MARATHWADA: Raghunath Bhavar seems visibly upset. He’s trying to bargain with a buyer but the deal doesn’t seem to be going his way.
As he feeds his pair of bulls, whom he calls Raja and Pradhan, the desperation is showing. For three years, his three-acre field in Ashta village in Beed has yielded nothing.
Two years of drought has made even drinking water scarce. At a time when ensuring food for his family is an everyday fight, one of his most prized assets in the field – his cattle – are now becoming unaffordable.
“These are beautiful animals I’ve taken care of for years, like my family. But they need a lot of water and fodder. One bundle of their fodder that would earlier be available for Rs 10 now costs around Rs 40 and even that is not of a good quality,” he said.
Raghunath Bhavar has been forced to bring his bulls to the weekly cattle market to attempt a distress sale. “I bought this pair for Rs 70,000 but now people are offering as little as Rs 20,000 or 30,000.”
Caught in similar circumstances, Kakasaheb Ankush Pathade adds, “With the beef ban in place, we can’t sell old animals. No one is willing to buy old, infirm animals now. We can’t take care of them giving our own desperate lives.”
For others, there are cattle camps that can provide some relief, where distressed farmers can get their cattle for fodder and water.
Non-governmental organisations or cooperatives can set up cattle camps like these, but need a minimum of 500 animals, in order to get subsidy from the government to run them.
Parmeshwar Shelke, who runs one such camp, said, “Cattle are used to eating a variety of fodder, different types of grass, sugarcane, maize. But now, fodder is limited and so is water so their health has worsened. Cattle camps provide at least some source of fodder which is otherwise hard to find and afford at such times.”
Whether it is their protruding bones or their weak structures, the impact of the drought is taking a visible toll as the effect of scarce water and increased heat takes effect on farm animals.