New Delhi: The Centre will establish a programme, funded by several scientific ministries, to undertake research on ‘indigenous’ cows. The initiative, called Scientific Utilisation Through Research Augmentation-Prime Products from Indigenous Cows, acronymised as SUTRA PIC, will be led by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), according to The Hindu.
SUTRA PIC will also count the Department of Biotechnology, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Ministry for AYUSH and the Indian Council of Medical Research among its partners.
The initiative has five themes: uniqueness of indigenous cows, prime-products from indigenous cows for medicine and health, for agricultural applications, for food and nutrition, and for utility items.
The call for research and development proposals invites applications for funding from academic researchers, R&D institutions and “capable voluntary organisations (NGOs) active in India with proven record of accomplishment in executing S&T-based R&D projects”.
“The proposals under this theme should aim to perform scientific research on complete characterisation of milk and milk products derived from Indian indigenous cows; scientific research on nutritional and therapeutic properties of curd and ghee prepared from indigenous breeds of cows by traditional methods; development of standards for traditionally processed dairy products of Indian-origin cow,” the programme’s document reads.
The concept note on the Department of Science and Technology’s website also said that “Cowpathy is a treatment based on products obtained from indigenous cow as used in Ayurveda.”
However, two senior officials of some of the ministries involved in the initiative told The Hindu that they were not aware of the budgetary allocations for the programme. “I haven’t seen the file on this programme because only research programmes, say over Rs 1 crore, need to be formally cleared by me,” said DST Secretary Ashutosh Sharma.
The director-general of CSIR Shekhar Mande told the newspaper that he was not aware of the programme while the secretary of the Department of Biotechnology Renu Swarup said that the nature of the department’s involvement was not yet “defined”.
“If and when specific biotechnology related projects or research proposals come by, we will look at funding but as of now there is not yet any financial commitment by the department,” Swarup said.
Earlier, a national steering committee for ‘Scientific Validation and Research on Panchgavya’ – SVAROP – had been constituted by the Science for Equity, Empowerment and Development (SEED) division of the Department of Science and Technology in 2017.
The committee was chaired by Harsh Vardhan, the Union minister for science, technology and Earth sciences, and co-chaired by Vijay P. Bhatkar, the chancellor of Nalanda University.
Panchagavya is a mixture of five products derived from a cow: milk, curd, ghee, dung and urine. The concoction’s proponents believe it can cure a variety of diseases, although they have not undertaken any clinical trials to ascertain their claims.
V.K. Vijay, head of IIT Delhi’s Centre for Rural Development and Technology, said he would be submitting research proposals to SUTRA PIC.
In 2019, the government had announced a collaboration between the University of California, Davis, and Ganpat University in Gujarat to promote ‘cow-based entrepreneurship’ and research on India’s indigenous cows. Vallabh Kathiriahad, chairman of the Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog, had said at the time that startups focusing on “commercialising” bovine by-products like dung and urine, apart from dairy, would be eligible to receive funding from the government for up to 60% of their initial investment.
In July last year, the same aayog had picked the governments of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Goa to promote cow-based tourism and carve a route for students, researchers and tourists from foreign countries “to promote our indigenous breeds” and promote the cow-based economy, and added that products made of cow-based ingredients, including ghee, urine and dung, would be sold at tourist places.