BANGALORE: A sum of Rs 100 or even Rs 200 for fresh 50ml of donkey’s milk. The age-old business quietly thrives in many parts of this hi-tech city.
It is believed that the milk cures ailments in infants. While doctors agree that it has higher protein content than human milk, they are sceptical about its medicinal properties.
Some families have been surviving on the donkey business for generations now. P Puttaraju says his grandfather started it. Today, Puttaraju is a key dealer operating across Bangalore from Malleswaram dobhi ghat. He also supplies donkeys to other milk dealers.
A majority of his customers are from Madiwala, Dasarahalli, Yelahanka, Seshadripuram, Srirampura, Rajajinagar and Cantonment. "Sometimes, I receive calls at 1am asking if there’s immediate stock. Once a family landed here at 6am for two consecutive days with a one-day-old baby. They wanted a 5ml dose to increase the baby’s appetite. People take the milk to cure stomach upsets, cough, cold, asthma and control seizures,” he says.
He has no regular customers or regular timings. Sometimes, there’s no business for days together. But the donkeys in his crude office space keep increasing in numbers. Presently, he has 20 donkeys. The latest addition was a white donkey from Kurnool with her two-month infant.
BBMP joint director (animal husbandry) Pervez Ahmed Piran (also a dairy expert) confirms about the value of donkey’s milk. "I am not too sure about the popularity of the milk but it is definitely as good as human milk in terms of composition. Good enough to even be used as a substitute,” he says.
But doctors aren’t convinced. "The benefits are not scientifically proven. However, it surely has higher protein content than human milk,”says Dr H Paramesh, paediatric pulmonologist and director, Lakeside Hospital.
"We really get donkey milk? I didn’t know about it. If it was so good and so ancient a practice, by now almost all paediatricians in the city would have started rearing donkeys. I can’t imagine babies being given donkey milk,”says Dr Meenakshi Bharath, gynaecologist.