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In the past, Haryana has often rewarded its sports achievers with cash prizes, government jobs, land, and even luxury cars. On Wednesday, State Animal Husbandry Minister Om Prakash Dhankar added cows to the list. Presiding over a function in Rohtak to felicitate the state’s six medal winners at the Women’s Youth World Boxing Championships that concluded in Guwahati last week, Dhankar, who is also president of the Boxing Haryana Association, pointed out the “benefits” of cow’s milk for boxers.
“(Unlike buffalo’s milk) cow’s milk contains less fat and is beneficial for boxers… a cow is very active, while a buffalo sleeps most of the time,” Dhankar told The Indian Express. “Haryana main kehte hain, haanga chahiye toh bhains ka doodh, aur khoobsarti aur dimag chahiye, toh gai ka doodh (They say in Haryana that if you want power, drink buffalo milk; and if you want beauty and brains, drink cow’s milk). These boxers have done the country proud at the world level and we want them to excel more,” he said.
Dhankar said the cows would be of a local variety, which would give over 10 litres of milk per day. The addresses of all six boxers — gold medal winners Nitu (48 kg), Jyoti Guliya (51 kg), Sakshi Dhanda (54 kg), Shashi Chopra (57 kg), and bronze winners Anupama (81 kg), Neha Yadav (81+ kg) — have been noted, and the four-legged prize will be delivered at their doorsteps soon.
The minister’s announcement took the boxers by surprise.
“I have been given various prizes, ranging from religious idols to books, apart from cash prizes,” said Nitu. “But I have never been gifted a cow, and this is a gift I will cherish. Last year, I read in the newspapers that Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik was given a cow made of silver. But getting a real cow is a treasure for my family,” said the 17-year-old from Bhiwani.
“Sometimes when we travel, my mother packs pinnis (sweets), made with store-bought ghee. But we will now have pinnis from homemade ghee,” she said.
But for Shashi Chopra, 18, who lives in Hisar city, a cow may pose a problem. Her family does not know where to keep it. “We used to have a cow about two years ago. We used to keep it at our neighbour’s plot of land, but had to sell it when he told us to vacate the site. We do not have space, or, for that matter, people at home to take care of it,” said her mother, Pushpa Devi.
Meanwhile, asked if all sports achievers from the state would receive cows in future, Dhankar said: “That is up to the sports department. I can give what I have. If somebody has honey, he will give them honey. If somebody has ghee, he will give them ghee. I am the agriculture minister, and I can give the girls cows. I am also the president of the Haryana Boxing Association, and we want all these boxers to win more medals at the world level.”
Dhankar, who has often championed the cow’s cause since taking charge, had also announced bovine hostels earlier.