We are very much aware of this scene.
When the newborn Amarendra Bahubali lost his parents, queen Shivagami adopted him and raised him like her own child- even fed him her own milk like a mother.
The above scenario was a common practice in ancient and medieval period of India. When medical science was not that much advanced like today, it was not rare that some unfortunate women used to lose their life while giving birth to their child. Those child were hard to raise because it was hard to feed him/her. If any woman of the family was breastfeeding her own child, she also took care of the unfortunate orphan.
But not all children who lost their mother, are that fortunate. To keep such a child alive, cow milk can be substitute to mother’s milk as it has enough nutrients and can be easily digested. Hence, by the sentiments of our cultural values and to pay the respect to that creature, we Hindus gave cow the dignity of a mother. Apart from that, we all know about the usefulness of a cow unless you are like the teacher Mohammad Imran Khan, who failed to write an essay on cow when the JK High Court ordered him to do so.
Now, some of our self-proclaimed rationalist friends would wisely question- “Why is cow given so much importance when buffaloes produce milk too?”
Though there is no scarcity of other bovine creatures like buffalo, sheep, goat, etc in India, cow milk has its own specialty. For infants, cow milk is better than buffalo milk. Cow milk has lesser fat than buffalo milk, which makes it easier for the babies to consume and digest.
In a vast country like India, dairy products comprise a good fraction of the food production. Milk is one of the most primary source of nutrition in rural India. Apart from direct consumption, milk is used in lots of food such as cheese, ghee, butter and other dairy products. It is even used in preparation for some types of chocolate and cake products. For a big population, the prime source of milk comes from bigger bovine creatures like buffalo and cow. Realizing the importance of milk production, schemes like “White Revolution”, “National Dairy Plan”, “Operation Flood”, etc were undertaken by the Indian government to increase the milk production in India. The National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) started the “Operation Flood” in 1970, which is the world’s largest dairy development program. This turned India from a milk-deficient nation to world’s largest milk producing country by 1988. By 2010-11, India alone had an output of 17% of global milk production. The per capita of milk in India has increased from 176 grams per day in 1990-91 to 322 grams per day by 2014-15. It was more than the world average of 294 grams per day during 2013.
Though India was a leading milk producing country since 1997, for the first time, it beat the entire EU in 2014-15. However, most of the milk India produces comes from buffaloes, not cows. In terms of cow milk production, USA still tops the chart. The subtle reason behind this is the rampart cow-slaughter by butchers and cattle smugglers- some even carrying out cross-border cattle-trafficking.
To boost up the cow milk production, the Modi government had announced a major initiative. For the success of Operation Flood, India imported lot of European cows and crossbred them with local varieties over the past years. The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) had informed about a project where it was planning to analyse a minimum of 40 local breeds of cattle. At present, there are 19 crore cattle in the country, which amounts to 14% of the total cattle population of the world. Out of them, 15.1 crores are indigenous cattle, which is 80 % of the total cattle population. India has 30 crore bovines, which is 18% of the total bovine population of the world. The country’s indigenous bovine is the result of traditional and scientific knowledge and hard work of hundred years. Today, we have 40 breeds of cattle along with yak and mithun and 13 breeds of buffaloes. The indigenous cow-breeds are more suitable for the country, particularly suitable for climate and environment of their reproductive areas. Mainly so, indigenous breeds are least affected due to climate change.
Through commercial farm management and balanced nutrition, it is possible to increase the productivity of Indigenous breeds in the country. For the first time in history, the government has initiated Rashtriya Gokul Mission with a huge ambition of conserving and propagating indigenous breeds in an organized and scientific manner. By 2017, Rs.1,077 crore has been sanctioned for the proposals received from 27 states under the scheme. Rs.499.08 crore has been released under this scheme so far.
Objectives of the Scheme:
- To undertake breed improvement programme for indigenous cattle breeds so as to improve the genetic makeup and increase the stock
- To enhance milk production and productivity of indigenous bovines.
- To upgrade nondescript cattle using elite indigenous breeds like Gir, Sahiwal, Rathi, eoni, Tharparkar, Red Sindhi.
- To distribute disease free high genetic merit bulls of indigenous breeds for natural service
Under this programme, MAITRI centres will be set up to facilitate artificial insemination for cattle at door to door. These centers will provide new directions regarding the conservation of the indigenous breeds. The scheme will also set up Gokul Gram under Rashtriya Gokul Mission. One Gokul Gram will have 500 animals with high genetic quality. Out of these 500 animals, 300 will be reproductive animals.
“Rashtriya Gokul Mission‟ will have the following components:
- Establishment of Village level Integrated Indigenous Cattle Centres viz “Gokul Gram”:
- the breeding tracts and
- near metropolitan cities for housing the urban cattle.
- Strengthening of bull mother farms to conserve high genetic merit Indigenous Breeds.
- Establishment of Field Performance Recording (FPR) in the breeding tract.
- Assistance to Institutions/Institutes which are repositories of best germplasm.
- Implementation of Pedigree Selection Programme for the Indigenous Breeds with large population.
- “Gopalan Sangh” : Establishment of Breeder‟s Societies : Gopalan Sangh.
- Distribution of disease free high genetic merit bulls for natural service.
- Incentive to farmers maintaining elite animals of indigenous breeds.
- Heifer rearing programme.
- Award to Farmers (“Gopal Ratna” ) and Breeders‟ Societies (“Kamadhenu”)
- Organization of Milk Yield Competitions for indigenous breeds.
- Organization of Training Programme for technical and non technical personnel working at the Institute/Institutions engaged in cattle development.
Apart from setting up Rashtriya Gokul Mission, the government has decided to provide unique ID to each individual bovine to track the creatures and stop trafficking. In 2015, a government committee had recommended UID for cows to prevent trafficking following a Supreme Court direction that heard a plea to stop cattle smuggling.
The way in which Modi government has decided to boost and save the indigenous Indian cow breed, it surely will pave the way for a greater yield in milk production in the coming years.