September 2014, floods hit Jammu & Kashmir; considered the worst in the century. During rescue & relief operation in Qamarwari & Bemina area we got shell-shocked on sighting the large number of carcasses of dairy cattle (belonging to pre-flood military dairy farm), and while moving through the flood waters I stumbled upon one such carcass. Immediately I heard a cry "who are you?" I replied back with a broken heart. "Ji, I am your doctor (VET) & you are my patient." "Salam Sir Ji." "Where are you going?" it asked. "I am on a mission (relief & rescue)." " What has happened?" It replied back. "Don't you know?" "No, Sir", was the polite answer. I replied back "A disaster in the form of a devastating flood has hit the state". "Oh no! but what is a disaster, Sir." "It is the 'serious disruption of the functioning of society causing widespread human, material or environmental losses exceeding the ability of the affected communities to cope using their own resources.' "Sir, I do not know the whereabouts of my family members (approx. 300). Do you know what happened to them?" Silent, I remained for a while. "Sir, Sir…… say something please." "Ji, they all perished", I replied back with choked voice." "During such calamities human life attains the top most priority vis-à-vis response and recovery phases of emergency management but our suffering is almost completely ignored. Didn't you hear our cries: 'Hey, we too are the creation – the important component of your livelihood; we live and die for you, and what is it we we don't do for you. Come on, save us too; if not, at least dispose our dead bodies immediately because we don't want to trouble you even after death. Even we harboured the fear that you people will use our carcasses for your (human) own suffering by throwing us into water bodies meant for your own use or keep us along the road side to invite various disease causing agents and canines that later will pose a threat, not only to you but to our surviving members in the flood affected areas.'
After hearing such a long argument I replied "sorry, sorry…dear"; the Animal Husbandry Department, the SMC, the In-charge of the said farm, and we the sedentary and glued to chairs VETS were in deep slumber and poorly prepared for this calamity". "SIR, what is the cry I am constantly hearing from the last one week?" "Ji, it is about lifting the stinking carcasses due to the fear of epidemics that generally is evocated as a consequence of such disasters."Why the carcass disposal proved to be a big headache for one & all?" "Yeh, You are right. But this time it demanded huge manpower, resources and know-how to cope up with the challenge, and Alasǃ as was the case with other concerned departments our department too showed a lackadaisical attitude and poor preparedness to tackle the same." "Yeh, Sir you also lacked ready-to-act Mobile Veterinary Units, identified alternate arrangements, facility for quicker and safe disposal of carcasses, and also the availability of life saving medicines and vaccines, arrangement of feed/fodder, Urea-Molasses and/or Complete Feed blocks." "Ji hanh…Ji…Ji." "Sir, why do the delay then, & why the concerned people aren't in motion?" "Government says it was divine wrath, so what new explanation is then needed?"
I wondered, and muttered the following with myself; "The livestock standing in contaminated flood waters for pretty long time becomes susceptible to hoof and skin infections. In addition, the wounds acquired from debris render them vulnerable to tetanus and other toxins. Other illnesses caused by sewage-contaminated waters include hepatitis, food-poisoning, and parasitic infections. Further, the affected livestock pose additional burden to the owners in terms of over loading of human shelters and roads, huge economic loss to the farmers' involved, and psychosomatic disorders to pet owners due to their loss. The livestock involvement may even impair the ability of people to make rather sensible decisions about their safety and rescue works owing to their more concern about their livestock than themselves. Indeed the Vets have to prioritize the animal affections with each disaster, however certain emergency actions must be taken to prevent the injuries and loss of life which includes evacuation of livestock from the calamity-hit areas to safe destinations, adequate feeding and watering at the make-shift shelters, treatment of the injured animals, and vaccination of the susceptible but in-contact animals to prevent the likely epidemic of the contagious diseases.
Now this is not on the agenda. Animal pain raises no concern. Only animal losses do. Are animals without any consciousness? And why can't preparedness for disasters be in there in place to save great number of animals. Losing a cow is losing the sole source of livelihood for many families. Livestock holding is almost a business unit for many. So losing livestock is losing rural economy. Losing crops is one year's loss but losing an animal is a loss for good."
The moment we finished the discussion, roaring flood waterS swept the emotionally strong cadaver for good. I was left with no choice but to say "Good Bye, Dear", with tears trickling down my face. This rendezvous emboldened my will in the MISSION Rescue & Relief.
Tail Piece: Veterinary Universities/Animal & Sheep Husbandry Departments needs to establish a Natural Calamity Management units and sub-units manned by different expert groups to deal with different calamities. Proper co-ordination in an orchestrating manner among the central/state government organizations, developmental agencies, NGOs, self-help groups and mohalla committees is imperative to overcome the challenges and hazards of various disasters.