There is much more than border and barbed wire to this frontier district of Kupwara. A small village is spearheading a white revolution to transform the fate of the region and the people. Zafar Aafaq reports
A small blue signboard breaks the monotony of a nondescript village life just before you enter the village. The signboard, placed near an intersection, welcomes travellers to ‘Milk Village Dohama’, with assurance of commitment to the white revolution. Tucked in the apple orchards Dohama, a quite village, is situated on the banks of Kahmil River in Ramhal area of district Kupwara. A few years back apple was the only mainstay of local economy, as the soil in Dohama is considered favourable for its cultivation. However that has changed. A white revolution is underway in Dohama.
Now with both apple and milk added to its name, Dohama has become one of the most prosperous villages in this frontier district. Even the number of below poverty line families has come down drastically.
Despite a large number of residents employed by the state government people are reaping the benefits of the white revolution.
Sarah is a village lady who owns a cow. Her husband is a retired school master. Her two sons are employed; one is a banker and other, a doctor. Her family has cultivated apple orchards on 10 Kanals of land in the village.
The handsome income family generates from different sources has not stopped this village woman from domesticating a cow. “This is our culture,” says Sarah proudly. Sarah’s cow produces around 12 litres of milk every day. Half of it is sold to a local dealer named Irshad Ahmad Mir.
Irshad Mir, 28, a post graduate, is an established businessman in Dohama. Every morning he collects 4.5 quintals (450 litres) of milk from different households of the village. Half of the collection is processed at his Collection and Processing Centre (CPC) located in the village. Milk and dairy products like, curd and cheese are sold to Abdul Razzaq, a milk vendor in Kralpora town, which is 4 miles from Dohama.
Irshad Mir’s journey started in 2005 when his elder brother Fayaz Ahmad Mir saw Punjab’s booming dairy sector during one of his visits there. Fayaz used to visit Punjab during winters to sell Kashmir made shawls. “I discussed the idea of starting dairy business with my brother and he agreed,” says Fayaz.
The same year Irshad and Fayaz started their dairy in Dohama. “We started by selling two litres of milk daily. Now we sell quintals of milk and milk products each day”.
Initially, their father would scold them for doing “silly” activities but both Irshad and Fayaz ignored his remarks and carried on with their work. For first 5 years they had no proper CPC. “We used to collect milk at our home and take it to buyers in Kralpora market.”
Then, shutdown and curfews of 2010 happened. It affected their business. “As we could not transport milk to Kralpora, it would get spoiled,” says Irshad.
However the unrest of 2010 proved a blessing in disguise for the brothers. The situation forced brothers to establish a CPC in Dohama. The establishment of the CPC inspired more families to own cows. The increase in number of cows in the village meant more supply of milk to Irshad’s centre; reason behind his progress from 10 litres a day to 4.5 quintals.
On an average, each household sells about 5 litres of milk to Irshad’s CPC every morning.
Three months ago Mehtaab used to produce 12 litres of milk every morning, now she produces only 6 litres. “I used to sell 6 litres to Irshad’s CPC. But now I am able to sell hardly 3 litres,” says a visibly upset Mehtaab. “My cow is not well. We took her to Animal Husbandry Centre but the only employee posted there is not able to diagnose or treat her.”
Despite a white revolution underway in Dohama there is no proper hospital, just a small Animal Husbandry Centre housing a single Para-vet. The nearest veterinary hospital is located two kms away at Tehsil headquarters Vilagam. “The hospital is housed in a dilapidated building. It looks more like a graveyard,” says Mehtaab. “There is no doctor.”
The doctor posted at this hospital was transferred two years ago. “Since then we are waiting for a replacement,” said one of the employees posted at the hospital who refused to reveal his identity.
When contacted district Chief Animal Husbandry Officer (DCAH) Kupwara said, “getting a doctor arranged for the Vilagam hospital is not my headache.”
However deputy director Animal Husbandry Kashmir, Dr Kaisar Aalam Naaz said, “We will consult DCAH Kupwara and look into the matter. If the post is lying vacant, we will arrange a doctor for the hospital.”
Since long, locals have been demanding a state-of-art animal husbandry hospital for Dohama. “There are certain conditions for a village to be allotted a hospital and Dohama does not meet these conditions,” says Dr. Kaisar.
After their decade long successful stint as milkmen Irshad and his brother now want to take their dream a step forward.
“Want to take our business to the industrial scale, but we lack awareness and resources,” says Irsahd.
Irsahd feels that such camps only focus on scientific aspects of the production, not economical or business management of cattle rearing.
Chief Animal Husbandry officer Kupwara confirms that the Department as such has no financial scheme to back the interested persons who want to establish industrial level businesses. “We can only recommend their cases to financial institutions.”
The Extension Officer, Dr Ghulam Ahmad Lone at Publicity Wing of Directorate of Animal Husbandry, Kashmir says that the government does not provide the required amount of funds for holding awareness camps. “We intend to organize more camps but due to shortage of funds the progress comes to halt.”
He reiterates that the state government is not concerned about the welfare of farmers. Regarding the financial schemes he says, “National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) provides insignificant subsidy for loans. Besides this, NABARD is biased against Kashmir as major share of its funds go to Jammu division.”
Irshad’s success inspired another villager Mohammad Ramzan Malik to try his hand in dairy sector. Malik is a shopkeeper. He started dairy business two years ago. He collects 2.5 quintals of milk every morning from households from Dohama and adjoining villages. Malik sells his stock to a dealer in Kupwara market. He is assisted by his son Irshad Malik who owns a passenger cab which they use for transportation of milk in the morning. Ramzan is yet to start his own CPC.
Ramzan’s son wants to start his own dairy farm but because of financial constraints the plan is still a dream. “Without help from the government it is impossible to start such a big venture,” feels Malik.
Deputy Director Animal Husbandry, Kashmir, Dr Kaisar Aalam Naaz, believes, “Both State and Central governments have adopted a discouraging approach towards budding entrepreneurs. In such circumstances our department cannot do much to help them.”
The Director of Animal Husbandry Department Animal Husbandry Srinagar Dr Shamsudin Makhdoomi says that development of this sector is not given priority by the Government and as such the department’s staff strength is low and the state sans required number of animal hospitals.
“We have sent the proposal to the civil secretariat for need of more doctors and opening of new hospitals and centres,” he said.
Interestingly, Dohama which falls under Handwara assembly constituency is represented by Sajad Gani Lone, incumbent minister for Animal Husbandry. “He never visited our village after becoming a minister,” alleges Mehtab.
The villagers had expected a special scheme for Dohama but they are not satisfied with Lone’s work so far. “The government does not appreciate our commitment to the white revolution,” feels Fayaz.