Vigilante groups take toll on dairy farmers

Jalandhar: With the Punjab and Haryana high court observing that cow vigilante groups in the region were circumventing law and ordering a CBI probe into the death of an alleged “cattle smuggler” in Haryana, there has been a marginal decline in rates of cows. Even the dairy farmers in Punjab have started opting for rearing buffaloes.

Punjab has been the leading exporter of milch cows to other states, including Gujarat.

Inquiries from various quarters revealed that not only the prices of cows of improved breeds with higher yields being sent to other states come down, but even in the local market the prices have dropped. At the same time, buffalo prices have risen.

“Rates of cows have fallen in the last couple of years. Farmers who are also into dairy business have started preferring buffaloes since vigilante groups have made even local trading of cows very difficult.

Besides, people are afraid of frame ups,” said Pawandeep Singh, of Mauli village near Phagwara, who owns milch cattle.

“In the local market, price of a reasonably good cow was around Rs 70,000 but now the going rate is Rs 50,000 to 55,000,” he said.

“Cows are cheaper, but buffaloes have become costlier. Another reason for this is poor veterinary services, which doesn’t help a lot of cows turning unproductive early,” added Sham Sunder Sharma, a diary owner of Hadiabad. “The number of unproductive stray cows has been going up,” said Sital Singh, a farmer of the same area.

“While a buffalo still fetches around Rs 20,000 when it is sold to meat factory after it turns unproductive, one has to pay up to leave an unproductive cow at a gaushala,” claimed Amrik Singh of Reru village near Jalandhar.

The worst hit are the dairy owners, who invested in the trade in a big way and also worked on improving the breed by using semen of Holstein Friesian, a high milk yielding breed, from US.

“Our cows would fetch around Rs 1.25 lakh when sold in other states, but now, after several instances of vigilante groups attacking trucks and operating freely with Punjab police gunmen, the trade has hit such a level that prices have dropped to around Rs 75,000,” said Punjab Dairy Farmers Association (PDFA) president Daljit Singh. “An annual trade of Rs 2,500 crore has been reduced to a few hundred crores now,” he revealed.
“When chief minister Parkash Singh Badal urged the Union government to help save the agriculture sector a few days back, he should have considered the plight of agriculturists who diversified into dairy farming but are under stress because of vigilante groups,” he added.

Rajinder Singh of Jharr Sahib village near Machhiwara in Ludhiana said they had reports of vigilante groups charging protection money to allow trucks carrying milch cattle to other states without any hassle. “Truck freight is very high due to this reason,” he added.

“It is not happening without the collusion of Punjab police and state government. There are several videos uploaded in social media, which show these groups flaunting weapons and bullet proof vests and indulging in violence against cattle traders. Still, there has been no action against them,” alleged Daljit. He also rued the fact that every consignment needs to be cleared through the deputy commissioner.

Punjab Gau Sewa Commission chairman Kimti Bhagat admitted that while he was all for protecting cows from beef traders and butchers, the state government should ensure that none breaks the law. He claimed that the permits to transport cows had increased in the last few months.

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