Expert group led by BJP deputy denounces livestock ministry for ‘zero’ funds for cow disease protection
New Delhi: A standing parliamentary committee headed by a BJP MP criticized the livestock department for a substantial cut in funding for programs to promote health and prevent disease in livestock such as cows, buffaloes, sheep, goats and camels, among others.
In a report tabled during the monsoon session of Parliament, the Standing Committee on Agriculture, chaired by Karnataka MP BJP PC Gaddigoudar, said there was a growing gap between the amount initially allocated in the budgets and the final grant to some of the schemes.
He notably highlighted the Livestock Health and Disease Control Program (LHDC), which was first launched in 2010 for track “animal diseases of economic importance ‘ such as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in cows and other clawed animals.
According to the report, not only funding for the program has plunged between 2017-18 and 2021-2022, some of its sub-components did not receive a single penny in the last fiscal year.
Take the National Animal Disease Notification System (NADRS), a crucial sub-component of the LHDC program.
The NADRS was unveiled for the first time in 2009 to monitor livestock diseases and contain epidemics. When the Modi government took power in 2014, it upgraded the program to NADRS 2.0, bringing it online to enable real-time animal disease reporting, which would allow rapid action.
In 2019, the government even launched a NADRS 2.0 application, which was also to collect details on stray cattle.
But the parliamentary panel report said that from Rs 6.79 crore in fiscal year 2019-2020, the funding allocation for NADRS 2.0 fell to zero in 2020-21.
The report indicates that the farm has defended itself by showing that overall, the funds allocated to the LHDC program have been used at 100 percent.
The panel, however, found this misleading because, according to them, some of the sub-components of the LHDC showed no financial progress and no physical achievement.
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Poor veterinary infrastructure
In the report titled State of veterinary services and availability of animal vaccines in the country, the parliamentary panel also expressed its “utter dismay” that no hospital or veterinary clinic was strengthened or created under the LHDC between 2017-18 and 2020-21.
According to the report, states such as Arunachal Pradesh, Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir experienced a reduction in the number of veterinary hospitals from 2019-2020 to 2020-21, while Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and MP saw a decline in the number of dispensaries in 2020-21. compared to the previous year.
The report also found that Delhi and Chandigarh do not have a single veterinary aid center or mobile veterinary unit to meet the needs of livestock owners.
According to the report, the Department of Livestock argued that this decline in veterinary infrastructure is due to the fact that a few states have revised the number of veterinary institutions according to their types and nomenclature.
The committee, however, has always expressed dissatisfaction with the current state of inadequate veterinary infrastructure in the country.
“Not enough veterinary staff and vaccines”
The parliamentary committee also underlined the low availability of veterinary personnel and animal vaccines, apart from the infrastructures.
He noted that the country’s current veterinary headquarters and colleges are woefully insufficient to handle the increasing livestock populations. The panel recommended increasing the number of seats in existing colleges with the recognition of more veterinary colleges in the country.
According to the report, with a current herd of 535.78 million, the country needs 1,07,156 veterinary establishments against the current number of 65,894.
As for animal vaccination, the committee was informed that there is a need for approximately 982 million doses of foot-and-mouth disease vaccine, 41.4 million doses of Brucella vaccine and 223.14 million doses of plague. Small Ruminants among others.
The panel called for full autonomy in the manufacture of animal vaccines to fill the gap.
To overcome obstacles to immunization coverage, the standing committee recommended the deployment of agents from Krishi Mitra and MGNREGA with the participation of institutions from Panchayati raj. This should be repeated on lines similar to that of Mission Indradhanush, which is designed for immunization of children.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)
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