On May 27, the Animal Husbandry Department of Lakshadweep found that there were no takers for the 68 cattle that were auctioned at two dairy farms in the Union Territory. The department conducted the auction after the new Lakshadweep administration under Praful Khoda Patel issued an order to shut them. The department officials cite the stringent rules proposed under the draft Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation, 2021, as one of the key reasons the residents were not taking part in the auction drive. Meanwhile, the department has no choice but to issue an auction notice again and keep the dairy farms operational.
â€śA combination of factors have led to people staying away from the auctions. One of the reasons is politics surrounding the new rules, while the other reasons are practical,â€ť said a senior officer with the Animal Husbandry Department from Lakshadweep. The plan to shut down the two dairy farms at Kavaratti and Minicoy islands in Lakshadweep is not new, he said, but the question always was what to do with the animals. The department has a few choices â€” try auctioning the animals again, continue raising the animals or send them to the Indian mainland. Each option presents its own set of problems.
On May 24 this year, Lakshadweep Administrator Praful Khoda Patel issued the order to close down all dairy farms under the Animal Husbandry Department. Through the proposed draft law â€” Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation â€” the BJP politician-led administrator intends to ban slaughter, transportation, selling or buying of beef products. The residents of the islands also alleged that Praful Khoda Patel has directed to remove the non-vegetarian menu from midday meals.
The Animal Husbandry Department hopes to issue a notice for re-auction soon but officials are not hopeful about public participation. â€śEven if the public buys cattle, there is no fodder to feed them. We don't have fodder either; we are relying on compounded feeds and supplements to feed them. We also grow a little fodder within the dairy farms but it's insufficient,â€ť said the officer.
According to the officer, islanders who buy a single bovine animals will be eligible for subsidies under their Cattle Development programme for diary purposes. The scheme gives 40% subsidy to cover input costs for dairy farmers.
The rules under the Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation, 2021, too, has created engendered hesitancy among the residents, said the officer.
The rules prohibit the transport of cattle for slaughter, selling or buying of beef or beef products. It grants law enforcement officials powers to enter and inspect premises without a warrant. Those found slaughtering any animal without a certificate can face imprisonment for up to one year and a fine of Rs 10,000, if convicted. Those found slaughtering a cow, calf, bull, bullock without a certificate can face imprisonment for life not less than 10 years with a maximum fine of Rs 5 lakh. The offences are cognisable and non-bailable. The rules also extend legal protection for cow vigilantes.
Why the dairy farms were set up
The Animal Husbandry Department has operated the two dairy farms and nine poultry units across the 10 islands for over four decades now. â€śIt was set up for demonstration purposes, to educate the residents on how to raise bovine and poultry animals but that utility is now lost as one can source the required information from Google,â€ť said the officer. There are just 250 odd persons who own cattle across the Lakshadweep administration, and barely two persons rear more than four animals at their homes.
The maximum milk production capacity of these dairy farms do not cross 100 litres per day and are used by hospitals and anganwadis. â€śIt runs out like hot cakes even though milk and milk products are not part of an islanderâ€™s diet. People mostly use milk for children. The islanders mostly rely on milk powders or Tetra pack milk as they have a longer shelf life,â€ť the officer added.
As far as the meat is concerned, a few islanders had earlier told TNM that beef and other non-vegetarian food are an integral part of their food culture, especially during Eid. They also pointed out that they do not get good quality vegetables in the islands, unlike the mainland.
Islanders call for boycott of Amul
Several islanders whom TNM spoke to alleged that the two dairy farms are being shut to promote the Gujarat-based dairy major, Amul. Many expressed concerns over a series of regulations adopted by Praful Khoda Patel, the Lakshadweep administrator who hails from Gujarat and belongs to the BJP.
The move to shut down the dairy farms was closely followed by orders to the Lakshadweep Cooperative Marketing Federation and the branch manager Amul, Ernakulam, to set up the first outlet in the Union Territory. The outlet will be set up in front of the Lakshadweep Development Corporation Ltd (LDCL) office at Kavaratti.
Residents have now taken to social media, calling for a boycott of Amul and its products.
The Animal Husbandry Department, in the meantime, said they have to keep the operations ongoing at the two dairy farms as the 20-odd contract workers are at risk of facing termination from service. These are people who help run the dairy farms and will be out of work. Most of them have been with us for decades and earn just Rs 10,000 a month. It's their main source of income,â€ť said the officer.
The department has one last option up its sleeve, which is to shift the animals to the mainland but the option is not feasible due to the onset of the monsoon season. â€śWe can only transfer between November and May before the monsoon season begins. Itâ€™s not practical to move the animals during monsoon, as they will get injured as the ship floors will be slippery. Most ships donâ€™t have provisions to tie them. Also, there are very few cargo ships that provide this service,â€ť said the senior officer.