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Here are some points that give a broad overview of farmers in India as statistics and other data based information.

How many farmers are there in India?

Depends on what you call farmers. There are cultivators and there are agricultural labour. The data over the years is as follows.

YearCultivators (in million)Agricultural labourers (in million)% of cultivators% of Agricultural labourers
195169.927.349.919.5
196199.631.552.816.7
198192.555.537.822.7
1991110.774.635.223.8
2001127.6107.531.726.7
2011118.6144.324.630

As you see, many things have changed in recent years. Soon after independence, we had more farmers, but more importantly, they were tilling their own land. This number grew at varying rates even though not as fast as overall population growth in later years (indicated by dropping % of population). What we see in the 2011 census is that there are actually more agricultural labourers (working on other people's land) than cultivators (working on their own/leased land).

What is the drop in the number of farmers in India?

The drop of 9 million cultivators between 2001 and 2011 amounts to 2000 farmers giving up agriculture per day in that period. This echoes the dramatic rise in farmer suicides in the corresponding period. It is worth noting that the decline could have started any time between 1991 and 2011, as it is possible that we had even more cultivators that dropped to 127.6 million by 2001 or that cultivators increased for a while and then dropped to 118.6 million by 2011. However, going by other data that went through changes around the same time - like economic policies, agricultural policies, cattle populations and farmer suicides, my guess would be that farmers started giving up on agriculture at some point in the late 90s.

Personally, I find it noteworthy that we had the most % of cultivators just before the green revolution, and the most number of cultivators just before the GM onslaught. Both corporate influenced widespread interventions in agriculture that had a dramatic impact on how farming was done.

How many farmer suicides has India seen?

This is the data as per NCRB.

199510720
199613729
199713622
199816015
199916082
200016603
200116415
200217971
200317164
200418241
200517131
200617060
200716632
200816796
200917368
201015964
201114027
201213754
201311772
201412360
201512602

So aren't farmer suicide numbers decreasing in recent years?

Not really. They are being concealed in various ways from outright not reporting farm suicides to NCRB to creating sub-categories and refusing the suicides under other headings. There are even ways that discourage reporting of farmer suicides - for example financial compensation for accidental deaths, but no relief for suicides. There will be a more detailed article coming up about this showing the various ways. There are, astonishingly, even attempts to show farmers suicides as lower than the overall population by misinterpreting figures!

But isn't the government doing more to provide agricultural loans and waivers?

Agricultural loans go to the agricultural sector and not just farmers. An interesting analysis by R Ramakumar and Pallavi Chavan titled "Revival of Agricultural Credit in the 2000s: An Explanation" shows that a lot of the credit does not actually go to small and marginal farmers - the subsection that accounts for over 72% of farmer suicides. As Pallavi Chavan explains in her article in the Hindu (emphasis mine):

First, a significant proportion of the increase in agricultural credit from commercial banks was accounted for by indirect finance to agriculture. Indirect finance refers to loans given to institutions that support agricultural production, such as input dealers, irrigation equipment suppliers and Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) that on-lend to agriculture.

Second, a number of changes were made in the definition of agricultural credit under the priority sector. The definitional changes broadly involved (a) the addition of new forms of financing commercial, export-oriented and capital-intensive agriculture; and (b) raising the credit limit of many existing forms of agricultural financing. To cite an instance, loans given to corporates and partnership firms for agriculture and allied activities in excess of Rs 1 crore in aggregate per borrower was considered as priority sector lending under agriculture, from 2007 onwards.

[...]

Third, much of the increase in the total advances to agriculture in the 2000s was on account of a sharp increase in the number of loans with a credit limit of Rs.10 crore and above, and especially Rs.25 crore and above.

Even within direct agricultural finance, which goes directly to farmers, there was a sharp rise in the number of loans with a credit limit above Rs.1 crore. It seems likely that these large loans were advanced towards financing the new activities added to the definition of agricultural credit.

Recent data on banking has brought out a fourth disturbing feature of the revival in agricultural credit. There has been a sharp growth of agricultural finance that is urban in nature. Between 1995 and 2005, the share of agricultural credit supplied by urban and metropolitan bank branches in India increased from 16.3 per cent to 30.7 per cent. The share of agricultural credit supplied by metropolitan branches alone increased from 7.3 per cent in 1995 to 19 per cent in 2005. While there was a moderate decrease in these shares between 2006 and 2008, urban and metropolitan branches continued to supply about one-third of the total agricultural credit in 2008. Concurrently, there was a sharp fall in the share of agricultural credit supplied by rural and semi-urban branches from 83.7 per cent in 1995 to 69.3 per cent in 2005. In 2008, the share of rural and semi-urban branches in total agricultural credit was 66 per cent.

So when we talk of waiving off agricultural loans...

