DECLINING CAMEL POPULATION: RAIKAS – RAIBARIS BLAME THE RAJASTHAN CAMEL ACT.

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According to the 20th state livestock census of 2019, the population of camels in the state is 2.12 lakhs. The overall population of camels in the state was 3.2 lakh in 2012. That’s a drop of more than 1 lakh animals in 7 years.

While there might be other reasons for the declining population of camels. Many in Rajasthan feel that at the heart of it, is the law introduced by the erstwhile BJP government in 2015. The Raika and Raibari communities which are traditional camel breeders blame the Rajasthan Camel (prohibition of slaughter and regulation of temporary migration or export) act 2015.

What is Rajasthan Camel (Prohibition of slaughter and regulation of temporary migration or export) act 2015?

The act passed by the legislative assembly of Rajasthan provides for the protection of camels from slaughtering. Under the act

  • No person shall slaughter or cause to be slaughtered any camel.
  • Possession, sale, and transport of camel meat and camel meat products in any form are prohibited.
  • No person shall export and cause to be exported any camel himself or through his agent, or any other person acting on his behalf from any place within the state to any place outside the state for the purpose of slaughter or with the knowledge that it may be or is likely to be slaughtered.
  • Whoever causes bodily pain, disease or infirmity to any camel is said to have caused hurt.

These offenses are punishable under the act.

What are the complaints of Raikas and Raibaris with the law?

The Raikas and Raibaris are the traditional camel breeder communities of Rajasthan. Their livelihood depends on raising and selling camels. But the Rajasthan Camel act 2015 puts their livelihood in jeopardy. The most controversial provision of the law is the regulation of temporary migration and export they say.

This provision impacts them in several aspects they say. Under the law, if an area is draught stricken and the herd needs to be taken to another state for grazing purposes, the herders must obtain written permission from the competent authority. Upon getting the permission they must mark their camels with identification marks and within the specified duration they must bring the camels back in the state, a failure to do so will imply their involvement in the violation of the law.

Rajasthan camel act 2015
Image Source – Indian express

Even for purpose of taking camels to animal fairs outside the state, or their export outside the state for agricultural or dairy farming purposes, the owner must apply for a permit from the competent authority. This puts an undeclared prohibition on the trade of camels as it makes the trade difficult.

The act leaves the field open for bureaucratic Red-tapism, making it difficult for the breeders and the genuine buyers to trade the camels outside the state. Buyers from Haryana and Punjab also import camels from Rajasthan for agricultural purposes but the government regulation on export is too stringent in absence of a streamlined system for obtaining the permit, which deters them from trade. The applicants wait for long periods to get permission.

These laws have made the trade of camels difficult for the Raikas and Raibaris. Earlier, where they used to sell 3-4 camels a month, now the sales are declining. Even at large cattle fairs like Pushkar, they fail to get buyers sometimes. The prices of the camels have also been impacted. Earlier camels were sold for as high as 90,000 Rs and now they have come down to 50,000 or below. For this, the camel breeders blame the combination of the act and the pandemic which worsened the situation they say. 

They continue to face adverse circumstances but don’t know how long they will be able to endure the losses. They are also worried that if it continues then their future generations may well leave the family tradition. 

What was the motive behind the Rajasthan camel act 2015?

In a statement of objects and reasons for the law, the then Vasundhara Raje-led- BJP government clarified that “Several cases of intentional killings of camels and their progeny have come to light. It has also been observed that a large number of camels are transported or carried out of Rajasthan to other states for the purpose of Slaughter. The recurrent famine and scarcity conditions in the state tend to increase this menace all the more. The existing laws are not sufficient to tackle this problem”.

The government reasoned that considering the contribution of camels to social, cultural, and economic aspects of Rajasthan, such a law becomes a necessity. In other words, the government wanted to protect the species from slaughter and wanted to safeguard the public interest.

What is the stand of present government on Rajasthan camel act 2015?

While addressing the issue in assembly, the state minister of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Lalchand Kataria said that in the next assembly session amendments will be made to the 2015 act to enable migration of camels and to ensure that farmers, who have stopped keeping camels after the law was passed, are encouraged to do so once again.

The present government has also constituted a ministerial sub-committee to look into the issues raised by camel breeders. Once the committee submits its report, the future course of action will be decided, says the minister.

While the response of the present government is optimistic, it is yet to be seen what amendments the government makes. For now, the discontent among the camel breeders continues.

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