VETERINARY PROFESSION IN INDIA

The distinction between the art of veterinary doctoring and the Science of Veterinary Medicine is subtle. In the earlier days the Veterinary doctoring was done by people as an art with love’, faith, direction and driving desire. It was achieved with apprenticeship and this experience was practiced without any training thereafter. This branch therefore developed as a science by acquiring knowledge of base (core) subject’s and accumulation of clinical experience together with laboratory diagnostic aids. The basis of veterinary education underwent metamorphosis and in Europe founding of institutes with scientific rational outlook started at the dawn of Eighteenth Century.

“HASTYA-AYURVEDA” a work on husbandry and diseases of elephants, and ‘ASHVA-PARIKSHA’ a work on husbandry and diseases of horses both in Sanskrit exist though it is not known as to when these were first written. The modern veterinary practice in India is traceable to the period when Moghul and Maratha Empires were subjugated. East India Company, after virtually eclipsing the Moghul Empire in the North and Maratha Empire in the Deccan in the latter half of the eighteenth century, settled down to govern and administer the country. In order to meet their remount needs some horse breeding farms were started in 1774 under the Army establishment. But due to rampant prevalence of equine diseases the outcome was dismaying. In 1788 Joseph Earles got Sanskrit work on Horse Management and Diseases translated into English and worked in consonance with it. Similar treatise was published by Pigott in Calcutta shortly afterwards.

The army authorities were extremely exasperated over the knotty problem of equine malady in 1793. Surprisingly there was not a single trained individual present in India who could doctor the horses. There were only two such trained persons in Great Britain whose help could be sought for. The idea of finding native talent for this work was unthinkable to the conquerors of the land. Had the local talent been tapped at that time, it would have certainly changed the course for the profession in India. It was not until 1799 that the services of a few Veterinarians could be secured for the British army in India but very little is known as to their background training and as to what they were able to do professionally.

William Moorcroft, however, stands out as a distinguished figure in this regard. After his medical career at the Liverpool Infirmary he received training at the Veterinary School at Lyons. He left a profound impression in the Veterinary field and refused headship at the London Veterinary School as he could not leave his profitable Veterinary practice. In 16 years, after his early resignation from the joint professorship with Coleman, he made a fortune for himself and later accepted an invitation from the East India Company in 1808 to become the Superintendent of their stud in Bengal on a salary of £ 3000/- a year.

He diagnosed Bursati and recorded that it was prevalent in Pusa (Bihar.). He also drew pointed attention to Glanders, Strangles, Paraplegia and Anthrax He either originated or very well knew the well known operation of neurectomy and stated that it should be performed only as a last resort. He investigated Glanders in India and his concepts were more developed than those of his contemporaries. He also described the parasitic aneurysm of the mesenteric artery.

Under his superintendence in a short time the losses due to diseases in the farms were reduced by 90%. The introduction of Oat as a crop in India for feeding horses also helped. Moorcroft introduced a system of co-operative breeding with native stud farms resulting in improvement of progeny over the imported Company horses. It was in 1866, because of the unprecedented famine in Bengal and Orissa, a policy of having a special department to watch over the interests of agriculture and livestock was first mooted out. Lord Lawrence, the then Governor General, however, thought the step was premature.

In 1882, a dispatch No. 21 dated 20th April, 1882 was promulgated by Lord Harington, Secretary of State for India urging that the then newly constituted Department of Agriculture should give early and very careful attention to the subject of cattle diseases and that comprehensive measures should be taken in co-operation with provincial Governments to deal with it.

This set in motion an idea for the formation of Civil Veterinary Department. A committee was organized at Calcutta in 1883 which recommended the formation of a Civil Veterinary Department for the entire country.

Col. J. H. B. Hallen who was appointed President of the Indian Cattle Plague Commission worked with an outstanding zeal. His pioneering work stimulated interest in Veterinary work and several officers actively participated in investigating various obscure diseases e.g. Bursati, Lichen tropicus, calcarious nodules in internal organs of debilitated horses, Anthrax, worm infection and paraplegia. Kumri received considerable attention from several workers including Queripel and Fredrick Smith (later made Knight). The most outstanding scientific discovery of the time was the demonstration in 1881 by Griffith Evans, of Trypanosoma evansi, the causative agent of equine Surra. This discovery was important not only for India where Surra was a very troublesome condition to deal with, but also for the progress of scientific research in general by opening up the study of other protozoan diseases of both man and animals.

It is very interesting to recall here that Col. Hallen, President, Cattle Plague Commission recommended establishment of a Veterinary College each at Bombay, Lahore and Rangoon. Government of Bombay was quite alert to this recommendation. In their resolution No. 4002 of 1883 Revenue Department, Government of Bombay, stated “It is difficult to Overrate the importance of agriculture and agricultural stock in India and seeing that the value of agricultural cattle which perish from plague and other epidemic diseases in India is calculated at £6,000,000 sterling per annum (1883), it is obvious that any measure which would tend to check this great mortality and heavy loss by increasing the knowledge of the nature and remedies for various diseases which attack cattle and provide a class of persons competent to treat scientifically the different maladies to which cattle are subject would prove of immense advantage to the State and to the innumerable owners of livestock comprising the mass of the cultivators”.

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