The Nangli Punia Dairy farm in Najafgarh is Delhi's main milk supplier. It was established in 1976 when urban congestion forced dairies to be relocated to the outskirts of the city. As a result, the Nangli dairy, spread over 100 acres have 25,000 cattle--three times as many as it can properly accommodate. There are no drainage facilities, no electricity, nowhere to dispose dung. Apart from the animals, even the labour defecates in the open as there are no functioning lavatories.
Buffaloes stand several feet deep in foul smelling slush; they suffer from skin infections, foot disease, tuberculosis and all sorts of horrible illnesses. Every month hundreds of animals die in inhuman mess. Their carcasses are sold for leather and beef. In one month 800 animals have died here, turning the dairy into a mass graveyard. These have not been easy deaths- they were marked by high fever, bloated stomachs, breathing difficulties and frothing at the mouth for 24 agonising hours before the animal finally died.
Blood sample reports show parasites causing Babasiasis. Trypanosomiasis has been detected. Dung samples further reveal that the cattle suffer from liver flu and round worm. The overwhelming filth and congestion of the area make it a prime target for epidemics.
Nor are there adequate medical facilities close by to effectively treat disease and prevent its transmission. For 25,000 cattle, there is in fact only one small veterinary dispensary and one vet. Nor is there any provision to properly educate cattle owners on animal health and hygiene.
Cattle owners may now accuse the government and municipality, but they have only themselves to blame for the current crisis. For it does not require a medical expert to tell dairy owners that overcrowding will cause unhygienic conditions and that dirt will lead to disease and disaster. Their greed to squeeze out the maximum profit by subjecting animals to such wretched lives has turned living conditions into dying conditions.
The milk suppliers picking up the milk from this dairy everyday couldn’t care less about the conditions. If the milk suppliers are unwilling or unable to act, it is perhaps for milk drinkers to take up the issue. After all if the animals that give you your milk are dying of deadly diseases, can you be far behind? How safe is the milk in Delhi and for that matter anywhere else - for the Nangli dairy is typical of the squalid, filthy dairies all around India. Look at the huge dairies in Mumbai or Chennai. When hundreds of expensive pure breed cattle were imported from Australia last year, they were kept in such filth in Chennai that they developed diseases immediately including chronic diarrhoea and many have died. Government has ordered the killing of the rest. In the Mattupetti Farm run by the Kerala Livestock Board the cattle are underfed and stand in un-cleaned slush the whole day and have infected sores on their feet. All of them have brucellosis: which translates into human beings as tuberculosis. The Minister acknowledges that the animals are regularly checked for TB and brucellosis and those that had it were regularly killed! Why should they have it to begin with? He agrees that some animals had foot lesions and hoof problems and that others had died of acute pneumonia (from standing in slush) and babesiosis.
Dairy owners must be regularly checked and penalised for lapses. Maximum numbers per area and their feeding must be stipulated and enforced. Until then, the best thing you can do for these animals and yourself is to stop drinking possibly poisonous milk.