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Cows on Ahmedabad roads? Reason: Amul, other dairies 'neglected' city cattle rearers

By Rajiv Shah 

A new study has blamed Gujarat’s powerful milk cooperative sector, known across the country as Amul, for failing to take into cognisance the need to place under its wings urban area pastoralists, popularly known as Rabaris, involved mainly in selling cow milk to individual consumers. The study insists, that this, coupled with the lack of any policy on the part of the Gujarat government to “rehabilitate and modernise” the Rabaris’ business, has pushed the pastoralists to the margins of urban society.
Carried out by Dr Vidyut Joshi, professor emeritus, Gujarat Vidyapeeth, with the help of several pastoralist leaders and experts, and called “Raste Razhadti Gayo: Samasya ane Ukel” (Stray Cattle on Road: Problems and Solutions), the study in Gujarati encompasses as many as 20 areas of western Ahmedabad, which were previously common grazing grounds, but were acquired in the name of urban development over last few decades. In all, there were 104 common grazing grounds across the city – all of them have disappeared.
Published by the Gujarat Vidyapeeth, a university founded by Mahatma Gandhi, and meant to be a supporting manual for those fighting a case in the Gujarat High Court for the rehabilitation and modernization of the Rabaris, the study underlines, while cooperative dairies of Gujarat are “considered the best and are famous across the world”, the fact is, “These cattle rearers have not been made their members. Hence they and their cows are deprived of the benefits of a cooperative society.”
The study says, “The cooperative dairy that Amul set up in India and started the White Revolution had mostly cattle farmers as its members.” Pointing out that “for these farmers cattle rearing was a supplementary business”, it regrets, however, “The herdsmen whose primary occupation was animal husbandry remained completely aloof from this dairy revolution” – something that remains unchanged to this day.
Claiming that there is a social-cultural factor behind this, the study underlines, “There was a time that these herdsmen were considered outside the village. Because of this, they were in a lower position in the caste system. Hence, while certain agricultural castes managed to dominate the milk societies, the people of cattle rearing castes were not made its members.” Hence, “these herdsmen could never enter the dairy industry.”
The book
Asserting that this legacy continues even now, especially in the state’s urban areas, the study insists, if these cattle rearers are placed under the guardianship of a big co-operative dairy, it would help them come out of the margins to which they have been pushed, thanks to be urban development model adopted over the decades in Gujarat, as elsewhere.
Of the 20 villages for that are now part of urban Ahmedabad (Ambali , Bopal, Chandkheda, Chandlodia, Chharodi, Ghatlodia, Ghuma, Hebatpur, Kali, Makarba, Memnagar, Mitakhali, Motera, Paldi, Ranip, Sarangpur, Sarkhej, Sola, Tragad and Vejalpur), and for which the study has been carried, Dr Joshi focuses on Vejalpur, where he lives, stating, to its herdsmen, urbanization “did not occur”, even though their pastures, a state property, were taken away.
Notes Dr Joshi, urbanization led to the destruction of their occupancy rights and no compensation were given – which is quite unlike the rehabilitation and settlement of Narmada dam oustees. Worse, while their pastures were taken away, they were not aware of their rights. In fact, “No one represented the government when their grazing land was taken for urban development. Even their organizations were also not active on this. The land of these pastures was taken very quietly.”
Dr Joshi told Counterview that  Ahmedabad's 104 village pastures, which were government land, were taken away despite a Supreme Court ruling which prohibits any move to acquire or sell common village land to a private person. "In case such land is taken away under any circumstance, the ruling insists, it should be fully compensated at the rate of 2x6 metres land per cow," he underlined.
On questioning a Vejalpur herdsman whether they “should go for modern dairy business and make value added milk products”, as many of 15 of them told Dr Joshi, they did not know how to do it, but expressed their readiness “if you help us.” The situation today is that, “their cows have become weak due to lack of proper diet and maintenance. The supply of milk has decreased.” While a few old customers continue to buy milk from them, the new ones “do not.”
Worse, points out Dr Joshi, with Amul and other dairies modern milk business traders coming to the city, “these herdsmen are left with nothing to do other than filling traditional milk queues. He insists, “If they want to survive, they have to modernize. The enclosures have to be made big and modern, so that the cows become competitive. Modern methods of milk business should be adopted. Otherwise, they will be pushed into the abyss of time.”
Giving details of the changes he witnessed in Vejalpur between 1964 and 2022, Dr Joshi says, in 1960s, there was a Rabarivas in Vejalpur, where 40 rabaris and two shepherds lived. All were engaged in animal husbandry. There was a pasture on a hillock nearby. A huge plain area supplemented this hillock where these cattle could graze freely. Then there was an area within the limits of the Vejalpur village panchayat.
Things started changing after 1975. Ahmedabad city started expanding and many villages in the western area, including the hillock, were merged into urban areas. Thereafter, herdsmen would go to graze their cattle on the empty lands around the nearby area of Sarkhej, which too was urbanised as time passed.
Today, 27 families out of the original 42 are still engaged in animal husbandry. However, there is no area nearby where the cattle could graze. During the day time the cattle would move to open space and also reach and sit on the roads. And, the herdsmen must buy grass to feed their animals. What is true for Vejalpur is equally true for other 19 villages.
Today, according to Dr Joshi, the situation is such that due to fleas and mosquitoes during monsoon, cows do not wish to remain in small dirty mangers and enclosures meant for them. Having sensitive skin, they, in search of drier climate, finding no free space, sit on the roads. Other reasons why cows are seen on the roads include people performing religious rites to pray cows; feeding them with food leftovers and grass sold on roadsides; hotels throwing surplus food on the roads which is eaten by cows; and lack of proper disposal of old and decrepit cows and old bulls.
The socio-economic profile of the pastoralists suggests that of the 518 in the 20 areas, families of a whopping 79% have two men (mostly father and son) in one household. This negates the notion that they live in joint families. Compared to earlier old village houses, they live in very small houses, with no vacant space left to build an extra room. Even two married brothers are not comfortable in living together in one house.
In fact, 186 respondents live in one room and 276 respondents live in two houses. “That means 89.18 people live in small houses. There are only four people who have a four room houses. Each has a separate kitchen, separate bathroom and separate living room”, says Dr Joshi.
Then, as many as 231 herdsmen out of 518 are school dropouts -- either they did not go to school or got dropped out midway without completing primary school. A few of them cannot even read and write, though know account, mostly orally. Answering why they could not complete primary school, they said, when young, they would be sent for cows grazing, hence became dropouts. However, today, no herders want their children to join their profession.
Further, the study shows that 451 or 87% respondents do not have any secondary occupation. While 11 people said that they do casual labour. two work as drivers, three people work as peons, and 18 people do private jobs. Further, 15 said they work as security guards, while 10 said they work as watchmen. One person said he pulled rickshaw.
A full time occupation, with no helper, their day starts at 4 in the morning, after which they milk cow, take milk to individual customers, and go to feed cows, for which often they have to go a few kilometres, for instance, in order to cross the Sarkhej Gandhinagar Highway and reach up to the Sardar Patel Ring Road, the outer ring road. Returning in the afternoon, they give away milk left unsold for preparing curd or ghee. They find no time spare for doing secondary business.
Negating the impression that these herdsmen are very rich, Dr Joshi says, while 10% of them have left animal husbandry for other jobs or are traders, “they are not definitely capitalists.” In fact, their “capital” – cows – is passive. Each cow gives on an average eight litres of milk per day. The cost of 8 litres milk, at Rs 40 per litre, comes to Rs 320 per day. On an average, says the study, “The monthly income from one cow's milk is Rs 9,600, of which only a third is the net income after deducting maintenance – around Rs 3,000 per month.
While the average number of cows is 10 per herdsman, only five of them give milk. Thus, out of 518 respondents 77 respondents said, their monthly family income is Rs 10,000 or less, and the rest have their income ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 25,000.
The survey also shows that 482 respondents’ families have gas connection, while 56 families cook on the hearth. A total of 305 (59%) respondents also have a fridge, needed to store curdled milk and curd. Those not having a fridge use the facility of their neighbours. As many as 454 (88%) respondents have motorcycles – a necessity for transporting milk and “pushing” cows and buffaloes to far away places for grazing.
According to Dr Joshi, the cows of a modern dairy eat especially prepared nutritious fodder, but the cows of these ranchers eat ordinary grass and what people, including hotels, offer to them on the city streets. This probably is the reason why cows give much less milk than the dairy cows.
“If we want to make cattle farmers modern and nutritious, they should have 25 cows on an average, should eat nutritious fodder, 12-13 out of 25 should give milk, with an average of 12 to 15 litres each per day”, he underlines. For this, they should own better breeds as Gir, Kankrej, Sahiwal, Rathi, Tharparkar and Lal Sindhi, all of which which give better quality and more milk.


