MOO OVER TIGERS
There’s apparently a new endangered species in town. In 1973, the government launched Project Tiger to protect the big cat from almost certain extinction. Numbers had dropped below 2,000, and it seemed already too late to reverse the tide. But conservationists argued that if the tide could not be turned back, it could at least be stemmed. Nearly 50 years later, Hansraj Ahir, Union minister of state for home, has decided something similar must be done to ‘save the cow’. India’s cow population, according to the livestock census of 2012, is nearly 123 million. But Ahir has decided it’s never too early to take precautions. He has called upon the environment ministry to set up a programme to protect cows, which, since the 2007 census, have only grown in number by about 6.5 per cent.
Cow slaughter is illegal in most Indian states, and Ahir said state governments must take responsibility for cows that no longer provide milk and are abandoned by farmers. He recommends that each state build shelters to house at least 500 such cows.
On April 24, the Centre told the Supreme Court that it plans to
assign Aadhaar-like unique identification numbers to cattle. The animal husbandry department has assigned almost 100,000 technicians to fit cows with a yellow tag containing 12-digit UIDs. The tag is apparently tamperproof, weighs 8 gm and will cost Rs 8 apiece. An online database will track identification details as well as each animal’s health status and breeding details. The Centre has budgeted Rs 148 crore for the project.
Birham Prakash, director, Central Institute for Research on Cattle, described the plan as “ridiculous”. “The government should come up with a plan to improve the productivity of animals,” said Prakash. But the government insists it is doing just that, expecting to double the incomes of dairy farmers by 2022. “Is the government really serious about cow protection?” asks Rajasthan Congress president Sachin Pilot. “In Jaipur last year, 500 cows died in a government shelter in just two weeks.”
Lok Sabha MP Asaduddin Owaisi joked that since the Narendra Modi government had reduced child welfare services and the mid-day meal budget, it should earmark Rs 1 lakh crore to protect cows. Adds Pilot, “The government exposes its intentions through its priorities.”
POLITICAL FODDER Livestock at a government dairy farm in Jahangirabad, Barabanki