The fact is, small and marginal farmers find it difficult to get loans from banks even when they have all the requisite paperwork. Those without land cannot get such credit at all, and money lenders continue to be the reliable source of loans. Loans taken from money lenders are unaffected by loan waivers.

What exactly is the problem farmers have then?

The problem is one of income. Inpur prices have risen steeply over the years, while the price of their produce hasn't. Additionally, with less than a third of cultivable land in India being irrigated, farmers are left to the mercies of monsoon for water for growing their crops. Additionally, the reckless promotion of inappropriate cash crops that fail for various reasons from inadequate water to pests developing resistance to much publicized Bt Cotton has left farmers stranded for choices that generate reliable income.

The average income of an Indian farmer is about Rs. 6,400 a month. With such a low income, even agricultural loans are debt traps. If the harvest fails or if prices crash, the farmer ends up not only losing all his investment, but owing a loan on top of that.

What is urgently needed is making inputs cheaper as well as raising the income of farmers with MSPs that are fair (and not just something for desperate farmers to grab as an alternative to complete loss). There is a need to ensure credit to farmers specifically and ensure that it can be availed easily. Electricity and water need to be cheaper. Irrigation needs to be expanded. There are also other supportive measures that would help rural India overall - like reliable healthcare - most people in rural India cannot afford healthcare. This has an impact on productivity and can push them into debt in the event of unavoidable health expenses. Expansion of schemes like MNREGA serve to provide additional incomes where farming alone is not adequate for survival. Many things can be done that break this cycle of death and despair and there are many wiser people than me who are more competent at making recommendations.

 

Feel free to ask questions in the comments. I will answer as best I can.

2

A Twitter tag #JaiKisan is attempting to educate Indians on the realities and conditions of farmers in India. Farmers produce the country's food. They purchase inputs at retail prices, sell produce at wholesale prices. Unlike a lot of products, farm produce is relatively short lived and takes a long time to grow. A crash in prices basically means doom, because they have already invested in the produce. The reasons for their losses are many and varied. From the vagaries of nature to corruption depriving them of irrigation. From failed crops to bumper harvests with no value because demonetisation has sucked all the money out of the market. This year we saw excellent harvests of tomatoes post a good monsoon being dumped on the streets or cut down as they stood ready for harvest, because there wasn't enough money in the market and prices had crashed so badly, that even transporting them to markets for selling was a loss making venture.

There are other oddities and absurdities you will notice on the #JaiKisan tag. Take for instance Tuvar dal with an MSP of Rs5050/Qt when the input Cost is Rs6403/Qt. Not only is this loss making by design, the farmers actually got only Rs4200/Qt resulting in a loss of Rs2200/Qt. On the other hand, India imported 28 lakh tonnes of tuvar dal at Rs 10114/Qt. The input cost for wheat is Rs 1943/Qt, while the farmer got Rs 1525 - resulting in a LOSS of Rs. 418/Qt!!! Where is the sense in this? Why couldn't the government purchase from farmers at fair prices that covered at least input costs and ideally at least some profit, when they were willing to spend foreign reserves to buy for much higher prices? There are no answers.

This is particularly brutal for small farmers, who have to live on the profits off much smaller land. Is it any wonder then that over 72% of farmer suicides are among small farmers with less than 2 hectares of land? One would think that small farms are inefficient and therefore they are making losses, but that is not true, research after research has shown that small farms are actually between 200% to 1000% more productive than large farms in terms of harvest per area around the world. The problem lies in the greater productivity being over a smaller area, and thus not amounting to large enough profit in total. Yet small farms are clearly the answer if we wish to have maximum productivity from available land!

"Jai jawan, jai kisan" was a powerful slogan by then Prime Minister of India Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1965 at a public gathering at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi. Today, the average income of an Indian farmer is around Rs. 6,400. What sort of life can a person afford with that kind of income? Is it any surprise that India is losing farmers at a rate of about 2000 farmers a day leaving the occupation nationwide?

All this boils down to policies. We seem to have lost a holistic view of what sustainability means to a country. The only time policy makers appear to pay attention to the plight of farmers seems to be when it is time to get votes. Then you have big promises and loan waivers. But the story of loan waivers too is not what it seems. While the perception of agricultural credit is that it would go to farmers, agricultural credit is for the agricultural sector. Farmers get maybe 35% of it, the rest going to industries and businesses related to the agricultural sectors, or as P. Sainath puts it, "the starving farmers of Malabar hill (an elite locality in Mumbai)". Most small farmers find it extremely difficult to get loans from the bank, even when they have the required documents, Others cannot get the loans when they don't own the land they cultivate (no collateral). This drives most farmers to seek loans from informal money lenders, even, in many cases money lenders taking loans from a bank and forwarding them to farmers at higher interest rates! Thus, farm loan waivers amount to maybe 35% of the waivers going to farmers, with the rest going to businesses and industries that are not in distress, while having no impact on the crippling loans taken from moneylenders (though the money lender may get a waiver if they took the agricultural loan from a bank to lend at higher rate).

