Over 500 Indian scientists from various institutions and streams have come out with an appeal urging the Ministry of Science and Technology to withdraw its research programme on indigenous cows. The programme is called SUTRA PIC or Scientific Utilisation Through Research Augmentation-Prime Products from Indigenous Cows and is led by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), while several other ministries and research councils are supposed fund it.
The programme had announced five thematic areas, seeking research proposals from academic and research institutions, and grassroot organisations. These five themes are 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 prime-products from indigenous cows-based utility items.
In the appeal, the scientists have said that the proposal of the research programme is disturbing from a scientific point of view. 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. 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 hyperlipidemia were not known to writers of these ancient texts.”
“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 Call for proposal,” the appeal further adds.
Aniket Sule, a scientist at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, who was one of the scientists engaged in drafting the appeal said that the themes of the programme do not appear to be shaped by objective scientific enquiry. “They should prove that there is some merit in pursuing this research before throwing money at it,” Sule was quoted to have said in Science.
This is not the first time the BJP led government at the center has attempted to promote research on cows. Back in 2017, the BJP government set up a committee to carry research to scientifically validate “panchagavya”. The panchagavya is a mixture of cow milk, curd, ghee, dung and urine, which is claimed to have curative properties.
BJP MP Sadhvi Pragya Singh had also said last year that her breast cancer was cured by cow urine. This claim made by Sadhvi faced heavy criticism from oncologists across the country.