NEW DELHI: If the men in saffron have their way, cows will replace the tiger as India’s national animal.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has been flooded with requests from sadhus to make the gau mata — holy cow — the national animal. Many have met Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar to put forth their demand. The ministry has now taken up the matter with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the authority on any national declarations. Javadekar has received thousands of letters from sadhus from across India in vernacular languages and a group of them led by Sadhvi Ritambhara met him in April to discuss cow protection and cow smuggling across borders.
The inflow of communication to the ministry on cows is so large that Javadekar’s staff has been struggling to maintain a record. MoEF officials are also puzzled on why these representations are being sent to them instead of to MHA. Each day, the MoEF gets cartons and gunny bags filled with thousands of pamphlets and clippings from scriptures corroborating the urgency of their demand. The majority of them are sent by Hindu groups in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.
Despite pressure on the MoEF, officials say the matter does not fall under their jurisdiction since the ministry only deals with protection and prevention of cruelty of animals. Moreover, issues related to cattle are dealt by the Department of Animal Husbandry under the Union Ministry of Agriculture. “Anything that deals with national declaration is always done by the MHA. We have taken up the matter with them,” said a source.
Requests from organisations like Jai Gurudev, Gau Gyan Foundation and Akhil Bharat Krishi Goseva Sangh talk about the need for protecting the cow, which has been worshipped in India for ages as ‘mother’. If it does get the status of national animal, there will be dedicated funding and a programme for protection of cows and checks on cattle trade across borders.