CHITRADURGA: The worst-ever drought in the region in the last 10 years is turning into a nightmare with the death of cattle due to starvation and malnutrition even as the local administration drags its feet on rehabilitation measures. A case in point is Bhommadevarahatti Camp under Nannivala Gram Panchayat, where at least 20 heads of cattle have died in the last one month, according to locals.
Hundreds of sacred cattle are herded by the Kilaris (priestly men) of the Myasa Beda community at Bhommadevarahatti. The Kilaris are a worried lot as they cannot provide fodder and water is also scarce. The cattle have become weak and some of them are not even able to move properly.
The Kilaris perform religious rituals to the community gods and are, in turn, gifted the first-born calves as thanksgiving. These sacred cattle are usually herded in open fields and forests and left to graze. However, as the region has not seen much rains, the fields and forests are dry and supply of fodder from other sources is negligible, aggravating the problem.
Locals Jogaiah, Palaiah and Doddapalaiah say that the situation has turned from bad to worse in the last two months.
“If the local administration had taken adequate steps to ensure fodder and water, the deaths of cattle could have been prevented”, they said in unison. “The cattle are dying in the forests and elsewhere. The numbers may swell if we are not provided a cattle shelter. We have pleaded with the officials, but no action has been taken,” they alleged.
Doddapalaiah even said that the herd, which stood at 400 some time back, has now reduced to 300 cattle. In distress seasons, the Kilaris would herd the cattle to the Malnad region in search of fodder. “But this year, even that region is facing drinking water and fodder crisis,” he said.
Except for Japananda Swamy of Ramakrishna Ashram, Pavagada, who, in association with Infosys Foundation, is providing some fodder for the cattle, none of the government officials have turned up, he said.
Their claims were buttressed by veterinarian Dr Raghav Varma who said the cattle wander in the forests and it is hard to identify them individually to treat them. “The cause of death of cattle is weakness due to shortage of fodder and water. Presently, we are providing IV fluids to the weak cattle and making all efforts to prevent further deaths.”
However, another veterinarian, Dr B Hanumappa, while agreeing that malnutrition is causing weakness in the cattle, disputed the claims of the Kilaris on the deaths. “Only about three deaths have been reported in the last one week,” he insisted.
Assistant Commissioner Vijaykumar, who is monitoring the fodder programme, too said that the herders of the sacred cattle and some others were giving a wrong picture about the cattle deaths. “We are monitoring the issue since November. The deaths are not to the extent claimed”, he stressed. A census of the sacred cattle was conducted in November and in Bhommadevarahatti, the number stood at 324, he asserted. Since the last two days, only one cattle has died due to weakness, he added.
Agreeing that there is a severe water problem, he said tankers are being pressed to service. “We are entering into an MoU with Ramakrishna Ashram, Pavagada, for providing fodder and nutrition supplements for the cattle and work will begin immediately,” he added.
Deputy Director of the Animal Husbandry Department, Dr Thippeswamy, pointed out that the sacred cattle are left to graze in open which makes it hard for the department to take care of them. “However, we have engaged a team led by an assistant director to take care of the cattle. Drugs and IV fluids are made available. We have also suggested to the district administration to set up a cattle shelter at the village and supply fodder regularly”, he added.