Notwithstanding the oft-repeated government rhetoric about its thrust on developing the animal husbandry sector, the ground reality belies any sincere effort towards realizing the immense potential of the livestock and poultry sector. This sector is among the biggest livelihood providers, with lakhs of families directly dependent on these activities. In recent times many educated youths have taken to animal husbandry, which in turn has triggered a surge in entrepreneurship. The rural economy in particular has been driven to a large extent by the livestock and poultry sector. The Government’s lack of a clear focus in tapping the huge potential offered by the sectors is borne out by the fact that not enough veterinarians are there in the field to cater to the needs of livestock entrepreneurs. With the sector having been hit hard by the African swine fever and bird flu since early last year, it was all the more imperative that the State had veterinarians in adequate numbers. This dearth of manpower has also adversely impacted timely interventions reaching the needy pig and poultry farmers in their times of distress. Many of the farmers are not in the organized sector and their lack of access to proper information and scientific interventions has been a major factor hindering the growth of the sector.
According to a paper published by the State Government itself, the National Commission on Agriculture way back in 1976 suggested that there should be one veterinarian per 5,000 cattle head by the year 2000. As per this recommendation, the number of veterinarians required for Assam is 2,529 – which is more than double of the existing strength of 1,003 veterinarians. This clearly indicates the urgency of additional requirement of veterinary professionals in service delivery programmes for rationalizing the manpower and human resources. With the livestock sector growing at a faster pace in recent times, there is a definite need to upgrade the cadre strength of veterinarians. The 20th livestock census in Assam witnessed a 71.63% increase in the poultry population from the year 2012 to 2019. The total poultry population which was 27.2 million in 2012 jumped to 46.7 million in 2019. The cattle and pig populations during the period, too, increased by 5.29% and 28.30% respectively. The pig population in particular in Assam has been the highest in the country. This calls for a matching arrangement in terms of dissemination of scientific methods of pig rearing and veterinary care. It is unfortunate that despite such a big demand for qualified veterinarians, the Government has failed to recruit the desired numbers. That a large number of veterinarians in the State are jobless or earning their living by working with private entities is a poor reflection on the Government’s interventions in facilitating a sustained growth of this sector with a huge potential.