03/05/2017 2:57 PM IST | Updated 03/05/2017 2:58 PM IST

The Government's Concern For Cows Seems To Stop With Aadhaar

Case in point: cattle in Karnataka.

UIG via Getty Images

Here's a study in contrasts: in Uttar Pradesh, under its cow-loving chief minister, bovines recently got an exclusive ambulance service to tend to them in distress, among a bevy of rules to ensure their safety; in another part of the country, in Karnataka, cattle are starving due to the lack of fodder.

Farmers in India's southern states — Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh — are already driven to desperation due to months-long drought. In Karnataka, they have a new headache now: Aadhaar seeding to avail themselves of subsidies provided by the government.

Reports say farmers in Karnataka will now have to get a fodder booklet to collect the livestock allotted to them at a subsidised rate. The catch lies in the mandatory linking of the booklet to the 12-digit Aadhaar number, the implementation of which has run into controversies across the nation.

Although the Supreme Court has asked the government not to link public benefits to Aadhaar, the latter is adamant in imposing its will on the people. From mid-day meals to filing of income tax, basic civic rights of the citizenry may not be fulfilled without a valid Aadhaar card in the near future. Such a draconian policy will spell untold misery for everyone, but will affect hapless farmers worse, who are already plagued by a dire water crisis.

Stories about poor biometric details, bad Internet connectivity forcing people to climb on trees to get cell-phone signals, and unsafe technology already abound in the press, putting a blight on Aadhaar as a fool-proof means to ensure public delivery systems.

Even those farmers in the possession of the booklet and Aadhaar in Karnataka are finding it hard to feed their cattle. Entitled to 5kg fodder per cattle every day at the rate of ₹2 per kg, which is not sufficient to feed a full-grown animal anyway, farmers are barely able to get supplies thrice a week. Faced with such acute crisis, some of them are being forced to sell their cattle at shockingly low rates.

All this leads to the question: does the government's concern for the welfare of cows stop with Aadhaar?

The plight of the agrarian communities in the south came into sharp focus recently when farmers from Tamil Nadu staged a 41-day protest against the Centre's indifference to their demands in New Delhi.

From stripping in public to carrying rats in their mouths to brandishing human skulls to threatening to drink their urine and eat their faeces, they expressed their desperation in unique ways, grabbing the headlines for days on end. After an intervention by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswamy, the farmers finally called off their demonstrations, but not before the attention of the nation had been drawn to the condition of farming communities all over the country.

The Centre informed the Supreme Court on Tuesday that roughly 12,000 farmers have committed suicide every year since 2013, in spite of its alleged effort to do everything to ameliorate the agrarian crisis. In 2015 alone, Maharashtra topped the list with 4,291 suicides, followed by Karnataka at 1,569 and Telangana at 1,400.

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