Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Animal Husbandry is Integral to Kashmiri Lifestyle

Maroof laments about institutional indifference accorded to an important component of Kashmir's agrarian economy

(Dr. Muhammad Maroof Shah, 31, was born in Kunan, Bandipore. He has pursued a career in veterinary medicine and animal husbandry, completing Bachelors's degree in veterinary sciences (BVSc) at the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences and Animal Husbandry (FVSc & AH), Shuhama campus of the Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Kashmir (SKUAST-K), and MA English through the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). He is presently posted as a Veterinary Assistant Surgeon (VAS) at the Government Sheep Breeding Farm in Dachigam. Dr. Shah is the author of two books, and has lectured as a visiting fellow at the Jaipur University on Western Philosophy. In his leisure time he pursues studies in comparative religion, philosophy and literature.)


One wonders why we have the problem of huge wastage in human resources when we are exceptionally well placed by God in terms of different resources like water, forests and potential for tourism. Kashmir could be one of the most competitive economies if we had been able to tap these resources. But presently I wish to foreground another ignored sector which if properly attended would significantly contribute to employment generation. We can safely assert one thing about present Kashmiri culture that it is food centric and more specifically meat centric. Here even Hindus (Saivists) and Buddhists were not averse to meat eating here. In Upanisads food is identified with God and this is perfectly true about Kashmiris. We count food as the choicest pleasure provided by nature and common saying heresorui chu insane kara nafsi khatri (man does everything for the sake of nafs/belly) substantiates my point. We live for the glory of many things amongst our appetite ranks very high.

Sheep Husbandry could theoretically be one of the most important job providers here though for various reasons governments have chosen to ignore it. Kashmir is one of the biggest markets for meet as we excel in our love for meet that is manifested in various forms. As “Khush aatikad” community, most Kashmiris are fond of niyaz culture. On fourth, on fifteenth, on fourtieth, on anniverseries, on thousand and one functions associated with marriage, on parties, in restaurants, on festival days, on the day of shaving hair of infants. Our (thahri) prayer food culture may also involve meat eating. Religion also is a contributor to our practice of meet eating. Kurbani previously observed by lesser number of people is now more widely practiced and ensures great market for meat. Huge tourist inflow too demands continuous supply of meat. Along with kangdi meat is supposed, by some, to be important in providing heat during winter. We assert our prosperity or growing income by increasing consumption of bill. Meat is a component of our culture of mahman nawazi. For many families the bill of butcher exceeds the bill of mobiles or electricity. In boarding schools meat is in great demand. No matter whether an occasion of grief or joy meat is a component of the celebrations in Kashmir. Routinely many families have the habit of taking meat with meals. All classes, in their own ways, take meat. I think Kashmir can be usefully characterized as meat loving community.

My point is that we have a huge market for meat and our investors are well advised to explore the possibility of supplying meat for such a huge market. Better than even poultry where sometimes market tendencies are unpredictable sheep industry seems to be amongst the best candidates for investment. We need to import sheep from outside in huge quantities needlessly when we have everything for indigenous production. Why can’t we be sufficient in meat production? We have enough water to produce electricity for even neigbouring states but are begging for it. The same applies to our resources for meat production.

Sheep Husbandry has achieved significant results which even its severest critics can’t ignore. It has largely succeeded in achieving genetic up-gradation of local sheep and consequently made possible greater body weight and growth rate. It has contributed to huge increase in population of sheep. It has boosted wool production. It has succeeded in checking losses from most infectious diseases. Sheep industry is not simply meat industry. It is many more things besides it. It is inclusive of other industries including pelts/leather industry, wool industry and fertilizer industry.

Wool has traditionally been appropriated in many local industries involving the manufacture of namdas, chadars, caps etc. It used to employ many women who had hardly any better investment of their time to make. Though presently wool market has slackened and it is better to concentrate on meat rather than wool it is clear that wool has been and could continue to be important part of sheep industry with phenomenal employment potential. Preparation of meat dishes is now a huge industry and is flourishing business. Now kababs and ristas are part of routine hospitality for important guests in homes and offices/guests.

There is a perception that something is ailing sheep husbandry from last two decades if not more. Indifferent if not corrupt bureaucracy is the culprit and turmoil played its part in this ailment. Awful ignorance and indifference of previous governments regarding development of sheep industry and its phenomenal potential for generation of employment should no longer impact on the present government’s efforts to redress the problem. Now the direction in which the department is heading, clear statement of its long term objectives, strategies for reconstruction and renovation and even its organizational structure all are not very clear. Without massive investment and interest by the government sheep industry which is one of the biggest employers currently may further dwindle. Without a strong department sheep industry can’t grow.

The fact is that presently the department is suffering on various planes. There is vagueness in its organizational structure. Hardly any training programs or refresher courses are organized routinely for doctors and officers. Seminars and conferences are held very rarely. Research is not a priority at all as is evident from the fact that study leave (with full pay) is not granted for students aspiring to do masters or other courses. This is the only department where further studies are discouraged.

