By Ankur Kumar

Nannu, 70, has been living for the last 30 years with his cows in sector-37, Faridabad, Haryana. There has been tremendous urbanization in this area which earlier used to be a semi-urban area with lots of trees and grazing grounds for his cows. Cattle rearing has not been easy for Nannu but this is the only source of income for him and his family. Although he has a small land at his village near Anandpur dairy but ‘agriculture is not profitable now’, he says. Almost all land that he owned here has been acquired by the government for the expansion of national highway giving a meager compensation without thinking where he and his cows will go.

Urbanization and expansion of city has its pros and cons for these people whose livelihood depends on livestock rearing. Although urbanization increases demand for milk and customers are easily available it has its demerits too. Cattle are not part of any city plan thus they are seen as an extra burden not only by municipal corporation but also the people who come to reside in these areas. There is fight for space, drinking water, electricity, fodder and often the availability of all reduces which has a toll on health of these animals. Subsequently, it is a challenge for those who depend on these milch cattle as a source of income.

Blurring of distinction between stray and domesticated cattle is another big problem in this area which falls along the border of Haryana and Delhi. Cows have a tendency to roam which otherwise will give less milk says the son of Nannu, Sahab Singh. Pratap Singh, a cattle owner mentions that the municipal authorities are not the only problem. The stealing of cows for beef is also a big problem for the cattle owners here.

Cattle are a nuisance to people who reside in the neighbouring locality. They often complain about the unhygienic conditions and the problem of flies, mosquitoes and odour which lead to diseases. Rajesh, Gauraam, Sunaina and their three children have been living on this encroached land for last 10 years and have been facing the problems of hygiene and sanitation due to cattle in front of their house. Malaria in children is often cited due to unclean conditions created by these cattle. Also the drain which divides their house from Faridabad into Delhi is not cleaned regularly. Moreover, this drain has become the source of drinking water for these animals in times of scarcity which lead to their diseases.

Pratap Singh, a cattle owner, reveals that climate change is also affecting their animals which are sensitive. One of his calves had died the previous night due to excessive heat. He says sheds are not available now due to lack of space and less number of trees. The grazing land alongside the roads has only exotic weeds which have no use and are poisonous for animals.

Livestock rearing is a noble and sustainable way of livelihood. Apart from milk it provides dung from which cakes are made which reduce firewood demand in urban areas. It ensures food security and balances the nutrition demand for poor families. They consume the organic waste produced in colonies and help reduce waste problem.

Agriculture and livestock rearing have been two major livelihood options for the people of India. With no land left in urban areas for agriculture, livestock rearing remains as the only options for many of these illiterate people. However, with the growing problems faced by cattle and their owners, one is forced to rethink whether cattle have no right to live in a city or whether cattle rearing is a crime. India is the largest milk producing country in the world. It consists of, by far, the largest number of people involved in cattle rearing and cattle traditionally hold an extremely venerable position in Indian culture and society. The option is whether to blindly outlaw the rearing of cattle in cities or to devise sustainable solutions which help deal with the problems associated with cattle rearing while ensuring that it continues to provide livelihoods to such a large proportion of cities’ unskilled labour force.

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