Indian Breeding League: Will Cows Emerge Man of the Match Again?

Indian Breeding League: Will Cows Emerge Man of the Match Again?

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Producer: Sushovan Sircar and Badsha Ray

Editor: Deepthi Ramdas and Prashant Chauhan

Camera: Shiv Kumar Maurya

India, in recent times, has learnt a lot about its bovine population. We know their “horns absorb radioactivity” and their “gomutra acts as an excellent floor cleaner”. What we do not know about our bovine population, though, is their population.

Why though?

Because the government hasn’t gotten around to counting it yet.

The 20th Livestock Census was scheduled to commence in July 2017. Thirteen months later, the project is yet to take off. Senior officials of the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairy and Fisheries (DAHDF) have told The Quint that the counting is finally expected to kick off by end-October. This means that the government is still relying on data from the 2012 census for decisions related to livestock.

Indian Breeding League

Apart from cows, bullocks and buffaloes, the Livestock Census will also count yaks, sheep, donkeys, mules, horses, pigs, goats, camels, elephants and dogs.

In the “Indian Breeding League” we take a closer look at the census statistics of five animals – cattle (cows and ox), dogs, elephants, rabbits and donkeys.

  • While the total exotic/foreign breeds of cattle grew by over 20 percent in 2012, the ‘swadeshi’ breeds recorded a decline of nearly 9 percent.
  • India’s canine population has broken a few hearts with a drop in its population. Its 2012 population of 11.60 million is a decline of nearly 39 percent from its 2007 figure.
  • The population of domestic elephants grew drastically from 1,000 in 2007 to 22,000 in 2012.
  • Rabbits of India have been impressive in propagating their kind. They stand at 0.59 million, a rise of nearly 40 percent from 2007.
  • Indian donkeys seem to have taken their foot off the pedal a little. Their population in 2012 displayed a sharp drop by 27.17 percent to stand at 3,19,000.

The census, held every five years, will be conducted digitally on tablets for the first time. However, this is where the government has stumbled. Tablets were meant to expedite the survey process but, ironically, have emerged as the reason for the delay – lack of coordination between the Centre and states created delays in procuring them.

First held in 1919, the livestock census has been delayed only twice previously – in 1971 and 2002. The last census was held in 2012.

Our favourite animals are up for counting again.
Our favourite animals are up for counting again.
Photo: Erum Gour/The Quint

Why the Livestock Census is of Vital Importance

Bovine animals are central to the rural economy. They not only contribute to the income of farmers, but more importantly, act as guaranteed insurance. Farmers trade their livestock to raise instant capital in case of a calamity, for medical expenses, marriages or for an upcoming crop season.

The census is of vital importance also because it will shed light on the impact of the government’s extension of the prohibition of cow slaughter to bulls and bullocks in 2015. A report by the People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI) revealed the economic distress in rural marketplaces caused by the ban. Cattle owners find it increasingly difficult to trade their livestock to raise capital in the aftermath of the ban and the subsequent violence.

According to the 19th Census of 2012, the livestock sector contributes 4.11 percent to the national economy in terms of the total GDP. India is home to the largest livestock population in the world with a holding of 11.6 percent of the world’s livestock.

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