India's Animal wealth: Need for better governance for economic gains

VK Bahuguna

(The author is a former civil servant)
India is endowed with huge genetic resources and is one of the 12 mega-biodiversity rich nations of the world. The human animal interactions dates back to early human civilization and settlement and is not restricted only for economic reasons but have deeply impacted the cultural, spiritual and religious life of the people. The vast animal genetic resources have played critical role in our agrarian economy. In domesticated livestock and birds, the number of documented breeds are: 30 of cattle, 10 of buffalo, 40 of sheep, 20 of goat, 18 of poultry, 9 of camel and 6 of horse. In addition, the other species found are: pig, Mithun, yak, duck, goose, turkey, guinea fowl, pheasant, dog, and cat. World over the scientists have been seeking animal germ plasm in their quest to utilize the animal genome for medicine and food in order to feed the growing population and shore up the dwindling genetic base due to deforestation and climate change. There are cases reported from India and Nepal when the scientists of western countries on tourist VISA were found trapping the beetles in the forests. The message is clear that we need to take our animal resources seriously and plan to utilize them efficiently for economic and social uplift in the rural areas. In this article the writer takes up a few points for action for the central and state governments specially when the motto of the government is to double the farmers income.

The livestock population had been traditionally the back bone of small farmers both for nutrition as well as draft and other activities. As much as 21 million people are totally dependent on cattle and buffaloes and provide employment to around 9 million people and contribute to 4.11% in the country's GDP. The share of livestock in agriculture is more than 25%. Though the country is the largest producer of milk in the world but still the indigenous cow milk production is very minimum of its potential. The world is moving fast in tapping the genome of Indian cows for the healthyA2 milk compared to the A1 milk produced by the foreign cow breeds like HolsteinFriesian and Jersy which is not very healthy as indicated by several studies as it contain Beta-Casein which is blamed for hypertension, heart ailments and diabetes.These foreign breeds are also prone to infection and need big investments for their feed for better milk output.  
In the quest for increasing milk production we had in the past indiscriminately used the foreign cow breed and neglected the Indian cows as much as the emphasis was on increasing the milk productivity and less on research in improving the local breeds. On the contrary countries like Brazil, Uruguay and  New Zealand realized the genetic potential of Indian cows and have emerged as world leaders in production of A2 milk. The Giri cowand other Indian cows of Brazil won the highest milk production of 70 liter in 2014 in a contest. This germ plasm was supplied by India to Brazil during the early and middle part of last century. 

Though the Government of India had now taken steps for promotion of indigenous cow breeds but the attempts are half hearted and lack focus onintegrated planning for future. It is necessary that the Department of Animal Husbandry takes proactive interest in converting the hybrid cows to domestic breeds in next 15 years. India should take lead in having bilateral arrangements with Brazil and other such countries to get the superior high yielding Indian cows gene pool back to improve the productivity of Indian Cows. Similarly, we should have a breeding programme with South Asian countries  which are home to Indian breeds as Pakistan and Indian both have breeding tracks for Red Sindhi, Sahiwal and Tharparkar and joint programme can be launched for enhancing of the milk production from Indian breeds and their conservation. A separate programme should also be launched for the Indian Buffalos as Indian Buffalo also produce A2 milk. 
In Indian there are people who are working on producing world class  cow products and exporting it outside. This writer is guiding one such entrepreneur from Bhopal Mr.Vivek Dhoot alias Vaishnav Charan Das who had founded Kalpavriksh Foundation and proving that cows can be economically reared for their entire life. The foundation had founded a brand 'Doctor Cow' for the cow products including from cow dung and cow urine and is networking with more than 5000 Indian cows and is an excellent business model. 

There should therefore, be plan for economic utilization of the cows when they become unfit to yield milk and are let loose and stray cattle are one of the biggest problems for the government agencies. It is well known that the desi cow urine and cow dung have great cultural, economic and medicinal value which is proved by several scientific studies (as has been reported a few years ago  by the Jam Nagar University in Gujarat that Giri cow urine contained gold). The Animal Welfare Board and the Kamdhenu Commission should be assigned the task to prepare projects for this so that after serving the humanity cows are treated well after their productive years are over. In fact an integrated farmer centric decentralized programme must be initiated for all other animals like Duks, Camels, Goats/ Sheeps, Pigs, Quail etc with sole aim to energize the earning potential of farmers. This will require sufficient funds, man power and technological up-gradation through research and extension.

Yet another neglected animal which is friend of humans is the Indian Dog. They are allowed to roam the streets and are threatening the health ambience all over though they also act to some extent as scavengers. Indian have colonial hang over for having foreign dog  breeds as pets which are not suitable for the Indian conditions as they were brought by the British mostly from temperate European climatic conditions. There should be complete ban on breeding the foreign breeds and encouragements should be given to adopt the street dogs who can prove equally good if not better. There should be a time bound programme for sterilization of the street dogs with the involvement of locals and not the NGOs who simply swindle the grants. The management of animal wealth should get top priority and if we have to bring prosperity in rural and tribal areas special attention shall have to be given to the Animal wealth.

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