There has always been a lack of foresight in our approach to agriculture. Influenced by large industries and what they wish to sell rather than listening to the person working the soil. The "Green Revolution" that relied heavily on chemical fertilizers brought a period of bounty that led to heavily depleted soil that cannot produce without heavy applications of fertilizers. The chemical damage to soil ecology, the contamination of ground water from the chemical runoff, the thoughtless push of GM crops like Bt Cotton (which requires more water than regular cotton) in places with depleting groundwater tables and dependent on scant rainfall.... All this has resulted in long term damage to the viability of agriculture and the economic sustainability of farmers. We are not able to see solutions beyond magic wands waved for votes.

Consider the absurdity of pushing GM crops when they have not proved as beneficial to small farms. All that it has resulted in is more resistant pests in return for some short term increase in production, that is already dwindling. On the other hand, the government is also pushing organic farming to prove some utility for cattle manure. Here is the deal. Organic farming depends on a robust ecology of the soil and surroundings with natural checks and balances that enable thriving crops. GM crops are accompanied with heavy doses of fertilizers, herbicides and as the resistant pests increase, pesticides as well - these destroy naturally abundant life forms that are necessary for organic farming. Pushing both at the same time basically squashes the farmer between two completely incompatible methods of growing crops. One from big industry influence, the other for ideological justification. Who pays the price? It is the cultivator, forced to stand with one foot on two stones, becaue while he may choose one method or the other, the ground water or pests do not understand boundaries indicating ownership of land and other cultivators may be making other choices.

This is but the tip of the iceberg. What is needed at this time is to ensure that farmers have an income they can live on - particularly where food crops are discouraged by the government in favor of cash crops that are at the mercy of market prices and cannot be consumed by the farmer for survival, regardless of the gamble with nature. There is a need to ensure irrigation on a war footing. There is a need to ensure low input costs and better sale prices. There is a need for an agricultural vision that is grounded strongly in research and making the country food sufficient and not dependent on imports to meet nutritional needs. There is a need to improve the capacity for food processing and storage with farmers so that they are not forced to sell at low rates for fear of perishability.

But all this needs a government with a vision. It needs citizens with voice interested in where their food comes from, and what the risks are, if that system is breaking down. in my view, the #JaiKisan tag serves this educational purpose in a time where agitating farmers from Tamil Nadu are protesting in increasingly desperate ways - sitting with skulls of farmers who committed suicide, eating rats, drinking urine, eating food served on the road and worse - with complete disinterest from a government that always makes a big show of concern for farmers when it comes to seeking votes.

I urge you all to read the content on the tag #JaiKisan and educate yourselves. The future food security of your children could well depend on it. The current survival of your food growers does depend on it. Happy next meal.

2

As the jallikattu debate heats up and protests rage in Tamil Nadu, there are a lot of ignorant arguments being made in favor of the ban. Trying to dispel some of them.

Bulls are not naturally aggressive

There is also this absurd Facebook video doing the rounds to "prove" it.

This Teacher Showed The True Cruelty Of Bullfighting

Say no to bullfighting!

Posted by The Holidog Times on 20hb Disember 2016

This video is an extremely misleading JOKE. To copy from the last time I commented on it:

This video is extremely misleading bullshit. The “bull” in the video is a calf. Watch him run – all legs, no bulk, total frisky. Still has his baby coat of hair. Adorable max, but really he wouldn’t do anything even if the students petted him. Likely around a year to a year and half old, though guesstimate – not familiar with the development of that breed. The male aggressive behavior is a part of sexual maturity. You won’t see it in calfs!

This is like saying dogs don't bite, because you didn't meet one that did. Describing this in terms of dogs, because more people are familiar with dogs.

There are many breeds of dogs. Some are great companions and pets. Others are better working dogs. Even among working dogs, there is the question of temperament. There's a reason why there are entire breeds called some or the other "shepherd" - these dogs have good protective instincts and stamina. Some dogs are easier to train. Think labradors and retrievers making great dogs for sniffing trails/drugs/etc. Others have a strong fight instinct - they are great for protection work - think rottweilers, German Shepherds, Doberman... You can train a German Shepherd for precise obedience work. They will be harder than a Lab. Expect a lot of cocked heads asking "WHY" - a dog's way of arguing/challenging in "conversation". The occasional pet may save owner's baby in a fire. Only a fool would start using that breed for protection work as a result. It is aptitude. A lot of it is genes and it is taken further with temperament of the individual dog. That is what breeding is about. And then what training is about.

