A pola without bulls
Number of bullocks in Maharashtra -2003: 79,17,772 -2007: 76,38,920 ,Fall in number: 2,86,852Farm activist Kishor Tiwari says, "With fewer numbers available, the cost of a pair of bullock has gone up to Rs 1 lakh. The farmers also prefer cash crops like soyabean, cotton and tur over food crops like jowar and wheat. This has led to a shortage of fodder as it is no more a by product of farm. Even the farmer has to buy it today."
NAGPUR: Who can forget Munshi Premchand's short story 'Do Bailon Ki Katha' that immortalizes the incredible bond an Indian farmer has with his bullocks? The economics of Indian farming and animal husbandry, however, are ensuring that this bond might live only in such fables. As will the sense of gratitude and pride with which rural India worships its bullocks on the day of Pithori Amavasya, also known as Bail Pola in Maharashtra.
Bullocks help farmers plough the land, irrigate the fields, provide manure. Also, bailbundi continues to be a popular means of transport in rural India. Still, the number of bullocks in villages are declining and that is also threatening to put the small farmer out of business.
As the number of Brahma or Indian cows, the variety whose male offsprings are best suited for work on farms, are diminishing so are the bullocks. Regional joint commissioner, department of animal husbandry NN Sawkare agrees that the number of bullocks has fallen over the last decade. "More attention has been paid to the female of the species for the purpose of milk production and so male offspring has been ignored. The other reason is increase in mechanized farming that has reduced the use of bullocks. A farmer can hire a tractor for ploughing the field. If he possesses a pair of bullocks he has to maintain it round the year which is a financial burden."
Sunil Manasinghka, chief coordinator of Go-Vigyan Anusandhan Kendra at Deolapar, says, "The myopic view of the planners has led to this alarming situation. The cow has only been considered for its milk output. So imported breeds were given prominence over the Indian breed, which is best suited for the Indian conditions in every manner. Its dung and urine provide natural manure and pesticides. The offspring of desi cow are best suited to work in the fields because those of the Jersey cow have high mortality rate, grow impotent early and have less sweat glands, so they tire early. This makes them unsuitable for working in the fields. The Indian cow, that can meet the needs of agrarian life in Indian villages, has been ignored so much that there is an alarming fall in its number. The number of bullocks too has fallen. The fact that most farmers who committed suicide were those who did not have a pair of bullock should wake us up to their importance."
A pair of bullocks continues to be a cherished possession of small farmers because tractor cannot be used on small farms as it is not economical and also because it requires big space to manoeuvre. Purushottam Bhattad, a farmer at Paradsinga village, 60 kms from the city, feels that for small farmers a pair of bullocks is still the best option. "The cost of renting a tractor is Rs 300 per hour. It is rented for the entire day. This makes it very expensive for a small farmer as a pair of bullocks along with the person who uses them can be hired for just Rs 500 for the entire day. Besides, during monsoon when the land is very wet, the weight of the tractor can harm the top soil. A pair of oxen weighs just right and so is good to till the land."
The elimination of bullocks from rural landscape will eliminate small farmers, feels Suresh Bolenwar, who has a farm in Hiwara village. "Mechanized farming is not for small farmers. Without bullocks, the small farmer will not be able to cultivate his land. This desire to own a tractor is also ruining the medium farmers. They take loans of up to Rs 5 lakh from the banks and are then unable to repay it as the tractor remains unutilized."
Farm activist Kishor Tiwari says, "With fewer numbers available, the cost of a pair of bullock has gone up to Rs 1 lakh. The farmers also prefer cash crops like soyabean, cotton and tur over food crops like jowar and wheat. This has led to a shortage of fodder as it is no more a by product of farm. Even the farmer has to buy it today."=========================================