India's Cow Crisis Part 2: Threat of decline looms over livestock economy after 35 years' growth -Jitendra
-Down to Earth
The circular economy of cattle has ruptured, threatening livelihoods of India’s poorest. The value output of the livestock economy is Rs 9.18 lakh crore, managed mostly by small and marginal farmers
It is almost a year since Rahamdin Khan hasn’t got any good sleep. A resident of Khoabas, a bucolic village of 500 households at the foothills of Aravalli mountain range in Rajasthan’s Alwar district, Rahamdin witnessed a cruel turn in his fate some four years ago.
Except his traditional attire of white kurta and paijama, his life has undergone a change that he stutters to explain. A careful look around his home unmasks it. There are goats and buffalos but no more the cattle that once dictated the gross domestic product of his economy.
For centuries, villages like his in Rajasthan have eked out a fairly sustaining economy. In this part of the country, food crops are secondary economy.
In 2017, while he was on his way to a local cattle fare, a group of cow vigilantes thrashed Rahamdin and took away two milking cows along with calves. Bruised, battered and humiliated Rahamdin decided to abandon all his cattle. With that he withdrew from his primary livelihood.
“From the nurturers of a sound cattle economy, we are now looked at as enemies of the cow. Worse, we have been branded cow smugglers,” he says staring blankly at the floor.
The episode was followed by police raids. Many dairy farmers like Rahamdin were jailed after being charged with laws regulating cruelties against animals. “I was arrested twice between 2014 and 17,” he say sand hints that he had to cough up about Rs 40,000 to be free.
The lingering threat of violence made him quit cattle rearing in 2018. “A strange restlessness has gripped me since I discarded the 65 cattle I had,” he says.
“For us, it is a natural economy that singularly defined our prosperity. Can’t imagine prosperity without it,” says Rahamdin, who was once considered prosperous. Now he can be classified a farmer below the poverty line.
His consistent complain is he was left behind by “those” to fend off poverty and hunger. Residents know who “those” people are but never name them. “I don’t get sleep without cattle,” signs off Rahamdin.
Like him, the village’s other residents have started quitting cattle-rearing due to the rising threat of violence over cattle movement and stringent anti-cow trade laws that have been imposed in the state.
Cattle have simply vanished from the village’s landscape. At best, a few households keep some buffaloes or goats. It is like an economic plague taking its victims one at a time, eventually sweeping away everybody.
In Rajasthan, raids by cow vigilantes have been regular, often violent. The police registered 389 cases in 2017 alone under the Rajasthan Bovine Animal (Prohibition of Slaughter and Regulation of Temporary Migration or Export) Act, 1995. The state government amended this Act in 2015 to enable seizure of vehicle engaged in illegally carrying of cattle and arrest of smugglers. The numbers of cases was 474 in 2016 and 543 in 2015.
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