Sunday, Oct 02, 2022

Project Cow

Minister’s proposal to model it on Project Tiger shows a fundamental misunderstanding of both programmes

project cow, project tiger, hansraj ahir, cow slaughter, gau rakshaks, cow vigilantes, delhi high court, india news, latest news The problems of the cow are vastly different from that of the tiger. There were ecological reasons behind creating sanctuaries to protect the tiger.

At the turn of the 20th century, tigers were reckoned to number 40,000 in the country. This figure was not a product of a scientific census and when such an endeavour was undertaken in 1970, alarm bells rang among conservationists, wildlife lovers and policymakers in general. There were less than 2,000 of the majestic animal in the country. There was an international outcry. The Delhi High Court banned tiger killing. In 1973, the government launched Project Tiger, a programme that — despite its chequered history — redefined wildlife protection in the country and became the model for the conservation of several other species. Now the Minister of State (Home) Hansraj G. Ahir wants a protection programme along the lines of Project Tiger for cows.”I have discussed the matter with the environment ministry and we plan to expedite this process,” he told this paper. It is another matter that cows number 122.9 million according to the last livestock census conducted in 2012, which also noted that the number of the female bovines registered an increase of 6.52 per cent over the previous census in 2007.

Cows share the streets and highways with vehicles. They nap on the side of the roads. But they also eat trash and scrounge for food near markets, a problem Ahir believes can be solved by creating cow sanctuaries. “Every state can set up a cow sanctuary, where they can be sent and sufficient food (chara) is available in these forests,” he said. But the paucity of fodder is linked to the erosion of common lands in rural areas. It’s absurd to even imagine that state-level cow sanctuaries can take the place of such village —and local-level — commons. The solution lies in working with agriculturists and other stakeholders in the rural economy — to create fodder banks, for instance. The links between agriculture, draught work, dairy production and hide and beef — that had both economic and ecological purposes — have been severed. Strict anti-cow slaughter measures and the rampaging gau rakshaks have only worsened matters for the cow — they have made sure there are no takers for cows that are past milking age.

The problems of the cow are vastly different from that of the tiger. There were ecological reasons behind creating sanctuaries to protect the tiger. As the top predator, the tiger keeps the food chain in balance by preventing the forests from being grazed to decimation by herbivores. The animal needs a minimum number of herbivores to survive. Creating protected areas for the tiger, was, therefore, critical to saving entire ecosystems. The cow, on the other hand, does not require sanctuaries — or vigilante protection. It needs politicians and policymakers who understand the functioning of the livestock economy.

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First published on: 24-04-2017 at 12:00:34 am
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