Nov 29, 2009

Livestock too get an SEZ. What about the 1.1 billion Indians?

And now a Special Economic Zone for livestock research. At this rate, I am sure we will soon have SEZs for dogs and cats. And then, who know somebody may come with a more imaginative idea of setting up an SEZ for guinea pigs. After all, you need them for medical and pharma research. We can surely seek land for setting up an SEZ for building a world class supply centre for guinea pigs/mouse. 

The entire SEZ business has gone too far. I am sure some conservationist some day will demand an SEZ for tigers, elephants and donkeys.

While you and me were sleeping, the Andhra Pradesh chief minister has already inaugurated an SEZ for livestock research in January 2009. Name it on Indira Gandhi or her family, and the political leadership falls in line. This one is called Indira Gandhi Advanced Research on Livestock, and is located in Pulivendula in Kadapa district on AP.

The livestock research SEZ is spread over 644 acres.

I wonder when will we have SEZ for human beings? Why can't we make the entire country an SEZ for its 1.1 billion people? Why do we need to create islands of prosperity in the ocean of deprivity, squalor and hunger?

Anyway, I draw your attention to an article by Kanchi Kohli on the livestock SEZ. It is an eye-opener.

Now, a Livestock SEZ!

Kanchi Kohli

A couple of months back a colleague in the NGO sector pointed me to a new proposal that has been seems to be working its way to reality. I could not believe what I was hearing. I had heard of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) of different kinds: pharma, information technology, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals and so on. And now there was one which is going to be linked with a the establishment of a research centre to carry out studies of all kinds on India's Livestock.

This research centre called Indira Gandhi Centre for Advanced Research on Livestock (IGCARL) spread over 644 acres is going to be located in Pulivendula in Kadapa District of Andhra Pradesh is set up as a Public Private Partnership initiative. It is supposed to be a world class facility to be set up under Sri Venkateswara Veterinary University (SVVU), Tirupati as an autonomous institution. The Government of Andhra Pradesh has already given permission for it in 2007.

I am sure all of you are intrigued to know more about this world class centre! As they say, you dig deeper and the plot thickens. The primary focus of the research centre is geared towards biotechnology and animal genetics. Pasted proudly on their website are very important and finest livestock breeds which most of you will be aware of. Ongole cattle, Murrah buffalo, Punganur Bull and Aseel chicken are upfront on their focus. There are plans to freeze and export the embryo and germplasm of some or few each of these indigenous breeds. The next stated step is gene modification for better production and reproduction. The production of vaccines is also on the cards. And ofcourse once this research centre pumps in all this effort they will want to seek propriety rights over their products: through patents.

I was aware that the business of agriculture had crept into the livestock research sector long back. After all there has been substantial amount of aid that the Government of India has been receiving from International Financial Institutions like the World Bank. The IGCARL is headed that way too. And at the same time, there are also many research universities which are into direct collaborations with private companies. But an SEZ is one thing I was yet to come across.

The few farmers I have had the privilege of knowing are also cattle rearers. Farm and livestock in India are inseparable and complimentary to each other. Infact primarily agricultural communities have lived in tandem with pastoralists, when biodiverse farms often become havens of livestock feed. I am aware that this has changed in many parts of the country, where both the farm as well as livestock are in the gamut of industrial production geared for the market. It is also a fact that it is this monoculture cultivation and mechanised livestock farming that has borne the brunt of disease and death.

But IGCARL has its own agenda. Like any other corporation, this research centre is inviting tenders or expressions of interest by “developers”. I want to ask each one of our readers as to what they would think would be the implications of transforming cattle rearing as a livelihood to a enterprise of new cattle creation? To me it sounds unacceptable, but since each one of you reading this is closer to farm realities than I am, I thought we could all learn from each other.

Perhaps the support for initiatives for projects like IGCARL comes from our very own planning exercises. For instance, the Report of the Working Group of Agriculture research and education for the eleventh five year plan (2007-2012) states, “to achieve the productivity targets, there is an urgent need for reorientation of research programs. Emphases need to shift on assessing the genetic potential of indigenous breeds, which of late have been found to be highly productive once given suitable management and environment. The classification of animals as dairy breeds will therefore have to be revised. Intensive research work needs to be undertaken for genetic identification of traits of excellence in Indian breeds, like Jaffarabadi buffalo, Black Bengal goat, Garole sheep etc. and identify the functional genomic associated with their trait of excellence. The biodiversity existing in the domestic livestock needs to be investigated using molecular tools which should involve the transfer of major genes associated with production excellence, tropical adaptability to diseases and stress resistance.” This goes well with IGCARL's language doesn't it? My question then is, where do small farm and pastoral needs figure in all this? Moreover, do livestock keepers even know what is in store for them in our plan documents?

The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister is supposed to have inaugurated the research block in January 2009 and other facilities are to be fully functional by next month. IGCARL is on the way to becoming a reality, without many of us being made aware of the real social and environmental implications of a livestock research like this. Given that the business agenda has entered the livestock research arena so blatantly, I would not be surprised if there are many other such proposals pending or ready to roll. Its time each one of us opened our eyes to who such proposals will be benefiting and whether these are only designed to sell out our indigenous breeds.

1 comment:

M S Qureshi said...

A beautiful comment on SEZ for livestock production. However, I consider the livestock production as a source of livelihood for the farmers, a source of clean food for consumers and a source of foreign exchange for the national economy. However, we must keep balance among the interest of stakeholders and must not try to wipe off the small stakeholders associated with the livestock and poultry production, processing and marketing business.