Rajasthan government considering opening camel shelters amid declining population

Updated on Sep 17, 2021 05:19 PM IST

In view of the sharp decline in camel population in Rajasthan and for its effective conservation, the Rajasthan government is considering starting oonth shala (camel shelters), similar to cow shelters, officials

The state police, to date, has recovered over 230 camels, which were being smuggled. (Sourced)
The state police, to date, has recovered over 230 camels, which were being smuggled. (Sourced)

In view of the sharp decline in camel population in Rajasthan and for its effective conservation, the Rajasthan government is considering starting oonth shala (camel shelters), similar to cow shelters, officials.

According to the state government, the camel population has witnessed a sharp decline of 34%. From 3.5 lakh in 2015 the numbers of camels across the state stood at 2.13 lakh in 2019.

On 16 September 2014, camel was declared as the state animal in Rajasthan. According to the Animal Census 2019, about 84.43% of the total number of camels in the country are in Rajasthan. The census shows that the number of camels is on the decline for the last 30 years.

Minister of the animal husbandry department, Lal Chand Kataria, said the main reason for the decline in the number of camels is the continuous development of mechanical resources and availability of a high level of transport facility up to the village level. Under the Rajasthan Camel (Prohibition of Slaughter and Regulation of Temporary Migration or Export) Act 2015, there is a ban on the slaughter of camels and taking them out of the state without competent permission, due to which the use of camels is continuously decreasing.

“It is true that ever since the law for camel protection has been enacted in the state, the number of camels in the state has decreased since then. I am a farmer and can understand the problems being faced by the camel owners,” he said replying to the attention motion raised by MLA Rajendra Rathod during the zero hour in the state assembly.

He said the suggestion by assembly members, such as deputy opposition leader Rajendra Rathore and others, to build a camel shelter like a gaushala (cow shelter) is justified. ‘We also want that a camel shelter should be considered like a gaushala,” he added.

The minister said in the absence of effective efforts to stop camel smuggling and its conservation, in the coming time, may risk their survival.

Kataria said the government is committed to the protection of camels. “There is a need for partial amendment in the law made in the year 2015 for camel protection. A draft has been prepared to amend this law and it will be passed in the next session of the assembly,” he said.

It is learned that the government in the amendments might allow the sale of camels outside the state. The sale of camels outside the state and their use as transport medium are banned Under the Rajasthan Camel (Prohibition of Slaughter and Regulation of Temporary Migration or Export) Act 2015, which affected the revenue model of the camel owners.

The state police, to date, has recovered over 230 camels, which were being smuggled. As many as 21 were arrested in associated cases.

The decline is not new, as per official livestock census figures available with the animal husbandry department of the state government.

Between 1951 and 1992, the number of camels in Rajasthan continued to increase, barring a small decline in 1988. The first major decline was registered between 1992 and 1997 when the number of camels declined from 7.46 lakh to 6.69 lakh. The highest-ever camel population in the state was 7.56 lakh in the year 1983.

However, the current figure of 2.13 lakh camels in the state is lower than 3.41 lakh camels in the year 1951.

On the idea of camel shelters, Hanwant Singh, president of Lokhit Pashu Palak Sansthan, an NGO which works with camel pastoralists, said, “The shelter can be for old, injured, stray, and ill camels, but the healthy and useful ones should not be kept there.”

He suggested developing a camel sanctuary. “Cows can be kept in hundreds but five camels cannot be kept together during the breeding season,” he reasoned.

On declining population, he said the price of camels is continuously dropping – in the recent Tilwara fair held in Barmer district a camel between 4 to 5 years old was sold at 5000 to 7000.

Before 2015, pastoralists used to get up to 50,000 for a camel but the law has resulted in a fall in prices, he added.

Singh said earlier, the buyers used to come from Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and other states, they used camels for agriculture purposes. “After the Rajasthan Camel (Prohibition of Slaughter and Regulation of Temporary Migration or Export) Act, 2015 came into force, the process to take a camel out of state has become a tedious one. It takes months to years to get a clearance. The law was to protect the camel but instead, the number is decreasing,” he said.

He demanded that the government should allow its sale outside the state and even abroad – the camel prices in Pakistan are between 2 to 2.5 lakh. And here in the state, there is a ban on its transport and sale.

Meanwhile, the Rajasthan high court has taken suo-moto note of the sharp decline of the camel population in the state and appointed Advocate Prateek Kasliwal as amicus curiae to suggest changes in the law enacted in 2015 to regulate slaughter and transport of the state animal.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sachin Saini is Special Correspondent for Rajasthan. He covers politics, tourism, forest, home, panchayati raj and rural development, and development journalism.

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