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Brought camels from Gujarat, milk 'helped fight' diabetes: Coimbatore businessman

By Rosamma Thomas* 

Manikandan Pandian, 39, is an engineer by training and a manufacturer of machines. He has an export business, with offices in Delhi and Chennai. Two km from the airport in Coimbatore, Pandian also has a small farm. When, five years ago, he discovered that camel milk might help control his diabetes, he began to get a regular supply from Rajasthan. Unhappy with not getting it fresh, he has now bought four camels, and housed them at his Coimbatore farm. The animals serve as playmates to his two children.
“I have had diabetes for about five years now, and my family has a large number of diabetics. When I heard that camel milk was good for me, I began to buy it, and these days I can milk my own camels,” he says.
Getting the camels, though, was no easy task. He first set out to the Pushkar fair in Rajasthan, in hope of buying the animals there. Daunted by the official procedures needed to seek special permission to transport the animals out of the state – the camel was declared Rajasthan’s state animal in 2014 and a law was introduced to prevent movement of the animals beyond state borders – Manikandan then travelled to Gujarat, from where he bought his four camels. The camel herders offered him a short spell of training on how to tend to the animals and milk them. The animals were transported by truck.
“These days, I milk the animals myself. My eight-year-old son helps too,” he says.
The animals arrived in Coimbatore about two weeks ago, and have been feeding on neem leaves and plant remains leftover after peanuts are harvested. “That was their diet in Gujarat too,” Pandian says.
“I used to feel a great deal of fatigue. During the pandemic, my doctor told me that money would come and go; but once health was lost, it would be difficult to retrieve it. That set me thinking. I wanted to work on my health, and I wanted to change my lifestyle and diet so I could stay healthy and not suffer the problems brought on by diabetes. That is when I considered getting the camels home,” he says.
Not satisfied with having camels on his own farm, Pandian is now set to do even more – on February 21, 2002, Pandian has invited camel researches and doctors from across the country to a conference on camel milk and its health benefits. Dr Shilaja Mane, from the private Dr DY Patil Medical College in Pune, who is planning a pilot study on camel milk and its effects on children with autism, is set to attend. Two participants from Rajasthan, Ilse Kohler Rollefson and Hanwant Singh Rathore, founded the camel dairy in Rajasthan, Camel Charisma, which once supplied Manikandan milk.
“I expect several doctors to attend as part of the audience. I have a diabetes specialist from Bikaner who is unable to attend the conference, but will present his research over the internet. The aim of this gathering is to share information about the health benefits of camel milk, so that doctors are encouraged to prescribe it,” Pandian said.
Camel milk is known to be beneficial not only to patients of diabetes, but also to those suffering from lung conditions and autism. It has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and patients of blood and bone cancer have reported complete and miraculous cure after drinking it. Rupa Ram, who battled TB for many years in Sadri, Rajasthan, credits his eight-month-long diet of camel milk for complete recovery. What is still unclear, though, is what makes it so good for human health. In her 2019 book Camel Crazy, Christiana Adams, the mother of an autistic boy, recounts the tremendous difference a camel milk diet made to her son.
It is believed that since camels are reared by nomadic herders and feed on a wide variety of plants, many of which are recorded in Ayurveda as medicinal plants, the milk too has special properties. It is unclear whether the quality of the milk will remain the same if the animals are either stall-fed or taken to an area with different foliage, like Coimbatore. There is, however, research that shows that the quality of the feed affects the properties of the milk.
The number of camels in India is in sharp decline – there were over 7 lakh camels in the country in 1992; the livestock census of 2019 revealed that the number had shrunk to only 2,13,000. As the camels of India now move out of Rajasthan and Gujarat to Hyderabad and Coimbatore, there is hope that there will be more scientific studies to fully understand the unique health benefits of camel milk.
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*Freelance journalist based in Pune

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