It is similar with horses. Draught horses have stocky and large bodies. Fantastic for pulling. The long legged thoroughbred will beat it for speed, always. A Shetland pony may do neither, but is way safer for your kids to get acquainted to horses with. Mountain ponies would suffer in the heat of the plains, but their surefootedness will have them outperform other breeds on a mountain.

Among cattle, you have distinctions between beef and dairy cattle abroad. Beef cattle are stockier, yield more meat, less milk in comparison with dairy breeds. And so on. Similarly..... breeds of bulls used for sporting events are high spirited. You don't exactly race a bull that wants to plod along. These are the breeds used for sport for any success. Among them, those with aptitude will be raised for sport. Good feeding, possibly some training on what to expect, excellent care. You don't enter an abused creature for a sporting event. These are prime animals selected and brought to form - hardly the sign of an abusive owner!

The cattle are abused by being forced to stand in crowd, etc

And form, in a herbivore is excellent health so the animal responds to the slightest stimulus. Probably the easiest "visual" for an urban person might be... racehorses. Primed, prancing, ready to go. This is rural India and cattle, so "prancing" won't be visibly evident, but they will be restless and reactive to stimulus. This is not abuse, it is BRILLIANT CARE!!! Yes, this means they will react to the slightest thing and will be difficult to control and rebellious. That is how a high spirited animal is. If you want a half dead flogged ox who placidly stands there as the chaos of traffic flows past, you'll find plenty at your neighbourhood garbage dump! Clap a hand next to them, nothing will happen. Clap one next to these bulls, they will react! Not because they are abused, but because they have an excess of energy waiting to DO something. Even if it is not as evident in cattle as in horses. Think of it as your hyper 7 year old in great health restless and bouncing off walls in a place he's made to stand still. Compare with when he's ill. Are you really ABUSING him if he is in good enough health to be bored and restless to GO and you should keep him feverish and placid so no one thinks he's being abused?

Here's a simple test you could try without "animal abuse". Follow a cattle transporter around. See which animals give trouble being loaded in a truck. The half dead ones will walk in. They don't have the energy to react to everything - auto pilot. The better the health is, the more they will resist being loaded on a truck. They will find it unfamiliar and have all the energy they need to be appropriately mistrustful and resist. Is transporting animals abuse? Debatable point.

A large part of the "abuse" videos are this. Controlling cattle to stand in assigned place waiting for their turn. If they stood quiet and didn't need to be controlled, they'd be useless to compete! That just is not how health in herbivorous animals works. A healthy herbivore will take effort to be made to stand in place. Calling that abuse is like saying you prefer them to be half dead and docilely standing where told so you don't have to see them being forced to stand in one place!

Pro-animals, anti-humans

The people being accused of abuse are the same people that got the bulls to fighting condition. It is the same trusted owner holding the bull in place who got him in great health enough to compete! How do I know this? Because only an idiot would presume to handle a bull they aren't familiar with and  only an idiot would allow a prize animal to be handled by strangers. And no livestock would be calmed while restless in a crowd by a stranger. Anyone who owns livestock would know that they aren't strangers harassing bulls they got off eBay to torture, but the owners/carers standing with their prize entries!

The idea that you love those animals more than the people who spend their lives caring for them is little more than your intoxication with yourself as a little know-it-all.

You can fake abuse, you can't fake care

Anyone who owns livestock will tell you that it is impossible to fake good health in an animal. You simply have to do it. Spend time, money, effort, and again and again till they shine and bounce with health. That is the only way to do it. There are no hacks, no shortcuts. If those animals stand there in good condition, you can't convince a livestock owner that they are abused. Abuse doesn't result in animals like that. But you sure can convince an urban person with no perspective beyond their own that the strength needed to control a bull is, in fact abuse.

Livestock are not pets, they are property

Like you wouldn't allow your best, most expensive car to be vandalized because a cheering mob thinks it fun, a bull owner won't allow his bull to be deliberately injured. If it happens once, would you bring your car to such events over and over? So wouldn't a bull owner.

Participants are not film villains, they are people

Bulls have enormous strength. it would take a particularly suicidal person to want to engage with a bull driven out of control with pain. The chances of there being hordes of them at every event are nill to none. Because what sounds like a great evil script to an urban mind is suicidal absurdity to someone who has worked with large animals. These are animals that leap in the air with two people hanging on to them under normal circumstances. Who the hell needs them to be crazed and even more aggressive? If driving them mindless with pain were standard practice, participants would refuse to risk it! Which parents would allow their sons to play with maddened bulls? Note, these animals weigh between 450 kilos for the lightest to around 650 for the heaviest - that is at least five times the weight of any participant in the arena. And with more legs, even more times the power. You don't need a maddened bull going out of control. A normal bull is plenty challenge!