Nandini Oza said…
Pasture lands of Narmada dam oustees were also never compensated by the state in cash or kind, leading to drastic loss of cattle heads of Narmada oustees. In this respect, Vidyut Joshi's study of @gujvidyapith is flawed in compaing the urban cattle owners with Narmada oustees and their occupancy rights of pasture lands.
Ashwin Desai said…
👍🏻...but we human are responsible for this menace, we city dwellers daily want milk to drink and we dont want cattle in the cities, these cattle rears feed cattle till the time they give milk then left them to street on their fate. We human always ready to exploit entire Ecosystem inclusing cattles and then want things according to our wish....
Every year few people killed because of cattles on streets, so its big threat and it should be removed from the streets. and we all are agreed upon it. so do we human agree to remove vehicles from roads, which killed thousands of people on road every year.
What is government stand on vanishing grazing land?
So ultimately poor/mother cows are responsible bcoz they can't speak..🙂
Municipal Corporation through Local Police in Ahmedabad charge the owners/caretakers around 2000-5000 for cattle freely roaming on the streets. We consider the city to be for humans that too those who come from outside not for those who lived on the land for centuries. Simple example of negligence and arrogance by city developers/designers are, lack (encroachment) of pasture lands and access to lakes/ponds in the process of development (vikaas-ass).
A well-researched article. For amelioration, no better way than raising the value of cattle products viz. dung and urine for soil health (through Natural and Ecological Farming) and for human health (through Panchgavya and household-utility-items).
Believe it or not, here in Borivali (north-west Mumbai), there is a young man who takes his cattle for grazing to some place and he has to walk on the road alongside the cattle. He goes early morning when the traffic is thin and returns in the evening when the traffic is heavy. This in a so-called modern city!!!!


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