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Ban on slaughter of cattle will impact livelihoods: expert

V. Sridhar

‘The move can cause the value of livestock to crash to zero'


Decision ignores ‘symbiotic linkages among rural livelihood systems, farming systems, ecosystem'

Selective culling remains the best course to maintain productivity levels: Syed Ajmal Pasha


BANGALORE: The State Government's move to impose a blanket ban on slaughter of cattle will “severely impact livelihoods,” says a bovine economy expert, Syed Ajmal Pasha, who is head of the Institute for Ecological Economics and Natural Resources at the Institute for Social and Economic Change. Speaking to The Hindu, Dr. Pasha said the move was “illogical” because it ignored the “symbiotic linkages among rural livelihood systems, farming systems and the ecosystem.”

“It is ironical that the Government, instead of providing succour to the peasant in distress, plans to ban cattle slaughter, which will place an even greater burden on the peasant,” Dr. Pasha said.

Farm operations

The rapid diffusion of farm mechanisation technologies has replaced draught animals, particularly bullocks, for motive force in farm operations in Karnataka, just as it has in many other parts of the country.

For instance, in his own village in Chamarajanagar district, Dr. Pasha says the use of draught animals has declined dramatically in the last decade.

He points out that the depletion of common property resources, which were traditionally used for grazing, has resulted in higher costs of cattle rearing.

The scarcity and growing costs of fodder have only added to the pressure.

This, Dr. Pasha says, has created a surplus of bullocks that are sent to slaughterhouses.

Livestock has always been considered as a means of narrowing the skewed nature of landholdings in India.

In fact, schemes like the Integrated Rural Development Programme were directed at evening out extreme inequalities, says Dr. Pasha.

“But what happens to a poor farmer in a situation when the demand for bullocks is falling, and the cow also stops yielding milk,” asks Dr. Pasha.

In effect, an outright ban on the movement of cattle for slaughter could cause the value of the livestock to crash to zero.

“This is extremely unfair because the peasant has taken a loan to buy livestock, and has spent money on their upkeep,” argues Dr. Pasha.

Referring to the extremely low productivity of Indian cattle — milk yields are a fraction of international benchmarks — Dr. Pasha says: “selective culling” remains the best course to maintain productivity levels.

“The ban removes the one method by which the peasant could prevent resources from being spread thin.”

Dr. Pasha says the combined effect of the White and Green Revolutions have “transformed the notion of self-sufficiency in Indian villages.”

Revolutions

While the White Revolution has made milk more easily available, especially in urban areas, the Green Revolution has put greater stress on the agricultural ecosystem.

Not only have farm operations become more mechanised, the new high yielding varieties of crops yield less fodder than the traditional varieties, he says.

“On the one hand, the farmer now finds less use for the bullock, and on the other, he has to source feed for livestock from the market rather than from within his farm,” he says.

The ban, Dr. Pasha argues, ignores these far-reaching processes that are under way in Indian agriculture.

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