Those bulls can be put to other use

What other use? Castrated oxen are way easier to handle for stuff like ploughing and pulling carts. They could be abandoned on the streets, and likely will. God save the farmer who tries to chase them out of fields they wander into. Of course, the farmer not engaging in a fair "sport" would use weapons. Which goushala will want bulls that will attack the other cattle they have to taken in? What can aggressive bulls do to each other? Here's an example. Also an example of just how much hitting a bull can take without - forget injury - without even losing focus once it has something on its mind. Also handy for a perspective on the "hitting" during jallikattu to control the bulls. What would likely break your and my limbs is barely a deterrent for large livestock. They are stronger. I don't think urban minds fully comprehend what that means in terms of force needed in different situations. So here are two bulls. One of them being hit mercilessly by people with sticks with all their strength. Note how much impact it has on the bull.

I guess this is a good time to mention in comments what use you'd put aggressive sporting breeds to, if not sport.

It is also a good time to understand why I laugh when bleeding hearts claim that prize bulls are terrified of the men in the arena. I most certainly don't support animal abuse. I have personally never used sticks with my animals, but I also spent time with them 24/7 as a nomad and had all the time in the world to train them. I did use stones and I can throw stones like nobody's business. And this is livestock I literally lived in poverty to pamper. Hardly hated them! They were my life! But unlike a couch activist, I KNOW what hurts them and what amounts to little more than a rap to get them to obey. The point is that the amount of force used with a stick is directly proportional to the need for control. This is an extreme situation and you have three people hitting all out, usually, there will be just one. But the "hit" will never be gentle enough for a human. It would be no deterrent whatsoever. That hitting with sticks in the above video is an extreme example and shared more for a sense of how much force can a bull take as compared with the average person's idea of force, but you got to be demented if you think a rap or a poke with a stick injures a bull any more than a hard tap on your shoulder injures you.

At the end of that video, both "brutalized" bulls race off leaving the humans exhausted from hitting one of them staring. THAT is how powerful they are.

Does this mean no abuse happens?

No, of course not. Where there are humans, there will be abuse. But the prevalence of abuse is likely extremely exaggerated because of a lot of urban minds simply having no frame of reference for what is normal. There will be abuse. There will be rich people who may buy prize animals days before events to enter for kicks and don't mind what is done to make the bull more aggressive. But these cannot be the vast majority. Mind you, even among people who buy good animals to enter the events, most will value the bulls. Very few will be rich enough to treat a bull worth lakhs as disposable. Most of those with the best animals will be seeking to enter multiple events and win prizes and fame, not destroy the animals and render them unfit for further use.

There will be people who will be entering random bulls rendered useless by modernization on a lark thinking that they are useless anyway and good if they win something and doesn't matter if they are injured. Such people may even be fine torturing a bull so that it goes out in a blind fight for survival thinking it improves their chances of winning.

The good bulls definitely enjoy the challenge and use serious strategies

Yet, if you see winning bulls, they are strategizing. They know exactly what they are doing and they avoid letting players get into a position to attempt to hold them at all as a first strategy. Study their fights and you will see that they approach it with a more "kabbadi" mindset. Keep an eye on getting a clear exit, feint and move to prevent being caught, find an opening, take it. Stuff like this comes with tremendous training and care. And make no mistake, the bull enjoys the challenge. Aptitude can't be faked and it can't be developed to such extents without the bull being a partner in the process.

This bull, for example has a clear strategy. If he can't be touched, he can't be caught. Full kabbaddi approach to his game. He spins and feints in very fast circles, keeping people at bay (incidentally showing just how much sideways movement a sports bull is capable off - not torture!). Tosses over a few people (notel, he is not goring them), but doesn't let himself get distracted by an easy target. His eye is always on having a clear run out of the area. Holds participants at bay till he gets an opening out and takes it. Over and over. Another bull has a less elegant but equally effective strategy. Aggression. Several times, he gets the first person to approach near the gate and then pretty much brute forces his way through. Proactive overreactions are his deterrent. Note how he catches participants by surprise almost every time till the last, where they simply give him a wide berth.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ap1SFWeVGc8

I have purposely used compilations about individual bulls, so you are able to recognize their strategy being played over and over with complete confidence. These aren't random defensive actions, this is training at work. Note that the people they hold back effortlessly have also trained and have strategies to catch bulls - that fail.

Any of these entries could easily be confused for a scared bull if seen one off. Compilations like these show how it is a consistent - and winning strategy individual for tbe bull. Far from being a scared victim, the bull is trouncing his opponents with great skill/strength and definite strategy. There are others that come out of the arena rearing on their hindlegs so that their rump is high out of reach for the initial crowd and those attempting are extremely vulnerable to the bull. These are strategies.

