KARACHI: Ahead of the holy festival of Eid-ul-Azha, Asia’s largest cattle market has been set up off Karachi’s Super Highway where more than 450,000 animals have been brought from across the country.
Spread over 900 acres of land, the market has been divided into 48 blocks, six of which are categorised as “VVIP blocks”, 22 as “VIP blocks,” while the remaining 20 blocks fall under the general category.
Because of its enormous size, it has become an administrative challenge for the authorities. With the onslaught of the monsoon season a week ago, the situation worsened as five low-lying blocks within the premises were inundated.
With no drainage system available to tackle the problem, cattle traders, animals as well as buyers have been facing difficulties.
Even though the authorities have managed to drain the rainwater out of 43 blocks and made efforts to keep the market clean, the situation is likely to worsen again because the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) has predicted heavy rainfall in Karachi beginning today.
“A low wind pressure originating from the Bay of Bengal via Rajasthan has entered Sindh,” chief meteorologist Sardar Sarfaraz told The Express Tribune. “The rains will continue till Monday.”
Yawar Raza Chawla, the cattle market spokesperson, however, is hopeful that the situation will remain under control.
“People will not face any problems. Our entire team is prepared for the anticipated rains,” the spokesperson claimed. “Every year, rain and floodwater from streams accumulate in the low-lying blocks of the mandi during the monsoon season, and we have successfully tackled such situations,” said Chawla, adding that excessive accumulation of water would, however, require extended time and effort to drain it out.
Although the area near the Super Highway is part of Karachi’s Scheme 33, which falls under the management of the Malir Development Authority (MDA), the administration of the cattle market was taken over by the Malir Cantonment Board because of the massive financial benefit that the market offers.
Despite the tall claims of the authorities to improve the facilities at the market, there is widespread dissatisfaction among cattle dealers.
“The administration initiated the post-rain relief work after considerable delay. There was so much water after the rains that some animals almost drowned, but we managed to save their lives,” said Ali Dost, a dealer from the general-category Block 34.
While Nazeer Ahmed, another dealer from the same block, said that the accumulation of rainwater resulted in many animals falling sick, particularly developing foot and mouth diseases.
“There is neither any shelter for the animals nor any medical facilities. We have been treating the animals on our own expenses,” the worried trader said.
Market spokesperson Chawla, however, explained that the administration offered the affected traders to shift their animals to Block 11 and 12 without any additional charges, but they made no move. Instead, several traders shifted the costly animals to their farmhouses but once the water was drained, the animals were brought back to the mandi.
Apart from the infrastructure and cleanliness-related issues, dealers also criticised the authorities for offering them over-priced spaces to keep the animals.
“I rented a small, 15-foot-long and 30-foot-wide strip of land against the payment of Rs50,000. The entry fee for a single large animal has been set at Rs1,600 while for small animals, the amount stands at Rs1,000,” explained Shahid Hussain, a dealer from the general category.
He said that the traders are bound to buy water drums from the market for the animals, with each drum costing Rs2,500.
“We have been restrained from buying fodder from outside the cattle market, which enables the administration to mint extra money. We could only bring our own fodder when we entered the mandi for the first time,” Hussain shared. “The fodder sold here is over-priced. We even have to run our own generators for power supply, which adds to the overall cost.”
Another trader, Usman, said that the administration provides two free-of-cost water drums on a daily basis but the needs of the animals exceed the daily supply, therefore, they are bound to buy more water from the market.
According to traders, higher entry fees, costly spaces for keeping the animals, getting water drums and fodders from the cattle market and several other reasons have contributed to the exorbitant prices of the animals, especially those that are kept in the VVIP blocks.
Despite the general mismanagement, the bakra mandi also saw some positive developments. For the first time, a food street has been setup in the market where famous restaurant chains offer a good eating environment to both the dealers and the buyers.
“For the first time in history, an attempt has been made to operate the cattle market transparently,” claimed Chawla.
In addition to the restaurants, the administration has also set up 10 ATMs within the mandi, 48 spots for offering prayers and toilets across the market.
“Unlike the previous years, robbery attempts in the parking lot of the mandi have ended because of the strict security measures in place. For the purpose, 250 CCTV cameras have been installed throughout the market.” When asked about the issues that dealers and buyers have been complaining about, the spokesperson said that people are resistant to change, therefore, it is normal to find flaws in a new system.
“All these steps have been taken to offer a better environment to people. We offer stronger and more hygienic water drums, better fodder and food and drink items to dealers,” he added. “Moreover, we ensure that germicides are sprayed in the mandi on a daily basis to keep pollution at bay, while 45 veterinary doctors remain on duty to examine the animals.”
In addition to the various facilities being offered at the market, Chawla said that around 400 sanitary workers are deputed in the market to ensure cleanliness.
“Several buyers have lauded the management’s efforts to keep the market clean, organised, well-facilitated and suitable for families,” he concluded.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2019.