Lessons to be learned from the Lumpy outbreak

Pashu Sandesh, 11 August 2022

As India is celebrating the “ Azaadi ka Amrit Mahotsav” the celebrations of the 75 years of Independence, the Vets of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Himachal and Madhya Pradesh are grappling with the Outbreak of deadly Lumpy disease in the Cattle, threatening the livelihood of the Dairy farmers in these states, especially the marginal ones. The Central Government and the Governments of the affected States are in damage controlling mode and the Animal Husbandry departments all over the country are on high alert. The only silver lining amongst the dark cloud was the launch of the Vaccine by the Central Government yesterday which has to be administered at a lightning pace to control and prevent the spread of Lumpy Disease in healthy Cattle. 

If we analyse the pattern of disease spread and the response of the Governments, we can observe a better response from the States of Gujarat and Punjab while a very poor response from the State of Rajasthan which not only endangered the Cattle of its State but posed the grave risk of spread of the disease to the neighbouring States. Why this differential response to the same problem? The answer lies in the better organisation of the Veterinary services in the States of Gujarat and Punjab. Gujarat has the best-organised cooperative Dairy sector in the country and also has one of the best Veterinary infrastructures in the country, same logic stands true for Punjab as well. The Vet to Cattle ratios of Punjab and Gujarat are much better in comparison to Rajasthan. 

The apathy of the Rajasthan Government also is responsible for the poor management of the disease with nearly 70% of the posts of Vets and Para Vets lying vacant for so many years including the post of the Director of Animal Husbandry Department which is managed by the officers of the other departments as an additional charge. Rajasthan Government is hand to mouth in terms of Veterinary services and is being forced to entrust the firefight to the officers from the Agriculture Department. 

Other Governments with poor Veterinary infrastructure need to wake up and take notice of the situation before it becomes unmanageable. One of the immediate solutions to the Control of Lumpy Disease is to carry out mass vaccination programs for the cattle, especially in the states bordering the affected states. 

All the vacant posts of the Veterinarians and Para Vets need to be filled as soon as possible and all the Veterinary infrastructure needs to be assessed and strengthen too. 

To tackle outbreaks of Lumpy-like magnitude it becomes essential to create a Task Force at the Central level, similar to National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF). Veterinary Council of India, which has the Database of the Registered Veterinary Practitioners in the country and the Animal Husbandry Department of Central Government, could create a pool of Vets from different States under the umbrella of the Animal and Zoonotic Disease Disaster Management Force which would be deployed at once at short notice whenever and wherever there is an Outbreak or the possibility of the outbreak. Members of this Taskforce can also be suitably trained to tackle such emergencies. 

There is a problem and there are Challenges. Need of the hour is a realistic and Honest analysis of the situation and long-term planning rather than knee-jerk responses which are often inadequate and provide a medium for the Bigger Disaster to happen in the Future.