At a time when unemployment was hitting hard, Junaid Bhawani from Kal Sarai area of old city in Srinagar took up his ancestral business of raising “fat-tailed” sheep also known as “Dhumba” to earn a living for himself.
After the abrogation of Article 370, Junaid got terminated from his job of "Sales Promoter" in one of the leading telecom companies of India.
Though, he applied at many places after and was lucky enough to get a job also, but with lockdown imposed due to pandemic, the company wound up its operations in Kashmir rendering Junaid jobless again.
"It was then when I thought that I should take my family business forward."
Junaid Bhawani's family has been raising fat-tailed sheep for the last 25 years. His family has been amongst the first ones to rear this breed in Kashmir.
"We have been into this business for a long time, but 25 years ago my father and uncle brought some five fat tailed sheep also known as “dumba,” from outside Kashmir to sell them here."
They got so fond of these sheep that they began to rear them till they reached a stage where Kashmir's own breed of fat tailed sheep was raised.
Junaid believes theirs is the only family in Srinagar who raise this breed.
Though Junaid has taken up this business, he says there are very few buyers for this sheep breed in Kashmir.
"I sell only five to six sheep in a year owing to its price. The price for a lamb starts from Rs 35000 and after it is grown up it is sold at Rs 1.3 lac. Due to this price, people cannot afford it."
Junaid says they are expensive because they are not easy to raise. "You have to give them special grass, fodder and medicine which have to be imported from other states. If an animal falls sick we have to take it to the veterinarian who charge a hefty amount to prescribe medicines which you can get from a particular chemist only. Then there are transportation charges also. If we take them to animal husbandry nothing comes free of cost there either."
Despite all this, Junaid says they have succeeded in creating their own breed in Kashmir in these years.
Expenditure on one sheep per year is approximately Rs 25000 and right now we are raising around 28 sheep, Junaid adds.
According to Junaid, he can hardly make a living with this job but it helps him to stay sane.
"Things have gone from bad to worse due to the Covid pandemic. Youth across the world are committing suicide due to lack of jobs. Scores suffer due to poverty. At least this work is helping me to cope with the stress. I make less for a living, but I'm content and hopeful that change is imminent."
When shepherds and others in sheep rearing make a good earning during the time of Eid ul Azha, Junaid says it brings no change in their business.
"There is not much hope from the market on the occasion of Eid. Everyone has suffered a lot due to the lockdown, which is why purchases are not made. When almost everyone is lacking in financial resources, I cannot expect people to buy a sheep which is worth lacs."
However, Junaid anticipates a change if the administration lends them support.
"We asked the administration to provide us the support like other cattle breeders get so that the “breed of Dumba” also gets a boost, but I don't see it coming any time soon."