The “bakra-mandi” experience has been a part of Eid tradition for decades. Going from cattle vendor to cattle vendor, observing the physical conditions of animals, haggling for a better price – it is all something entrenched in Pakistani society. However, with the coronavirus pandemic on the loose, the Eid animal-buying experience was significantly different this year and it is possible that it will never go back to the way it was before.
On one hand, the federal and provincial governments, along with health experts, urged citizens to opt for safer forms of sacrifice that do not involve going to tightly packed markets where the likelihood of coronavirus transmission is maximized. Additionally, many cities faced government restrictions that limited the locations vendors could sell their animals again to discourage a civilian presence in certain risky areas.
On the other hand, the coronavirus pandemic, having ravaged the income of countless families and caused severe economic uncertainty, also discouraged civilians themselves from spending money on more expensive animals and instead settling for either the cheaper ones, or opting for collective sacrifices.
Naturally, this has negatively affected cattle vendors. Speaking to Geo News, cattle vendor Muhammad Farrukh Ansari said, “People who used to buy animals for more than Rs100,000 [a piece] this time purchased animals for less than Rs100,000.” He went to further add that “Last year, I sold almost 100 animals and the majority of those were worth more than Rs100,000. However, this year, I have only sold 60 animals to date and a major chunk of those was around Rs60,000 to Rs90,000”.
On the other hand, however, other industries have benefited. Taking advantage of the pandemic, some young entrepreneurs looked into digital startups which offer online sacrifices. At surface value, this does offer civilians the benefit of being free of the hassle of having to look for animals in the heat of the “bakra-mandi” and instead easily buy them online.
The major barrier to digital startups which may prevent them from dominating the “bakra-mandi” after the pandemic, of course, is the inaccessibility of online systems compared to real-life markets because of either digital illiteracy or a lack of trust in the internet. It remains to be seen whether or not this inaccessibility can be overcome and trust be built between consumers and the startups.
Organizations that offer collective donations have benefited as well due to their relative cheapness when compared to the traditional system. This too has the immediate benefit of consumers saving money while not shirking their religious duties.
The long-term prosperity of this system, however, also remains in question. Many families have always bought animals and cultivated bonds with them and played with them and enjoyed taking care of them for weeks. It is unclear whether or not, after the coronavirus pandemic settles, if they would be willing to let this go in exchange for marginally cheaper prices.
While it’s evident that the bakra-mandi experience has changed significantly this year, only time will tell whether or not this change will be lasting or whether it will die with the pandemic.