Over 100 scientists across the country on Wednesday signed an open appeal, urging the Union Ministry of Science and Technology to withdraw its programme on research on indigenous cows. The programme is called SUTRA PIC or Scientific Utilisation Through Research Augmentation-Prime Products from Indigenous Cows. Led by the Department of Science and Technology, it will be funded by several ministries.
For the programme, the department has called for research and development proposals in five areas: uniqueness of indigenous cows, prime products from indigenous cows for medicine and health, prime products from indigenous cows for agricultural applications, prime products from indigenous cows for food and nutrition and indigenous cows-based utility items.
In their appeal, the scientists said they were “perturbed” by the proposal. The appeal states, “Theme 1 claims that Indian cows (not clear which particular breed) possess some ‘unique’ and ‘special’ qualities. This opens the possibility of money under this theme being wasted to ‘investigate’ imaginary qualities derived from religious scriptures.”
The appeal by scientists states further, “Theme 2 claims that ancient Ayurvedic texts suggest cow product-based treatments for a range of exotic disorders. It seems the list of disorders includes many modern disorders, for which evidence-based modern medical treatment is either lacking or long term or expensive or exhausting. However, the list defies common sense as many of these ailments like cancer, diabetes, blood pressure and hyperlipidaemia were not known to writers of these ancient texts.”
”There are many breeds of cows across the world and humans, including the Indian population, have been consuming milk from other bovine species as well as other mammals such as camels, goats, sheep, horses and donkeys. Creating such a scheme for indigenous cows, therefore, doesn’t appear to be justified,” Aniket Sule, a scientist at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, told The Indian Express.
“The present ‘call for proposals’ is drafted unscientifically from start to finish. The document is full of statements prefaced by ‘it is believed’. Science cannot presume the validity of beliefs, however, commonly held. Validity has to be put to test, which is absent in the CFP,” the appeal states.
Drafted by a group of scientists including Sule and Soumitra Banerjee, a scientist at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata, the appeal requests the principal scientific advisor to government of India, Professor K VijayRaghavan, and secretary, department of science and technology, Professor Ashutosh Sharma, to immediately withdraw the call for proposals.
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