. The state’s live­stock has tra­di­tion­ally re­lied on gochars (com­mon graz­ing lands), orans (sa­cred groves) and forests.Live­stock keep­ers would mi­grate over small and large dis­tances in search of fal­low land and un­sown fields.

“Due to rain-fed agri­cul­ture, peo­ple used to fol­low an al­ter­nate graz­ing sys­tem. They cul­ti­vated half their land and left the re­main­ing half fal­low for graz­ing by do­mes­tic an­i­mals,” says Anil Ku­mar Ch­hangani, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor, en­vi­ron­men­tal science, Ma­haraja Ganga Singh Uni­ver­sity,Bikaner.

But the 1950s and 60s saw a ma­jor shift in Ra­jasthan’s econ­omy. The Indira Gandhi Canal brought wa­ter into seven arid and semi-arid north-west­ern dis­tricts of the state. The co­in­cid­ing Green Revo­lu­tion meant the pop­u­la­tion leaned fur­ther to­wards agri­cul­ture, adopt­ing tube well- and canal-fed ir­ri­ga­tion and in­ten­sive crop­ping prac­tices.

A 1978 pa­per pub­lished in Pro­ceed­ings of In­dian Na­tional Science Academy by re­searchers Amal Ku­mar Sen and K N Gupta of Jodh­pur-based Cen­tral Arid Zone Re­search In­sti­tute show that fal­low land in the arid dis­tricts of Gan­gana­gar fell by 25 per cent, in Barmer by 21 per cent, in Churu by 28 per cent and in Bikaner by 10 per cent be­tween 1957-58 and 1963-64. The pa­per at­trib­uted this change to bring­ing more land un­der cul­ti­va­tion for the gov­ern­ment’s “grow more food”cam­paign (see ‘Har­vest­ing doom’).

In the past two decades, agri­cul­ture has con­tin­ued to grow ex­po­nen­tially in Ra­jasthan. A re­port sub­mit­ted by the Agro-Eco­nomic Re­search Cen­tre of Gu­jarat’s Sar­dar Pa­tel Uni­ver­sity to the

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