After water, the central government is now planning to enlist the help of Indian Railways to transport fodder from surplus states to deficient ones to save millions of livestock which have been facing a crisis due to severe drought and drinking water crisis in many parts of the country.
Officials said that a proposal to this effect was discussed at a recent meeting of senior officials, where it was decided to approach the railways to provide wagons for transporting fodder.
India suffers an almost 36% shortfall in green fodder (demand is of 817 million tonnes, while supplies are estimated to be of around 526 million tonnes) and over 11% shortage in dry fodder in normal times, which has been aggravated due to the drought.
Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Telengana and Madhya Pradesh are among the states which are facing an acute shortage of fodder this year, leading to death of many cattle.
Two consecutive drought along with soaring temperatures has dried up grasslands leading to an acute shortage of fodder.
Officials said that transporting fodder through railways is part of a comprehensive strategy to ensure that adequate quantities of fodder in available in the affected states to save livestock.
“Though meeting human needs is of immediate priority during drought, but saving the livestock is also great concern because of the economic benefits that livestock can provide in times when agriculture fails,” a senior official said.
Officials said that to discuss the situation, the central government plans to hold a meeting with chief secretaries of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana, Rajasthan, Telengana, Maharashtra, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh through video conferencing later this week.
The government has also allocated Rs 100 crore for fodder development programme in drought affected areas, under which a sum of Rs 3,200 per hectare upto a maximum of 2 hectares is provided for growing fodder.
It also plans to dovetail this with Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee Scheme to ensure an integrated approach to the problem.
That apart, it has also released a sum of Rs 292 also for fodder development under the National Livestock Mission. The main thrust of the allocation has been on the fodder deficient states.
Meanwhile, in a related development, Noble Laureate Kailash Satyarthi wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighting the plight of over 16 crore children who have been affected due to drought in 10 states.
Satyarthi demanded that the drought be declared as a national emergency so that children are not forced into child labour, trafficked or compelled to leave school.
He also demanded that the unspent amount in corporate social responsibility funds, especially in public sector undertakings, be directed towards child-centric drought relief measures.