Every day we buy milk worth Rs 600 for the inmates of a home with which I am associated. Three of our staff have been expressing their desire to buy two cows and a buffalo so that the children could have more nutritious milk. They have also been claiming that the surplus milk could be sold in the neighbourhood and we could earn some money.
Of course, they would also want to have an additional employee to take care of the animals. The minimum wages being what they are, an employee would mean an additional cost of Rs 14,000 per month. Two high-yielding cows and one buffalo would cost at least Rs 2.5 lakh. Every time I meet them, they would tell me where we could build a cow shed, who could be employed etc.
I could no longer be a PV Narasimha Rao-kind of person who believed that in many cases the best solution was not to find any solution. I, therefore, decided to discuss the matter in detail with the staff. I do not see any colleague through the prism of religion or caste or creed. Nonetheless, I must mention the religious identity of the three for reasons the readers, I am sure, would understand.
One is a Syrian Christian from Kerala who vaingloriously claims that the blood that flows through his veins is Brahminical as the proto-converts in India were Brahmins. It is a different matter that the Bible or other texts of the period do not suggest that St. Thomas landed in Kerala in AD 52 only to convert the upper castes. The two others are upper caste Hindus from Kerala and Assam. The person whom they identified to look after the bovines was a Muslim. That made it an Amar-Akbar-Antony affair!
When I asked them a simple question whether the cattle could give milk without delivery, they could not contain their laughter. They would have probably thought that I did not know even basic genetics. How could they know that I knew something about Mendel's Law or the Law of Segregation. I remember what John Sir from Channanapally taught us at Catholicate College, Pathanamthitta -- Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.
I wish Tarun Vijay, former editor of the RSS mouthpiece Panchajanya, knew this theory. Then he would not have made such a silly statement while arguing that India was not racist. The Africans in India are upset that they are discriminated against on the basis of their colour.
Vijay argued that we were not racist when he said, "If we were racist, then why would have all the entire south which is complete... you know... Tamil, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra.... Why do we live with them? We have blacks, black people all around us. You're denying your own nation, you're denying your ancestry, that's very bad. I think we can be as good or as bad as any other human community".
Forget Vijay's bad English as none speaks English like the late Swami Ranganathananda, the first Malayali to head the Ramakrishna Mission, he just has to read the matrimonial advertisements to know why "wheatish-complexioned" brides are in demand and Fair&Lovely is a money-making cosmetic product that promises the sky and delivers the paataal.
I remember Vijay as the one who wasted 12 pages of his weekly in two instalments in the early part of the first decade of the 21st century to tell his readers that I was not a journalist but an agent of Pope bent upon converting every Ram, Lakshman and Neelakantan into a Christian evangelist. Environmentalist A Faizi of Kerala gave a fitting reply to Vijay when he wrote in his Facebook Timeline, "As a Black South Indian I don’t want the people of the Aryan stock with their pale yellow skin to return to their fatherland in the Ural mountains in Central Asia".
According to the theory John Sir taught us, a dark-skinned couple can have a fair-skinned child if, eight generations ago, they had a fair-skinned ancestor.
If colour was not a factor, the buffalo would have been holier than the cow. Why? Because it gives more milk. It is also sturdier and can do more hard work than a bullock. Let me give a little statistics.
Fifty-one per cent of India's milk production comes from buffaloes. The beef export from India is almost wholly buffalo meat. After the Gau Rakshaks attacked Samirdhi, the Kerala House staff canteen, in New Delhi, the word "beef" has disappeared from its menu. Now it is "buffalo meat".
Not many know that the imported varieties of cows are not worshipped. It is only the indigenous variety which is holy. However, they account for only 21 per cent of the milk produced in India. This 21 per cent is holier than the buffaloes, the imported cows and the goats that supply 79 per cent of milk!
The worst thing that we have done to buffaloes was to associate them with death. The Gau Rakshaks do not realise that Yama who moves on a buffalo would visit them one day and all their worship of the cow would not prevent them from meekly following the buffalo.
To come back to the anecdote, I asked them what they would do if the cows and the buffalo delivered male calves. The animals have a life span of 15-20 years. They would deliver seven or eight times. I asked them whether they could count the number of cattle there would be after ten years. Fifty, sixty or a hundred or more? They were not sure.
I asked them how they would dispose of the male among them and those which stopped supplying milk. Haryana had one of the toughest anti-cow slaughter laws. It would be impossible to feed so many cattle which would keep on multiplying. The Malthusian theory of population growth is valid in the case of animals too!
One of them suggested that we could transport the bullocks to a far-off place and dump them there. I scolded him for being so cruel. Who would look after them? Who would feed them? Would they not die of starvation?
The alternative would be to feed all the animals, productive or not. Of course, we would also need more staff to look after the animals. I asked the three whether they had an idea of how much it would cost to feed a bullock or an old cow.
No, they had no idea. Neither did I have. Fortunately, I had read an article by Sunita Narain, editor of Down to Earth which I subscribe to. It was headlined, "Why I don't advocate vegetarianism". She says feeding a bullock or buffalo costs Rs 70,000 per annum.
The moment I mentioned Rs 70,000, I could see the eyebrows of my colleagues rising. We would need Rs 7 million to feed 100 cattle. Who would give us the funds to support the animals whose number would keep on increasing? Gau Rakshaks do not give funds!
Now the question arises: How did the cattle survive for centuries? Let me quote Narain, sorry, a little extensively, "The most important reason I, as an Indian environmentalist, would not support action against meat is that livestock is the most important economic security of farmers in our world. Indian farmers practice agro-silvo-pastoralism, that is, they use the land for crops and trees as well as for livestock.
"This is their real insurance system, not the banks. Livestock is also not kept by large meat businesses but by big, small, marginal and landless farmers. It works because the animals have a productive purpose: first, they give milk and manure and then, meat and leather. Take that away and you will take away the base of the economic security of millions in the country, greatly impoverishing them.
"Let’s get the facts straight. In the past, cattle were kept for draught purposes. In the 1980s, the late NS Ramaswamy, the country’s only expert on animal energy, had calculated that the installed capacity of 90 million work animals was equal to the installed capacity of the electric power in the country.
"All this changed with mechanisation. By 2000, livestock was primarily kept for milk. This is why the males of cows and buffaloes have drastically reduced in each livestock census. Males are now roughly 28 per cent of the total cattle population. Their main purpose is breeding. But cows and buffaloes give milk for seven-eight years of their 15-20 years of life. Farmers use this productive phase for the birth of calves and for milk sale.
"Maintaining animals is not cheap. My colleagues have calculated that if the animals are fed properly and looked after well it costs about Rs 70,000 per animal per year. This is why farmers need options to take care of the animals not producing milk. Or, they will have no options but to leave the animal to stray, to eat the plastic cities throw away and die.
"This is why I would not support a ban on meat or leather. By doing this we are literally taking away half the potential income the livestock owner possesses. It is stealing from the poor, nothing less. Just imagine if the government entered our homes and took away half our assets or made them valueless. What would we say? Banning meat is cruel demonetisation."
What Narain says is not Game Theory, easy to define as "the study of mathematical models of conflict and cooperation between intelligent rational decision-makers" but difficult to explain. What she says makes sense to every farmer -- Hindu or Muslim or Christian.
Why does it not make sense to the Gau Rakshaks in Rajasthan who lynched Pehlu Khan to death? All his colleagues -- Asmat, Irshad, Arif and Rafeeq -- in the vehicle were beaten up. I am glad that they spared at least one of them -- Arjun -- who drove the vehicle in which they were carrying the cows.
What crime did they commit? They bought cows at the rate of Rs 35,000 from a cattle fair at Jaipur. Fifty-five-year-old Khan was not a butcher. He bought the cows for his own dairy. He had all the sale papers. Alas, that did not save his life.
The Gau Rakshaks struck in Rajasthan days after Gujarat toughened its anti-cow slaughter law. Now killing a cow or its progeny can invite life imprisonment. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh wants death penalty for them. I am sure he would be able to enact such a law because of the majority he enjoys in the Assembly. The Gujarat Chief Minister also wants his state to be known as the first vegetarian state in the world.
What these gentlemen do not understand is that if the farmers are unable to sell old cows and bullocks, they will not be able to feed them. UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath recently wrote off loans of farmers to the tune of Rs 36,359 crore. The maximum benefit a farmer got was Rs 1 lakh. Does the Yogi know that a farmer needs Rs 70,000 to feed one cow, productive or unproductive.
Sunita Narain ended her article with a suggestion. If the government does not like people eating beef or it thinks that the cows are Holy and they need to live as long as nature wants them to live, it should buy all the old cows and all the bullocks, feed them and look after them till they complete their life. This should not be difficult for a multi-trillion dollar economy on the way to becoming the world's third largest economy after China.
All the Gau Rakshaks can be employed in such gaushalas where they can also complete their life circle by taking care of the animals. After all, there is no better karma than looking after the cow!
Look at how the UP Chief Minister begins his day by feeding the cows in his gaushala! He has plans to shift some of them to his official residence at Lucknow. I can only hope that he does not use a truck like Pehlu Khan did to transport them for you never know what the Gau Rakshaks can do.
Alternatively, a law can be passed that only Hindus who worship cows will be able to buy, keep and sell cows. This will prevent incidents of lynching. All abattoirs and leather processing units can also be closed down. If the RSS can have uniforms without leather, why can't we wear plastic canvas shoes, cloth belts and Hawaii chappals? Or, we can go back to the days when our ancestors used wooden chappals and loin cloths and ate only fruits!
Now to come back to the beginning of this column -- the three said in a chorus that it was not possible to rear cows. I, too, had to concur with their decision. Reluctantly though.
The writer, a senior journalist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org(Published on 10th April 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 15)#