Not just do they know exactly what they are doing I even saw a couple of videos where bulls who mostly had a straight run through the participants stop and turn back as though disappointed and expecting more! Animals aren't idiots. That bull knows it could have been more fun. And high adrenaline action is indeed fun for animals with energy to spare. That is why healthy horses NEED regular exercise or they go restless (and usually create trouble by deciding how to spend that energy on their own). That is why grazing animals in peak health often have mock fights with each other. A brisk tussle that they know how to handle is not just not abuse, it is invigorating.

Political psyops against PETA

This is crucially important. It must be said here that the calls to ban PETA are flat out wrong. I see these calls to ban PETA as a standard political practice of using polarization against "foreign oppressor" to consolidate people in solidarity - for politics. Standard extremism script. That it is an anonymous "apolitical" protest suddenly exploded to massive sizes and having very expert social media support stinks of exactly one party that has used strategies like this in the past. That it comes in the wake of a political vacuum in Tamil Nadu makes it all the more certain. Targeting of rights organizations and NGOs interested in protecting animals is not the sign of animal lovers. On the other hand it is very much a sign of a party given to attacks on NGOs, "apolitical" protests against existing governments (note, BJP is in the center and supporting the protests - whoever thinks this is a Tamil uprising against Hindi hedgemony is merely being exploited by their emotions for a political agenda, while the TN government that did everything to allow the practice to continue is being attacked. Subtly, now, but "where is Paneerselvam" is already appearing on protest posters). Remember the IAC protests. Tamilians being led by their anti-Hindi sentiments should note that they are neither the first nor the last to be used in such a manner. Hatred by "animal lovers" for organizations protecting animal rights ought to be a warning signal that all isn't as it appears.

Abuse must be identified and targeted and prosecuted.

PETA have definitely nailed abuse in their videos even if all of it is not abuse. Sharp weapons, irritants rubbed into eyes, etc are 100% abuse. Another channel had done an independent expose showing crackers being burst, tobacco being put into eyes, and the commentary doesn't mention it, but my experienced eye caught a limping bull - a limping bull has no place in "sport". These practices need to be stopped - non-negotiable. And the "massive" protests are a very real risk that political games will bulldoze away all gains made toward regulating them.

But it can't happen if everything gets objected to as abuse. These are neither stupid animals and nor are they as unprepared for sport as the average urban viewer discovering it on youtube. Those on the ground will call you nuts and dismiss you the minute you begin with all the bulls being scared - they so totally are not! Bring the law down on their heads and they will call you the enemy for misrepresenting them and harming their practices.

Which is what we see happening.

There is a very real and urgent need for finding middle ground in the interest of animal rights.

Does the survival of indigenous species really depend on jallikattu?

Well, not all indigenous species. From having over 120 indigenous species, India is down to some less than 40 (these are numbers off my head, but on the conservative side, real likely to be worse). But for the species used specifically in jallikattu, particularly the Kangayam and Pulikulam, it can be the death knell. Let us face it, there would remain no need to breed bulls suitable only for sport if the sport were banned. Far tamer species would be more useful for work. At best, most bulls would be castrated at early age to make them easier to handle. There would be no reason to pay stud fees for expensive bulls if cheap artificial insemination would also mean breeding cattle with higher milk yields. In other words, they would be too much trouble for no use = no one would want = extinction. Like the many other species that no longer exist in India. So, in my view, judging jallikattu irretrievably cruel to animals also means saying that those animals in excellent form are better off not existing at all. The question is, there are plenty of videos on youtube. Do you really see animals that should go extinct?

"Do YOU have any ideas to make jallikattu safer?"

Frankly, as an outsider, I don't think I am the best person to make helicopter recommendations, but from what I see, the following ideas come to mind. I bet local enthusiasts and best breeders will have more.

  • Mandatory safety fencing strong enough to contain a bull that leads to a pen for bulls to escape to and cool down, where only owners/caregivers registered will be allowed to enter. This should be out of sight of the main arena (up/down a slope, around something, etc - up is best - will burn some excess energy off in reaching). This will prevent a lot of the injuries by keeping the bulls in full adrenaline mode away from people and giving them a place to calm down safely (without running into vehicles or breaking limbs on obstacles).
  • Mandatory animal lover/village vet/respected animal lover elder serving as a "referee" kind of character, who will call a halt to all attempts on a bull if it shows signs of undue distress or aggression (no, bursting out of a holding area or bucking people off, isn't distress or aggression - it is reflex). If an animal appears to be going in circles trying to escape and unable to find way out, or if an animal starts attacking the participants, time to call it a day for that animal and let him be led/herded out of the area to the pen. Participants to persist after the referee declares a halt should be disqualified from further presence.
  • Tranquilizer darts and person competent in using them. An animal showing excessive distress or aggression and being beyond control should be tranquilized and taken to the pen to recover instead of risking his or participant's safety with further provocation in the form of attemtps to control it. This is not an ideal solution and shouldn't be standard practice, but more like a "last resort" to prevent injuries.

I will add to this if I can think of something, but frankly, for someone who has no direct stake, I've already said too much. There are too damn many sheharis talking and not enough bull owners.

4

When you begin with a conclusion and backfit "science" to prove it, absurd things happen.The Holy Cow seems to be one such absurdity plaguing India these days. Trumpeting the importance of the cow, the Hindutva right governments are all out to "protect" said cows by preventing all cattle slaughter. While cow slaughter is already banned in most states, Maharashtra now takes another step up the bovine ass to ban all cattle slaughter, meaning calfs and bulls that could earlier be slaughtered with appropriate certificate can no longer be killed.

This, naturally has implications statewide as the bulls get reduced from economically viable livestock to a liability overnight in addition to the cows. The idea of bans on cattle slaughter itself is economically problematic in a country with a large number of poor people. From the obvious removal of beef as cheap nutrition for economically weaker sections to the removal of specialities on menus of non-vegetarian restaurants that serve beef (buffalo meat is tougher and not completely substitutable). From the removal of the prized beef from the meat exports leaving only the tougher carabeef (buffalo meat) to instant losses for cattle owners who will no longer have buyers for their livestock.

While the move is projected as a pro-Hindu move, in reality, there is a significant number of eaters who are Hindu, but even more importantly the economic loss to the cattle owners is largely among Hindus - since Hindus are greater in population, own land and livestock in greater numbers. The largest beef exporters in India are Hindu. Meat eaters can eat other meats, it is livestock owners that are left with nowhere to dispose off unviable livestock, let alone profit from it. As drought stricken farmers take up loans to transport bulls to cattle fairs in a desperate effort to sell them, they still don't find buyers. Who would buy bulls in an era of motorized transport and slaughter bans? What would one do with the bull? Our champions of the Hindu Rashtra appear to not have thought that far. Yet as drought sweeps Maharashtra, there is going to be an urgent need to sell people further driven to ruin by the cattle slaughter ban some con about why they cannot sell their animals for slaughter instead of feeding them non-existent feed and watering them with scarce water.

Alas, the problem is, in their hurry to protect, they haven't quite figured out what to do with the cattle that don't get killed. More than that, the impracticality not being a deterrent, they are aiming to expand such "protection" across India. Jharkhand may follow suit with a similar expanded ban. But how can this be done without appearing to be complete idiots?

The efforts are relentless. It helps that the greatest defenders of the slaughter ban have never been responsible for looking after cattle and are free to expound on the merits of a live cow over a dead one. Thus they are completely free to use all their creative faculties with scant regard for practicalities. "What we don't know can't inhibit us"appears to be the new mantra. All sorts of uses for otherwise useless cattle are being found - namely dung and urine.

The premise of the Gobar economy, as I've started calling it, is that excreta is more valuable than feed. Therefore, the grass that has passed through the body of a cow is not as valuable as the dung that exits the other end. Or, more accurately, you will earn enough from dung to cover the cost of grass PLUS the money you'd have earned from selling the animal for meat. And of course they don't get laughed right off the social networks because most people there have no idea what grass, dung or cow meat costs in India. They also appear to have no idea that fertile milch cattle too provide dung and urine as additional utility and ban or no ban, no sane cattleowner butchers milch cattle because they are too profitable to be sold for the one time price of meat.

Yet, they do not seem to have hurried to construct their cow protection centers - probably because their rural staff aren't complete idiots and will be wondering where the money for care comes from once the propaganda utility is over. Still, it does not serve to stem the torrents of absurdity spewing in social media in a desperate bid to prove that an economic loss inflicted on cattle owners by those who profit from ideology and not cattle; is not actually a loss.

Here are some such statements:

Would you kill and eat your mother?

No, but I wouldn't tie her in a shed either.

A cow doesn't have to be given special feed if she isn't giving milk. Just grass and water.

Grass doesn't manifest from thin air. It grows on land, has to be cut into bales, transported, fed. Paid for. Grazing can only last so much. But of course, you can always leave your "mom" at a garbage dump for some takeout. In Maharashtra where we have drought in a fifth of the state before the monsoon ends, we are talking of an animal that drinks an average of 60 liters of water a day. Have you ever watered a cow? I have. A twenty liter bucket and half each time offered twice a day doesn't sound excessive at all. Particularly in hot weather. This would be ferrying three LARGE buckets of water PER COW, DAILY. In places like Marathwada, children are quitting school to help families find and ferry enough water to survive. There are people marrying water wives not so far from Mumbai - their only job is to ferry water. Someone want to explain how simply giving water to a cow three times a day is a minor thing for the sake of faith? How many of the loudmouth laptop jockeys would ferry three buckets of water out of respect for their real mother?

Uses of cow dung and cow urine

The uses of cow/bull dung and urine are the same whether the cow is a productive one or non-productive one. Makes no sense to maintain a non-producing animal for the sake of excretion. Additionally, buffalo dung is practically interchangeable with cow dung as fertilizer or plastering floors and walls of mud homes.

The government has jumped in with all its four feet to make cows more useful.

Maharashtra is now promoting organic farming

This is no doubt a very welcome step, except the government is also promoting GM crops. Organic farming depends on a very robust ecosystem of organisms that keeps pathogens and pests at bay. Genetically Modified crops have a high dependence on chemical inputs - which destroys the ecology. When push comes to shove, is the government that betrayed their largest supporter group to push GM crops, going to create the chemical free space organics will need? Let us see. If they do, it will be great. Unfortunately a cynical part of me believes that the farmers will be pushed toward the two opposite goals simultaneously and left to deal with the results and absorb consequences on their own.

Cow urine disinfectant

This is probably the most alarming of the lot. The idea is not entirely impossible. Cow urine is used in some organic pesticides already. However, the idea that because it is non-toxic for humans and can be safely used to control several pests does not automatically mean that it will work to prevent vectors of infection among humans. Inherently, there is nothing in cow urine that would prevent organisms that decompose living matter to thrive - cow urine, for example can be happily added to compost heaps without any harm to the decomposers in it. For that matter, so can human urine. Excellent sources of nitrogen to get a compost pile hot fast. For someone into organic farming, the idea that anything that can be added to a compost pile will prevent growth of microorganisms is a little difficult to digest. No pun intended.

Still it is possible that the cow urine is processed in a manner that enhances its action against pathogens. Not impossible. There are many other organic products that have proved safe for medical use - for example sphagnum moss for absorbent dressings or maggots to clean infected wounds.

There appears to be no conclusive research that would indicate its suitability in an environment where humans in fragile health would be kept. To run a trial of such a disinfectant in the ICU of a hospital - monitoring or not treads into several problematic areas.

  1. To begin with, trials are best conducted by scientists and not politicians.
  2. Trials conducted without consent are ethically problematic.
  3. Even utility in a human environment would not establish safety in a situation where sterility is a requirement. Many pathogens occur naturally in the environment but are rarely a problem unless they manage to find a host. Examples would be Fusarium wilt in plants or tetanus among humans. Given that hospitals often have patients with injuries and the target use appears to be sterilizing instruments in an ICU (of all things!), the risk also needs to be assessed in terms of safety around open wounds.

By default, organic and sterile have a problem co-existing and while I am all for organics, it is important to recognize that hospital treatments are often not organic to begin with. The need to promote a cow urine based product, with dubious and currently unproven safety directly in a high risk environment stinks of "research" invented by PR departments. A scientific mind ought not to have a problem with systematic testing for target use before deploying in real life situations.

A scientific mind ought to have a problem with human trials without consent and a scientific mind ought to be asking who is responsible if irreversible infections happen.

All this STILL will not explain how unviable cattle can find an alternative viability that is greater than the input into their care. It still will not explain how cattle dying horrible painful deaths from plastic ingested in garbage heaps where these "mothers" are abandoned by their "sons" is more pious than cattle well cared for till they are finally butchered. It does not explain how cows abandoned at garbage dumps but buffaloes and bulls (till recently) being fed well for slaughter respects cows. It does not explain how it respects cows for them to be turned into an economic liability for owners, nor does it explain what the government's right is, to pay public funds for the passive upkeep of thousands of animals that could feed people, while people die of hunger.

Even Savarkar had recommended allowing cattle slaughter if that made economic sense.

But is our cow infested right wing willing to relook at the gobar economy and allow the poor to make choices that sustain them?

Facts have published an article by Prashant Sudhakaran called "Sonia Falerio's sleight of hand in the New York times" which refers to an article by Sonia Falerio in the New York times and debunks it.

Disclosure 1: I have not read Sonia Falerio's article and am not planning to. Not even read Prashant's article properly.

Disclosure 2: My sole issue is that I'm touchy about bogus statistics.

Prashant Sudhakaran for some reason uses meat prices from USDA and IMF as "evidence" to prove that beef is more expensive than pork, instead of prices from India:

Unless of course, if Sonia Faleiro’s contention is that Indian commodity prices are an island, and that they are significantly cheaper than global prices—in which case she has uncovered a massive global arbitrage opportunity.

Beef is expensive worldwide, because it is among preferred meats. In India, beef prices are indeed lower.

Here is the products page for Meat Products of India. Surf prices to your heart's content. Beef is indeed more economical than pork. Will Prashant reverse his argument on beef in light of the fact that Indian commodity prices for beef are indeed an island and he was merely ignorant of the "global arbitrage opportunity" already being profited from that makes India the largest exporter of beef?

Does Prashant or India "Facts" have the courage to publish a correction?