Monday 4 October 2010

Cattle rustling


I walked out for some evening air to find my landlady and daughter deep in conversation with the milk lady. The milk lady speaks only Telugu, and although my landlady has some she needs her daughter's help to have this conversation. I only know 1 Telugu word rai come, but as Rinky translates the full story for her mother I hear gai = cow, churo  thief in Oriya.  Clearly all is not well. After much gesticulation and animated words, the milk lady Namaskars me and wanders of, bottles in hand for the following days milk delivery. Only then do I get the story.

Two of her cows were stolen last night. I ask how many she has and what a cow is worth. I am thinking she may have 3 or 4. I am surprised to be told she is a rich woman. She owns land in Andrah Pradesh, and has a herd of 20 cows here, each worth 20-25,000 Rupees. That makes her herd worth 400,000 - 500,000 Rupees! Her income from milk production works out as follows: she sells her milk at 20 rupees a litre - it is very good milk, according to my landlady! A cows gives 20 litres of milk a day, that, 400 rupees per day, working on a 30 day month, that is 12000 Rupees per month income. At this time of year yields must be good and fodder supplies free as the cows wander through the nagar eating the lush greenery. Even at other times of year she can't be paying out much for fodder. So a nice little earner!  So you can easily see why loosing 2 cows is significant for her. It brings home to me yet again how precarious lives are here and in other countries where peoples wealth is vested in their animals. I know how much Tuareg camel  herds were decimated in North Africa by the droughts of the mid 70s and early 80s, how Mongolian livestocks suffered  in last year's Dzud. When livestock start to die, wealth evaporates irreplaceably.

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