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Government unveils plan for research on ‘indigenous’ cows

Scientific research will be carried out on milk and milk products derived from Indian indigenous cows. File  

The government has unveiled a programme to research on ‘indigenous’ cows. To be funded by multiple scientific ministries, the initiative, SUTRA PIC, is led by the Department of Science and Technology (DST). It has the Department of Biotechnology, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Ministry for AYUSH (Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, Homoeopathy) among others and the Indian Council of Medical Research as partners.

Five themes

SUTRA PIC or Scientific Utilisation Through Research Augmentation-Prime Products from Indigenous Cows, has five themes: 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, Prime-products from indigenous cows-based utility items, according to a concept note on the DST website.

Researchers from academic organisations as well as “capable voluntary organisations (NGOs) active in India with proven record of accomplishment in executing S&T-based R&D projects,” were invited to apply for funding.

“The proposals under this theme should aim to perform scientific research on complete characterisation of milk and milk products derived from Indian indigenous cows; scientific research on nutritional and therapeutic properties of curd and ghee prepared from indigenous breeds of cows by traditional methods; development of standards for traditionally processed dairy products of Indian-origin cow,” says the 22-page note explaining the objectives of the programme.

Budgetary outlay?

Two of the seniormost officials of some of the ministries involved said they were not aware of the specifics of the programme and claimed ignorance of the budgetary outlay. “I haven’t seen the file on this programme because only research programmes, say over ₹1 crore, need to be formally cleared by me,” Ashutosh Sharma, DST Secretary, told The Hindu.

The Hindu couldn’t immediately contact the officer in the Science for Equity, Empowerment and Development (SEED), the department in charge of the programme.

Shekhar Mande, Director-General, CSIR, said he was unaware of the programme. Renu Swarup, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, said the department had not yet allotted any funds for SUTRA PIC and the nature of the department’s involvement was not yet “defined.”

“If and when specific biotechnology related projects or research proposals come by, we will look at funding but as of now there is not yet any financial commitment by the department,” she told The Hindu.

Research on Panchgavya

In 2017, SEED constituted a National Steering Committee (NSC) for ‘Scientific Validation and Research on Panchgavya (SVAROP)’.

Panchagavya is an Ayurvedic panacea and is a mixture of five (pancha) products of the cow (gavya) — milk, curd, ghee, dung and urine. Its proponents believe it can cure, or treat a wide range of ailments.

V.K. Vijay, the head of the Indian Institute of Delhi’s Centre for Rural Development and Technology (CRDT), said he was involved in SVAROP discussion and would be submitting research proposals to SUTRA PIC. The Finance Minister had announced research programmes into indigenous cattle in the 2016-17 as well as in the 2019-20 Union Budget. The stated objective was to develop products as well as improve the genetic quality of indigenous cattle breeds.

A 2019 article in the Journal of Animal Research said India had 190.9 million cattle and 43 registered native cattle breeds. “The exotic / crossbred population has been increased by 20.18% during the period of last census while population of indigenous cattle has been decreased by 8.94% during the same duration. The reasons for depletion of native breeds includes cross-breeding with exotic breeds, economically less viable, losing utility, reduction in herd size and the large-scale mechanisation of agricultural operation,” says an accompanying abstract to the article.

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Printable version | May 12, 2021 1:01:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/government-unveils-plan-for-research-on-indigenous-cows/article30845071.ece

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