Buses or buffaloes were of no help

The bus workers’ remaining buffaloes graze in an open space in Kakkanad.  

When the lockdown brought the private bus industry to a grinding halt last year, two bus owners and four workers turned to a new business to keep themselves afloat.

They pooled resources and bought eight buffaloes from Pollachi in Tamil Nadu for ₹1.2 lakh. The idea was to sell them to meat traders for a profit.

And the plan seemed to be working when the two bigger ones among the lot were offered up to ₹1 lakh during the Ramzan in April. But the newly turned businessmen had a better idea of waiting till next month when they anticipated an even bigger festival of Bakrid to fetch them a bigger price.

Then a fortnight back, tragedy struck. The two buffaloes left grazing in a lush green open field at Kakkanad were stolen.

“It was a relatively secluded area with little vehicular traffic and a triple lockdown was in place. So, I used to check on them only on alternate days,” said Sreejesh V.B., a former bus conductor who joined the partnership.

Possible escape route

A police complaint was lodged with the Infopark police and a probe is under way. A CCTV footage has emerged since then of an open pick-up van filled with grass to an unusual height speeding along. Unfortunately, the registration number was not visible.

“We strongly suspect that our buffaloes were smuggled out in that vehicle covered with grass,” says Sreejesh. They now rue not having sold them earlier.

To make matters worse, two more buffaloes died in quick succession since then leaving behind only four, which are too young to be sold. Even they remain tethered in an open field, though this time near the police station in the hope that would be safer.

“Had it gone through, the buffalo business would have helped us get by. Operating buses is no longer feasible with fuel price hitting nearly ₹100 a litre,” said Ajas Jabbar, who has been in the industry for nearly 15 years now.

He used to operate three buses; now the number has come down to one. Though the lockdown restrictions have been eased, he is not keen on bring it back on road since the “daily operational expenses exceed the meagre returns.”

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Printable version | Aug 1, 2021 9:26:26 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/buses-did-not-help-neither-did-buffaloes/article34839551.ece

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