India’s total livestock population consisting of cattle, buffalo, sheep, goat, pig, horses and ponies, mules, donkeys, camel, mithun and yak was 51 crore as per the 2012 Livestock Census, translating into a requirement of over one lakh veterinary doctors, as per the general norm of having at least one veterinary doctor for every 5,000 animals. “But there are only 63,000 registered veterinarians today leading to a shortage of over 50%,” estimates Umesh Chandra Sharma, president, Veterinary Council of India (VCI).
This widening demand-supply gap could be filled through attracting private investment into veterinary education, by raising the number of veterinary institutes and number of seats but these are structural reforms that will take time. However, one way of filling this gap could be through intervention of information communication technology (ICT) in the form of e-health for animal and this is what government’s Common Service Centres (CSC) has recently embarked on.
CSC eGovernance Services India Limited which is a special purpose vehicle (CSC SPV) incorporated under the Companies Act, 1956 by the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) to monitor the implementation of the CSC scheme is offering animal tele-medicine facility called – ePashu Chikitsa – through its vast CSC network across the country.
Under this programme, a full time qualified veterinary doctor is available from 9.30 AM to 6 PM, 5 days a week for tele-consultation. Any animal owner can go to nearest CSC, schedule an appointment with the doctor, can interact with the doctor through video, audio and text messages and check the doctor prescribed slip.
Experts say that the potential to transform animal healthcare through CSC is huge, given the fact that there are 1,60,000 CSCs across 600,000 rural villages, they all could become access points for farmers to connect with a qualified veterinary doctor. “We are vehicles of Digital India. From e-governance to financial inclusion to e-healthcare, we are trying to incorporate as many services as possible in our portfolio. Addressing the challenge of huge shortage of qualified veterinary doctors is critical because animal husbandry and livestock sectors are critical for the rural economy, especially the small and marginal farmers. They not only contribute to their income but also their best insurance against any natural calamity, that is why we have launched e-Pashu Chikitsa services,” said Dinesh Tyagi, CEO, CSC eGovernance Services.
To ensure hassle free experience to the animal owners, the process for tele-consultation has been made simple. Basically, the owner of the animal will take the pictures and short video of the diseased part of animal. Then, he or she will visit the nearest CSC centre to make a registration for the doctor’s appointment. Before fixing the appointment and sharing the data, the CSC operator also known as VLE (village level entrepreneur) will get the consent form filled. Thereafter, with the help of Google Drive or Drop box, the pictures and videos would be shared with team of veterinary doctors. After analysing it, the doctor will diagnose and send the advice or prescription for the patient to the VLE. In the process, the doctor may consult the owner through video conferencing. During this entire process, both the doctors and animal owners can see the status and manage the appointments with the help of an online dashboard.
According to an official, 22000 VLEs across India have shown interest on this service. Over 250 consultations had so far taken place within the short period of launch of the service. “The framers will get benefited significantly and more number of specialised doctors will be added to the platform as the number of transaction increase and proper advocacy of the service is done in the villages by the CSC operators,” said Tyagi.