Camel fair: Concrete bothers ships of desert; sales dip

Camel fair: Concrete bothers ships of desert; sales dip

Pushkar camel mela. Photos/ Tabeenah Anjum.  
Like Sugna Ram there are hundreds of camel rearers, called Rebaris, who have erected a 7 feet x 9 feet tent stretched over the sand and under the sky as their makeshift home at the mela ground. Most of them walk hundreds of kilometres to attend the fair and try their luck by finding a suitable customer. The men take care of the camels and seek out customers whereas the women accompanying them cook food for them while their children play and chat with the tourists.
Ram shared his ordeal with DH, "I have been coming to the fair every year with the hope that my camels will sell but this time was most disappointing as I could sell just two camels for Rs 15,000." Most of the camel owners believe that the market for camels dipped since 2015 after the camel was declared a state animal. "We used to sell the weak camels at the fair for slaughter but ever since the government banned it, no one is purchasing old and weak camels," Ram added.  

State animal

In 2016, the camel, popular as the ship of the desert, was declared the state animal of Rajasthan, and the Rajasthan Camel (Prohibition of Slaughter and Regulation of Temporary Migration or Export) Act, 2015 was enacted. The law provides for seven years in jail for slaughtering camel and three years for smuggling it across state borders. After the Act took effect, Rajasthan Raika community feels  camels are a liability.
Arguably true as there is a dip in sales after 2016. According to the figures compiled by Animal Husbandry Department, in last four years around 4,000 camels have been brought to the ground but when it comes to sales, there is a huge dip." In 2015, around 1800 camels were sold, in 2016 only 1,400, in 2017 it further reduced to 850, and this year around 940 camels have been sold till now," Dr Ajay Arora, Joint Director of Animal Husbandry, posted as Pushkar Mela Adhikari told DH. However, the maximum price at which camels were sold is Rs 50,000 and the lowest was Rs 4,000. 
Explaining the decreasing trend, a former Mela Adhikari told DH, "As outsiders are not allowed to buy camels and only the locals can, this becomes a major reason for the fall in the prices."  

Concrete bothers

Moreover, besides the poor sales, camel rearers also expressed disappointment over the concrete ground built by the administration for a helipad ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Pushkar. "The camel cannot sit on the concrete surface. They are made for sand and the concrete has given them injuries in their hooves. The construction of the helipad in the middle of the fairground should be stopped," Ganga Dewasi, a camel owner from Naaur told DH. 
According to the last camel census done in 2012, the population of the animal in Rajasthan declined from 7.46 lakh in 1992 to 3.25 lakh. 
Pushkar fair begins every year in the Hindu calendar month of Kartik and concludes on the 14th day (full moon). Thousands of devotees visit Pushkar for a holy dip in the Sarovar lake.