Without continuous renewal and updates from fresh specialized minds the sheep/animal husbandry department can’t but degenerate. Most of important research posts in Disease Investigation Lab of the department are presently leaned at Jammu making the lab practically defunct. The department is still apprehensive of lunching offensive against the spread of some zoonotic diseases. As a community we need to be prepared for drastic measures and acknowledge fully unpleasant facts. If we are prepared to destroy millions of chicks for preventing flu transmission why should we be apprehensive of taking comparably very mild measures that the problem of zoonoses may necessitate. The department is not fully open to the idea of holding meetings on technical issues either within it or with authorities. There is a need to improve on cooperation with SKAUST. The pitiable state of affairs regarding technical awareness is indicated by the fact that in previous government ridiculous, impossible and laughable notion of zero percent mortality was sought to be implemented. We have yet to maintain profile or data base of diseases affecting sheep in different areas of the state and are talking of forecasting them. There is no epidemiologist in the only lab that the department had established for the purpose. The conception of polyclinic is still a dream only. Journals, newsletters and other means of information consolidation and dissemination are not on the cards. Even a website for the department of sheep husbandry in Kashmir is awaited. A lot needs to be done in the area of extension as prejudices against rabbit and rabbit meat and ignorance of general public about the potential for investment in sheep industry continue. Once upon a time there used to be feeding centres with good facilities for genetically superior stock so that breeding of local stock could be regulated. Now these centres are history and marginal farmers or breeders suffer and mortalities of govt. rams have increased. Infrastructure of erstwhile feeding centres is now at the mercy of God and may well be auctioned one day.

People should come forward with innovative ideas to regenerate certain dying elements of the tradition of sheep husbandry such as feeding centres. Let people import better blood from foreign nations and privately provide services to local breeders if government is not taking significant steps in this direction. Let people with capital employ a few professional bakarwaals/chopans/breeders to rear their purchased sheep (available at reasonable rates and procurable and finance-able through different schemes institute by the department) and generate more capital. It is better than opting for poultry farming. It needs onetime investment only. No new inputs or minute monitoring. There are many people willing to rear sheep/goat but unable to procure new heads due to lack of capital. Our state has huge resources of fodder, some still untapped and some not quite developed, that could be procured, with the efforts of the government, at very low cost, to the breeders. We could also work on development of indigenous feed mills generating new employment and boosting our meet industry. The sheep, unlike poultry, need to be provided feeding for a few months of winter only. With little investment on labour which is available very cheaply our investors could generate huge capital. Or they can establish their own farms and supervise them. Rabbit industry is unfortunately another ignored area in Sheep Husbandry Department. Rabbits are ideal competitors or supplements to poultry if steps are taken regarding awareness and development of rabbit industry. With hardly any need of vaccination, less fastidious food preferences, better meat quality ideally suited to heart patients, better body weight, higher proliferating potential, lesser technicalities and need of training, more resistance to cold environment, rabbits are better candidates than poultry and many other meat animals as meat producers and have a huge potential for employment generation. As a toy or recreational animal too it has great attraction.

The question is: Is government interested in reclaiming pastures, developing existing ones, making possible access to already existent fodder resources, finance prospective breeders, give special incentives to chopan community, remove obstructions to pursuit of research, import fresh blood to develop better breed and further consolidate/stabilize Merinozation of local/crossbred population, develop infrastructure of the department which is mostly too old and too meager, establish more farms, renovate feeding centres, pool up resources for development of the industry that will go to address unemployment problem in significant manner? Currently sheep rearing is providing employment to most of bakarwaals, gaddies and gujjars and chopans and many private breeders. Much of locally produced wool is marketed locally. Kashmir has the best quality fine wool approximating Merino wool in India. Kashmir has achieved phenomenal success in upgrading local sheep, increasing sheep population though the development of sheep products industry is yet to be fully realized. I wonder why govt. can’t declare sheep husbandry an industry, explore possibility of opening supporting industries, import sheep from, say Finland, that give many lambs a year and create a meat producing breed adapted to our conditions, orient some existing farms to meat production rather than wool production (though wool industry has also such a huge potential that it can, on its own plane, be a veritable industry if developed and supported by supporting industries such as sweater manufacturing. Wool should be a focus but not the focus of breeding policy. The cost of wool has hardly increased during last 2-3 decades while that of meat has increased manifold). We can generate thousands if not lacs of jobs in few years by developing sheep industry. A ram weighing 137 kg costing Rs.25000 was recently sold in Kashmir. Many people are showing interest in sheep rearing now. Those who are short of ideas where to invest money should contemplate sheep rearing and boldly face the challenges of lack of grazing area etc. Let sheep husbandry become Public-private enterprise and develop a model farm for others to emulate.

I wish to conclude on an optimistic note. People are showing greater interest in establishing units or mini-farms of sheep. Progress on artificial insemination in sheep is going on. The department is opening to innovative ideas. Breeders are registering huge profits. There is greater awareness regarding sheep husbandry in public. Pressures for privitazation and efficiency from other quarters are forcing introspection in authorities. Another era recalling and furthering the glorious era of Dr Bandey and Dr Wani is on the horizon if we make a collective effort.

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