Bihar gives bullock, sparrow state status

The humble bullock, a fast dwindling breed of bovine in Bihar getting increasingly replaced by tractors used in agriculture and transport of rural goods, has now been bestowed with the exalted status of the state animal. The elevation aims at the breed’s conservation and well-being through greater care.
Bihar’s Nitish Kumar-led government, currently trying several measures to improve and expand the state’s ailing agriculture sector, had to eliminate several other contenders from the animal world in finally deciding to name the bullock as the state animal. After wrestling with the task of putting the state status appropriately on natural species having strong cultural bonds with Bihar, the government agreed in a cabinet meeting on Tuesday to name the bullock as Bihar’s state animal, the sparrow as the state bird, peepal as the state tree, and marigold as the state flower.
Bullocks, though disappearing rapidly from Bihar’s rural belt, are often used by the state’s political parties as a visually animated vehicle to embarrass the ruling dispensation both at the state and the Centre on issues of farmers’ crises and price rise.
The BJP, currently ruling in Bihar with ally JD(U), had first created a scene in December 2004 when its MLAs tried to force their way into the Assembly on bullock carts to protest against rising prices.
In March 2008, RJD legislators arrived at the Bihar Assembly on a bullock cart loaded with sugarcane stalks and driven by former minister Rajesh Singh. In September 2012, an NDA bandh against the UPA government’s decision to allow FDI in retail and hike diesel prices saw JD-U activists led by MLA Punam Devi taking out a procession in Patna on bullock-carts carrying empty LPG cylinders.
Government sources said the state government now plans a change in the statewide counting of cattle to ensure that bullocks are also counted along with the cows.
Continuing migration, diminishing return from agriculture, growing use of tractors and the growing costs of maintain bullocks are cited as reasons for the breed’s fast disappearance in the past decade.

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