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After the floods of 1982 and 1983, a severe drought had been sweeping through Gujarat for the last 3 years. A few other states were also effected but to a lesser degree. It was this century's worst famine and the third successive famine this year, which had taken a heavy toll of life, especially livestock.

The Damage

  • 17 of the total 19 districts, 15,000 of the total 18,000 villages in Gujarat reeled under the curse of drought.
  • Out of 107.46 lakh hectares of cultivable land, 71 lakh hectares produced nothing.
  • Crop failures to farmers were estimated at Rs.2,750 crores.
  • Of the 34 million cattle in Gujarat, some 18 million died before the rains arrived in 1988.

 

 

The Relief Operation

 

To help the victims of the famine, the Sanstha started distribution of buttermilk, food grains, nutritious biscuits and clothes.

Buttermilk Distribution
Every day, a total of 195 centers served buttermilk to an estimated 150,000 drought stricken people. The hardest effected areas, were the maximum distribution was made were the districts of Jamnagar, Junagadh and Rajkot.

 

Area

Distribution (Litres)

Area

Distribution (Litres)

Jamnagar

6,135,000

Surendranagar

450,000

Rajkot

2,718,000

Amdavad

415,000

Junagadh

1,518,000

Bharuch / Panchmahal

198,000

Bhavnagar

1,009,800

Sabarkantha

175,000

Baroda

525,000

Total

13,143,800

A total of 13,143,800 litres of buttermilk was distributed free during the famine.

Grain Distribution
A total of 284,800 kg. of food grains were distributed in all the effected villages.

 

Area

Distribution (Kg.)

Area

Distribution (Kg.)

Jamnagar

85,000

Surendranagar

10,000

Rajkot

66,000

Bhavnagar

6,000

Junagadh

46,000

Amdavad

7,300

Sabarkantha

10,000

Others

54,500

Helping Animals
It is the livestock that is first affected in times of drought. The 3 consecutive dry monsoons resulted in shortage in grass and fodder for cattle. The Gujarat Government declared that of the 34 million cattle some 18 million died before the rains arrived in 1988! Pictures of helpless dying cattle eaten alive by stray dogs paralysed thousands around the country. The regions of Kutch and Saurashtra were at the centre of the most devastating famine in the history of Gujarat.

In response to the plight of the cattle owners, Param Pujya Pramukh Swami Maharaj initially set up a cattle camp in Dangara (near Rajkot) in September 1987. 350 drought stricken cattle were looked after with shelter, medication, water and plenty of fodder.

On 17th October 1987, 4 scientific cattle camps were inaugurated to support more than 6,000 dying cattle for 8 months. Cattle were brought to the camps from the famine areas by truck. The sight was saddening. Healthy bulls and oxen were transformed into just skin and bones within months. Some could not even stand and had to be carried off the trucks. The saints and volunteers had a hard task before them.

  • A total of 21 Kg. of fodder was consumed by a single cattle-head in a single day. This means, the Sanstha provided 130,750 Kg. of fodder everyday, a colossal 31 million kilograms to last 8 months for the 4 cattle camps. All the 4 camps had a minimum 15-day stock of fodder.
  • On average each head of cattle consumed roughly 30 litres of water in a single day. With 4 cattle camps, this meant providing 186,300 litres a day, a colossal 45 million litres of water to last 8 months. To meet the heavy consumption, tube wells for water were sunk in all 4 camps. Water was stored in massive storage tanks. In case of power failure, generators were kept ready to replenish the water tanks.
  • Before each cattle-head was admitted into the camp, they were given a thorough medical check-up. All were vaccinated for foot and mouth disease and cowpox. With so many cattle, we could not risk an epidemic. Every four to six days, small amounts of potassium permanganate were added to the drinking water to help rid the animal of minor infections. Major operations were also carried out in the special sickbay made for the cattle in the camps.

 

 

The table below shows details regarding the Cattle Camps set up by the Sanstha.

 

Camp

 

Area

(Acres)

 

Animals

 

Daily Fodder Consumption (Kg.)

Daily Water Consumption (Lt.)

Bochasan (Kheda)

15

2,577

54,500

77,300

Bhavanpura (Kheda)

7

1,527

32,000

45,800

Atladara (Baroda)

10

1,357

28,500

40,700

Sankari (Surat)

75

749

15,750

22,500

Total

 

6,210

130,750

186,300

Note: 250 cattle were also looked after at our Gaushalas in Sarangpur and Gadhada.

In addition, 31,295,000 kg. of hay was distributed to cattle that could not be brought to the camps.

For 8 months, the Sanstha cared for 6,210 heads of cattle alongwith their owners, taking into consideration the most minute of details. As the rains approached, it was time to send the oxen and cattle back, ready to plough the fields. And ready they were. Trucks were called and the cattle were loaded. Some refused to climb the ramp, as if they did not want to leave. The owners themselves could not hold their tears back. The Sanstha had given care and attention without even the expectration of anything from them.

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