| The makeshift cattle shed on the Patna Collectorate premises. Picture by Nagendra Kumar Singh |
For residents fighting the rising prices of essential commodities, a morning walk to the Patna collectorate could be an inspiration.
Cattle owners from the riverine area of Saran district, displaced by flood, have taken shelter at the collectorate campus since Wednesday evening. Having no loyal customers in Patna, they are ready to sell milk at Rs 15-20 per litre.
The market rate of a litre of milk in Patna varies from Rs 30 to Rs 38.
Sarvesh Kumar, a farmer from a diara in Saran district, around 70km northwest of Patna, is one of the 250 people who reached Collectorate Ghat on boats on Wednesday. He has brought his two buffaloes with him.
He said: “We have fixed customers at the village to whom we sell milk at Rs 25 a litre. But over here, we do not have any such advantage. It is dangerous for the health of our buffaloes and cows, too, if we do not milk them. But we cannot throw the milk away. So, we are ready to sell it at any cost, even at Rs 15 or Rs 20 a litre.”
If their village is submerged, the farmers in distress have also changed the look of the Patna collectorate. Patna district magistrate N. Saravana Kumar has given them permission to stay in the space where collectorate employees usually park their vehicles. With buffaloes and cows in tow, the villagers have now turned the space into a cowshed with at least 200 cattle enjoying their fodder there. The collectorate is usually busy with people making affidavits and carrying out other work. But now, the usual faces at the collectorate, including makeshift stall owners, have made way for the cattle and flood-affected people.
Mithlesh Kumar, another farmer from Saran, said: “The water level has risen in Chhapra (the district headquarters) and it was very difficult for us to keep the cattle there. If I had left my cattle there, I would have lost them. For a farmer, buffaloes and cows are important sources of revenue.”
On the milk they are ready to give away for a pittance, Sarvesh said: “How much milk can we use for ourselves? Each buffalo and cow gives around 3 to 4 litres of milk every day. In such a situation, it will be good for us to sell the milk at whatever price we get. It is not possible for us to leave the cattle here (at the collectorate) and go to the market to sell the milk. We will accept whatever money we get here.”
District magistrate N. Saravana Kumar, who has provided the people from Saran a temporary abode at the collectorate, told The Telegraph: “For now, I have allowed them to stay here. Very soon the district administration will make some other arrangements for them. Till then, we will provide them necessary facilities here and ensure that the people from Saran do not face any problem.”
Asked about the scope of residents benefiting from availability of more, and cheaper, milk in the city thanks to his permission, the district magistrate just offered a smile. When Mithlesh, the farmer from Saran, was asked if he was aware of the importance of the place he has made his (and his cattle’s) temporary home, he said: “All I know is that I reached Collectorate Ghat last (Wednesday) evening. The residents, however, told me that collector saheb (the district magistrate) sits here. I have not seen him yet though.”