Tamil Nadu stops free goat distribution due to drought
Chennai: A Tamil Nadu government scheme for free distribution of milch cows and goats to the poorest in rural areas has been temporarily halted as the state faces its worst drought in 140 years.
The scheme will be resumed after the state receives adequate rainfall, animal husbandry minister P. Balakrishna Reddy told the state assembly on Tuesday. The scheme was temporarily stopped with effect from December 2016, the minister said.
The scheme introduced in 2011-12, has benefited landless farmers, especially women. The state government had distributed 2.8 million goats and sheep until 2015-16, according to the animal husbandry ministry.
About 4.4 million kids were obtained from these goats/sheep, the ministry said in a September 2016 order.
With the suspension of the scheme, its beneficiaries, landless agricultural labourers, will be hugely affected.
According to P.R. Pandian, coordinator of the Federation of Tamil Nadu Farmers’ Associations, there are more than 5 million landless farmers in Tamil Nadu.
“The Tamil Nadu government is hesitant to furnish the actual impact of the drought and the condition of the farmers in the Supreme Court. But while making announcements like these, they try to justify the move in the name of drought,” said Pandian.
In April, the Edappadi K. Palaniswami government, in a filing to the Supreme Court, claimed that no farmer had committed suicide in the state because of drought.
Pandian also alleged that the Tamil Nadu government was pursuing anti-farmer policies.
Farmers from Tamil Nadu have been demanding a complete loan waiver. A group of farmers staged a 41-day protest in New Delhi demanding a Rs40,000 crore drought relief package, farm loan waiver and setting up of the Cauvery Management Board by the centre.
During the budget in July last year, the government had announced that 400,000 goats/sheep would be distributed to 100,000 families headed by women belonging to the “poorest of the poor” category during 2016-2017.
For the implementation of the scheme, milch cows were obtained from other states, while goats and sheep were mostly procured locally as these animals are fragile and prone to disease when transported en masse over long distances and different climatic zones.
The number of milch cows and goats in local markets has gone down drastically due to drought, claim farmers.
“As there was no proper fodder to feed, I was not able to take care of my cow and it died two months ago, due to some health issues,” R. Satish, a cattle farmer near Coimbatore said over the telephone.
Now, he doesn’t have an option other than buying it from the local market, using his savings.
As per provisional figures available under the 19th livestock census, there are about 8.1 million goats and about 4.8 million sheep in Tamil Nadu.