The government plans to introduce unique identification for India’s 88 million cattle, writes Neha Pant
The department of animal husbandry has come up with a unique solution to improve progeny and milk production in the country. In a massive programme that is soon going to be launched, the department plans to tag all indigenous variety of cattle. 1,00,000 technicians been brought together to provide India’s 88 million cattle with a unique identification number which will help the government to track the cattle, keep a check on their health, vaccinations and dairy production.
According to initial reports, a tag will be affixed inside the animal’s ears and technicians will then update the numbers in an online database. The tags which are tamper proof, weigh around grams and are designed to last long. The owners of the cattle will be then given an ‘animal health card’ to track their activities. Ridiculous as it may sound, the aim of this project is to double milk production by 2020 and to help poor farmers who own at least 70 per cent of these indigenous varieties. Our objective is to improve the per-animal milk yield of indigenous cow varieties from two litres to at least five litres a day, so that the annual income of small and poor farmers, most of whom own desi varieties, improves,” says Devendra Chaudhury, animal husband secretary.
Currently, the country has 4.1 million buffalos and 47 million indigenous/cross-breed cows that produce milk and this is not the first time, they are being issued cards. In 2007, border guards in the villages of West-Bengal began photographing cows and giving them identity cards in an attempt to try and stop their smuggling into Bangladesh.
Both the ID card and the health card scheme will be operationalised with the help of state governments. In the first phase, around five million cows will be tagged, around 30 million are expected to be tagged in 2017-18 and the remaining in 2019-20.
While the cause for tagging cows seems innocent enough, one cannot ignore the political connotations of this seemingly innocent exercise. Since the BJP came into power, it has inducted various programmes in support of bovines, banning beef consumption and even spending 5.8 billion rupees on cow shelters. In May last year, the Modi lead government held its first national conference on cow shelters and the cow craze just doesn’t end here, the state of Rajasthan also has a ministry of cow affairs while Maharashtra spends more on cows than on its orphanages (the daily amount allocated to cows is Rs. 70 and Rs. 30 for food at orphanages)
Subramanyam Swamy has been calling for the removal of export subsidies on buffalo meat, of which India is the world’s largest exporter and Patanjali is planning to spend Rs 500 crores on four cow shelters across India besides paying some of the existing ones Rs. 1,50,000 a day for raw materials to be used in its products. The current Aadhar scheme for cows will cost the government Rs. 148 crores, but only time will tell if it will really work.