Despite Rajasthan being one of the first states in the country to create a separate ministry dedicated to the welfare of cows, it is presently reeling from the disastrous effects of an outbreak of lumpy skin disease wherein thousands of bovines have died in the past few weeks.
The lumpy disease is highly contagious and infects cows and buffaloes mainly through vectors like blood-feeding insects, which leads to the formation of nodes on their skin. These nodes look like lumps. The Animal Husbandry Department has said that the disease, which originated in Africa, came to India via Pakistan in April.
Besides Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Gujarat and Andaman and Nicobar Islands have been hit by the outbreak of the disease. While the Rajasthan state government has said that it is leaving no stone unturned to control the outbreak, animal rights activists and those associated with cow shelters say that the disease is spreading at an alarming rate.
As per the data shared by the state Animal Husbandry Department, the lumpy skin disease outbreak began in April and has so far affected 2,31,907 bovines, resulting in 10,882 deaths. The worst affected are 11 districts out of which most are in western Rajasthan, such as Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Nagaur, Jalore, Hanumangarh, Bikaner and Sri Ganganagar.
Arvind Jaitly, Deputy Director (Disease Control) at the Animal Husbandry Department said that the affected animals have been separated from uninfected to check its spread.
"The lumpy disease was first reported in April 2022 and it started spreading rapidly as it results from a virus. More than 10,882 have died whereas 2,31,907 bovines have been affected," said Jaitly, who is monitoring the spread of the disease.
He continued, "The primary symptoms are a pox on the skin, high fever, and a runny nose and as of now, there is no treatment or vaccine for lumpy disease and treatment is given as per symptoms. The most affected are those cows with low immunity.”
On Saturday, the Union Animal Husbandry Minister Purushottam Rupala, who was in Jaipur to take stock of the disease-affected areas, instructed the department that infected animals should be kept in isolation and cautioned people against drinking the milk of the affected cows.
Rupala told the media, "We are vaccinating the bovine with goat pox vaccine which is completely effective to prevent this disease. The state government and central government are trying their best to stop its spread in Rajasthan and the other states."
Cow shelters demand medicines, vaccination for lumpy disease
The cow shelters demand that the government works on a war footing and come up with vaccination and drugs for infected animals to stop the disease which is mostly spreading among bovines in gaushalas apart from those with farmers and stray animals.
"The biggest challenge before the government is to come up with vaccination and medication to save the remaining bovines. At present, the goat pox vaccine which is being given to bovines is not enough. Also, those infected are treated for their symptomatic disease and not for the virus. The government must get in touch with private labs and come up with proper medication,” said Raghunath Singh Rajpurohit, state general secretary of the Rajasthan Gauseva Samiti.
He further told Outlook, “To boost the immune system, we are giving kadhas [traditional drink with ayurvedic leaves] to the bovine as the virus is hitting the ones with the low immune system. Another thing the government must do is to ensure to keep infected cattle in isolation.”
Western Rajasthan worst hit
Jodhpur, the home bastion of Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, is one of the worst-affected districts in Rajasthan. Around 254 cattle have succumbed to the disease in the past two weeks in Jodhpur. The Jodhpur division has 1,005 registered gaushalas with 3.9 lakh bovines, followed by the Bikaner division that has 798 cow shelters with 3.1 lakh bovines.
"Of the total population of cattle, 10 per cent has so far been infected by the lumpy disease in the district. But at the same time, the number of recovered cattle is higher. Phalodi, Osian, Baap, and Lohawat blocks are the worst hit,” said Sanjay Singhvi, Joint Director (Animal Husbandry), Jodhpur said.
Singhvi added that teams of veterinarians have been camping in the affected villages and are providing treatment to infected cattle.
CM Gehlot has also appealed to Bhamashas (donors), social workers, and public representatives to cooperate financially for the prevention of lumpy skin disease. Several MLAs have also pitched in with financial support to ensure that this contagious disease does not spread further.
इस राशि का उपयोग प्रभावित पशुओं के उपचार के लिए दवाईयों, टीकाकरण, रोग की रोकथाम, जागरूकता के लिए प्रचार-प्रसार, बीमार पशुओं के लिए परिवहन सुविधा, संक्रमण नियंत्रण एवं अन्य चिकित्सकीय आवश्यकताओं में लिया जाएगा।— Ashok Gehlot (@ashokgehlot51) August 6, 2022
Union Minister of State for Agriculture Kailash Choudhary, an MP from Rajasthan’s Barmer, also urged the state government to take necessary action. In a series of tweets on Friday, he said that the disease is resulting in the deaths of bovines, leading to panic among the farming community.