Cow worship more to do with rural economy than religion: Union Minister

New Delhi: The Indian trait of worshiping cows should not be strictly linked to religiosity as this had more to do with creating a strong rural economy, union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh has said.

"Even these days, any rural family that breeds a cow will never die of starvation. It will be wrong to link cow worship to religious feelings alone. The religious sentiment is one side of it, it should be respected. But cow breeding as an habit must be understood as a basis of traditional India's rural economy," Singh said at a book release function on Wednesday night.

"Numerous studies and experiences in rural India have shown that even cows which stop giving milk can be helpful in economic sense when the urine and cow dung can be used for making medicines and other utilities," he said.

The book, 'Kamadhenu: Cows of India', penned by civil servant Rajni Sekhri Sibal, at present an additional chief secretary with tbe Haryana govenment and published by Wisdom Tree was released by the agriculture minister in the presence of a distinguished gathering including former chief election commissioner S.Y. Quraishi and NITI Aayog member Bibek Debroy.

It is billed as the first coffee table book on the country's diverse genetic cattle resources, with special sections on buffaloes and mithuns.

Speaking on the occasion, Debroy said Sibal, a former joint secretary (Dairy Development), "has made a right mix of folklore, local tales and myths along with scientific data and economic significance of indigenous breeds".

Sharing her experiences of working on the project that started in 2012, Sibal, a 1986 batch IAS officer, said: "Every breed of Indian cow has a story to tell."

She said the idea of the book first came to mind during her stint in Sikkim when she had been to a monastery and found that a particular variety of butter from Sikkimese Siri cows was used to light lamps.

"There was a unique fragrance and locals also believed that the use of Siri milk butter brought in good luck to the village," she said.

Moreover, Sibal said, dairy farming is probably only sector of rural employment that ensured that the benefits of growth goes directly to "poorest and marginal farmers".

"Dairy farming is the only sector that helps 70 per cent of landless people and marginal farmers," she said.

Radha Mohan Singh said the government is trying to encourage dairy farming and especially promote "desi" cows as "it is found that with climatic changes and temperature going up on average by one degree, foreign breeds are getting more and more vulnerable".

The Centre has started the National Gokul Mission with an allocation of Rs 500 crore, he said.

India has 32 breeds of cattle which have been characterised as milk breeds.

"In order to encourage breeding of indigenous cows, the centre has come up with the idea of national cow breeding centre and one such centre will soon come up in Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Praesh," the minister added.

The government policy is also to increase milk production with A2 protein (beta-casein protein) present in the milk of indigenous cows as against the A1 protein present in the milk of foreign breeds which is often not good for health.

The Utar Pradesh government, which was initially reluctant, has now agreed to set up a Gokul Gram at Mathura, he said.

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