Over 800 temporary veterinarians, whose contracts lapsed on October 11, received ‘break in service’ orders from the Tamil Nadu government even as the state’s cattle vaccination programme is scheduled to begin from Monday (October 14).
The move created furore among the farmers and large scale cattle owners since the shortage in medical workforce would affect the mass vaccination programmes at a time when an outbreak of foot and mouth diseases is likely.
The temporary veterinarians were appointed as assistant surgeons in 2018 on a contract of 11 months. On October 11, most of their contracts came to an end and thus, they were given their ‘break in service’ orders.
Speaking on the issue, Dr S Veeramani, president, Tamil Nadu Veterinary Assistant Surgeons Association, assured that it was not a termination. “Those veterinarians were appointed for only 11 months and after their contract ended it will be renewed again,” he said.
Dr Veeramani further said that the 818 veterinarians are expected to join duty soon. “We came to know that the government is taking steps to renew the contracts and those orders will be despatched in a week. The government should have intimated the temporary vets about this a week earlier, so that the unnecessary shock and furore could have been avoided,” he added.
If the temporary vets are not reinstated, it will affect the vaccination program, Dr Veeramani said. “This is the first time we are going to use government-manufactured medicines. Till now, only 30% of vaccines have arrived. Every year, we start the vaccination program in September and complete by October. But due to a delay in the tender process involved in purchase of medicines, the program was postponed to October,” he added.
Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is a viral disease which commonly affects the cloven-hoofed cattle like cows and goats. The disease, which is caused by aphthovirus, results in fever, wounds in legs, mouth and udder, and drooling among cows.
“Through vaccination, we have eradicated rinderpest disease. Likewise, we are trying to eradicate FMD as well,” said Nagapattinam-based Dr Senthil Nathan. The farmers are not aware about the significance of the vaccination, partly because the local bodies are not advertising about the vaccination camps, he added.
“The FMD brings a huge loss to economy. Though FMD is not resulting in mortality, the morbidity rate is very high. The side-effects of the vaccination includes lessening of milk production in cows, but that affects only one in a thousand. It is very rare and natural. They overcome it in a day or two,” added Senthil Nathan.
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Meanwhile, a Madurai-based temporary veterinarian, whose contract recently got over, said on the condition of anonymity that contractual veterinarians lack resources such as compounders and essential medical items like gloves, etc.
“The vaccination programmes are carried out properly only in those camps where permanent staff are appointed. Sometimes, the temporary vets are also asked to go home. It not only affects the vaccination programme but also other schemes related to animal husbandry,” he added.
In Tamil Nadu, a total 2,893 veterinary jobs are there, of which, 2,294 jobs are being filled under three categories — permanent, temporary and contract staffs. Thus, 599 jobs remain vacant. The veterinarians are now demanding that the vacancies should be filled through the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission.
“Cattle breeding and animal husbandry plays a vital role in rural economy. And a lack of veterinarians affects the rural areas. The government should take necessary steps to fill up the vacancies as soon as possible,” said an animal husbandry academician based in Thanjavur.