Hyderabad: Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao’s attempt to revive rural economy through the sheep distribution scheme, among others, is showing signs of success with officials indicating about 20 per cent growth in sheep population after the launch of the scheme. Though there are hiccups affecting the pace of distribution, officials are attending to these issues at regular intervals and enabling the shepherd community reap the benefits.
Launched by the Chief Minister on June 20 this year, the sheep distribution scheme has picked up pace in the last couple of months. More than 7.61 lakh eligible persons submitted their applications for the sheep units being supplied at a subsidy of 75 per cent as against the market price of Rs 1.25 lakh per unit. The State government has set a target of 3,52,445 units of sheep for distribution during the current fiscal where each unit comprises 20 sheep and one ram. As on October 12, the officials have distributed 1,18,355 units of sheep across the State which translates into about 24.85 lakh sheep.
Despite the initial troubles, the distribution of sheep has picked up pace over a couple of months. Young generation shepherds have joined hands to become entrepreneurs and established sheep farms in different parts of the State. With the government making every person aged above 18 years from the shepherd community eligible for the scheme, majority of youth from the community are benefitting from it.
However, the officials are having a tough time in calculating the exact population of the sheep due to the alleged sale of sheep distributed under the scheme. In some cases, sheep distributed under the scheme have died due to seasonal diseases, new climate and ‘stress’ suffered during transportation over long distances from neighbouring States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. Incidentally, the number of sheep available with shepherds as per records does not tally with those available with them in reality in many cases.
Speaking to Telangana Today, Telangana State Sheep and Goat Development Corporation (TSSGDC) chairman K Rajaiah Yadav said that the population of sheep distributed in June-July has increased by at least 20 per cent in the last four months. Though the officials are busy in the distribution of sheep and are yet to quantify growth in sheep population, he said that field level information from the beneficiaries confirmed that the scheme was showing signs of success.
“While acquiring the sheep itself, we ensured that a couple of sheep from each unit are pregnant which have started delivering lambs. As this is the breeding season for the sheep, we expect their population to increase further,” Rajaiah Yadav explained. Each sheep gives birth to three lambs over a period of two years. It is estimated that the sheep population has increased by at least 15 per cent even after taking into account some deaths during distribution, delivery or due to diseases in the last four months. The officials are confident that the exact growth rate of sheep population can be estimated by the end of this fiscal year.
1. Middlemen smuggling sheep
In a few cases, some middlemen have formed syndicates to purchase sheep from the beneficiaries and transport it to neighbouring States either to be sold locally or to be sold to the Telangana government officials again. The officials have noticed that several sheep with markings made on their ears to tag them under the scheme, returned to the markets in the neighbouring States with tags removed. In all, the officials have either served notices or registered cases against at least 500 beneficiaries who have sold sheep obtained under sheep distribution scheme and also those who were smuggling them. Many cases are yet to be reported and officials have launched a detailed probe into them.
2. Sheep prices hiked
With growing demand for sheep, sheep traders in the neighbouring States have hiked the prices by at least Rs 2,000 per sheep making it difficult for the State officials to purchase them. The State government has fixed the sheep unit price at Rs 1.25 lakh each where each sheep costs Rs 5,000 and a ram is priced at around Rs 7,000, while the remaining amount was for miscellaneous costs including transportation of sheep. But now the sheep price has been increased to Rs 7,000 and the ram costs more than Rs 10,000.
3. Task Force teams formed to curb smuggling
With increasing cases of sheep resale, recycling and smuggling being reported from different districts, the State government has instructed district Collectors to form a task force team each, comprising police, vigilance, revenue and animal husbandry departments. Task Force teams are already in place in a few districts, while other districts will have them ready within a week.
Nizamabad Joint Director of Animal Husbandry Dr Prabhakar said that to prevent the beneficiaries from selling their sheep obtained under the subsidised scheme, mandal and village committees are also being formed to keep track of illegal trade of sheep. He said Task Force teams are conducting surprise inspection of sheep and if the beneficiaries had sold off their sheep, they were asked to track and seize the sheep, vehicle transporting them and also register criminal cases against the beneficiaries.
4. Shortage of sheep
Due to shortage of sheep, officials are unable to find quality sheep. For instance, against a target of 9,631 sheep units for Nizamabad district, around 7,734 beneficiaries paid their contribution and 7,040 units have been distributed. “Lack of healthy sheep at purchasing point in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh has become a challenge for us. We have sent a request to the higher authorities to assign another purchasing point to help the targeted beneficiaries purchase healthy sheep,” said Dr N Vikram Kumar, Joint Director of Animal Husbandry of Karimnagar district.
5. Grass cultivation
The State government has already started cultivation of stylo grass in about 95,000 acres of land belonging to Horticulture and Forest Departments. With abundant rains, stylo grass cultivation is expected to give good results shortly and supply required fodder for sheep distributed under the scheme. The government intends to take up stylo grass cultivation in about 45 lakh acres of land belonging to the Forest Department as well as private lands as internal crop to prevent shortage of fodder.
6. Mobile Veterinary Units
The State government’s decision to deploy a fleet of 100 veterinary mobile ambulances is yielding desired results to ensure veterinary care for livestock especially sheep distributed under Sheep Distribution Scheme. Due to the gesture, livestock in most Assembly constituencies are covered for veterinary care.
The officials of the Animal Husbandry Department are taking steps to prevent sheep distributed across the State under the subsidy scheme from any kind of disease. Officials have de-wormed the animals and have administered vaccine for Sheep Pox as well as a Peste des petits Ruminants (PPR) disease or Goat Plague. Officials have confirmed that a few sheep have been infected with the Foot-Rot disease and deployed teams to prevent the disease from spreading. With the government not allocating specific funds for medicines to sheep, the officials have admitted that they were having difficulty in procuring medicines and the higher officials are consulting the district Collectors concerned to make alternate arrangements.
7. Urban shepherds
Sheep distribution scheme will be extended to eligible persons from Golla and Kurma communities residing in urban areas. Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao agreed to extend the scheme to eligible persons from urban areas following repeated pleas from the Golla Kuruma community elders. The officials are finalising the modalities and will launch the scheme after obtaining approval from the Chief Minister.
8. Staff shortage and denial of insurance claims
To reduce burden on the beneficiaries, the State government is providing insurance for sheep in case of death and fixing insurance tag on the ears of the sheep before distributing them to beneficiaries. Due to shortage of staff, shepherds are unable to get their insurance claims at proper time. As per norms, the shepherd has to submit a death certificate, tag, photo and post-mortem report to get the insurance for the dead sheep. As compensation, farmers will receive Rs 5,000 for sheep and Rs 7,000 for ram. But, veterinary doctors are not in a position to conduct the postmortem as many of them were involved in sheep purchasing or treating livestock including cattle. Further, several insurance applications are also getting rejected due to lack of awareness among shepherds in this regard. As per norms, beneficiaries should submit their application along with undivided insurance tag to claim insurance. But their claims are getting rejected as the shepherds are approaching insurance companies with divided tags as they are not aware of these conditions.