For the fourth week in a row, Balu Bhalve has returned home dejected. In the sweltering heat, the debt-ridden farmer travelled more than 15 km from his village to sell a pair of old bullocks at Badnera Mandi here on Friday.
But the cattle market, abuzz on the weekly auction day even two months ago, presents a grim picture now. Even after he agreed to sell them at throwaway prices, Mr. Bhalve’s pair had no takers.
“Even on a bad day, bullocks like these would fetch me around Rs. 15,000. Now they are worthless. These animals are a burden. Who will take care of them,” he asks.
Two months since the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government banned the slaughter of bulls and bullocks in the State, Mr. Bhalve raises a pertinent question. For distressed farmers in Vidarbha, where a majority of Maharashtra’s 600 farm suicides were reported this year, the ban on beef has shattered many hopes.
Though Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis says the decision has been taken in the interest of farmers, they, along with merchants and middlemen, cutting across religious communities, do not think so.
Ever since the ban, cattle trade in Vidarbha’s markets has come down drastically. With little demand, the animals fetch low prices.
In desperate need of money to repair his house and buy a calf, Sheikh Rauf made the trip from Bhatkuli taluka only to face disappointment for the third consecutive week. He priced his pair of bullocks at Rs. 60,000, but the highest bid was Rs. 24,000. “I spent Rs. 1,000 travelling all the way here. It’s been a total waste,” Mr. Rauf says.
At the Mohda cattle market in Kelapur taluka of neighbouring Yavatmal, often described as the “farm suicide capital of Vidarbha,” fewer than 200 animals are brought for trade now, a fall from the 700 during the heyday.
Though the Maharashtra government has said a Gokulgram Yojana will be launched with one shelter for every 1,000 cows, nothing has materialised so far.
The shelters are slated to come up in Pune, Mumbai, Daapcheri and Amravati. Mr. Fadnavis said on Thursday that the government planned to form a “Mahamandal” for the protection of cow and its progeny.
Ganeshrao Tirke, who desperately needs money for his daughters’ marriage, made another failed attempt at selling his bullocks. “They say give your animal to the Gaushala free. Did I get this animal free,” he asks.
On Saturday, Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of B.R. Ambedkar, led a protest of farmers in Akola against the beef ban. He demanded that the Maharashtra government buy the unproductive animals from the farmers and look after the Gaushalas. “We will start a morcha demanding a policy decision on unproductive animals,” he said.
- Fully banned
- Andhra Pradesh, Telangana , Bihar, Chattisgarh, Delhi, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, J&K, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand
- Allowed with slaughter certificates
- Assam, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal
- No ban
- Arunachal Pradesh, Kerala (animals above 10 years), Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura