A slew of measures including creation of exclusive dairy plants for 'desi' cows, producing cow fodder under MGNREGA and empowering animal welfare boards to take action against illegal smuggling and slaughtering are being planned by the Centre in order to conserve 'gauvansh' and 'gaushalas' in the country.
Two Union Ministers whose departments deal with subjects of the bovine -- Forest Minister Prakash Javadekar and Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh --- on Monday addressed a national seminar being held in New Delhi on 'gauvansh' (cow clan) and 'gaushalas' (cow shed) and sought help of various state governments, farmers and cow owners to help protect the animal who they said is the "back bone" of the Indian economy.
Javadekar, while addressing participants from across the country, said his ministry is working on a plan to ensure that the 'gauchar bhoomi' (grazing land for cows) is protected and government programmes like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme be utilised to produce healthy grass for cows which can be subsequently given "free" to farmers and people who have such livestock.
"The protection of the grazing land for cows is the most important subject. We are working on a new scheme and proposal for which we will also write to all states. The plan is to keep some land in the periphery of jungles for producing healthy and quality grass for cows and we can do this under Mahatma Gandhi NREGA. We can then provide this grass as fodder for cows to farmers and others like 'gaushalas' for free," Javadekar said.
The Minister added the government will soon make an "on ground" assessment of grass lands in the state and after that will take a "policy and administrative" decision as required.
He said they are also looking at measures which can be implemented so that the productivity of a cow is utilised by way of urine and cow dung after it stops producing milk and the owner of the cattle is not forced to sell it which later falls into the trap of smugglers.
The Union Minister for Forests and Environment said he is "ordering" the various Animal Welfare Boards in the country to take "immediate cognisance" of incidents like smuggling and cruelty to cows and and send a report to his Ministry in 1-2 months time so that some "action" can be taken in such cases.
"The Animal Welfare Boards have law in their hands and we will see how can they help us," he said.
The Minister said the agenda for calling this day-long conference in the national capital was three-pronged.
"We have to see how can we meet the challenge of increasing cow's productivity (in terms of giving more milk and post that), how can one take better care of cows and how can their security be ensured against smugglers and other cruel incidents (slaughtering)," he said.
The Agriculture Minister said his Ministry has recently approved a proposal to create exclusive dairy plants for 'desi' breed cows, also called A-2, in Odisha and Karnataka while plans are afoot to create the same facility in Haryana's Karnal by this month-end.
He said the Modi government, in the last two years of it being in power, has allocated Rs 582 crore for the National Gokul Mission as compared to the Rs 45 crore allocated for cow wealth conservation and development by the previous governments in their tenures.
Singh stressed that the 'desi' cow breed has to be protected and cared as it is "more immune" to the effects of climatic changes as compared to other foreign or mix breeds.
"The cow is the backbone of Indian economy...I can tell you that any farmer or Dalit who has a cow will not die of hunger," he said.
Singh said the milk production in the country was increasing and the latest figures in this regard and during the year 2015-16 stood at 160.35 million tonnes.
The Agriculture Minister said protecting 'desi' cow will always help even when there are unfavourable circumstances.
Javadekar informed the participants that Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was the keynote speaker at the inaugural of the conference, could not come as he had to rush for a drought-related meeting at the PMO.