Mumbai: Financial grants for cow protection homes run by non-government bodies. Mandatory permits for cattle transport. And a complete ban on cow slaughter.

These are some of the measures planned by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of Maharashtra for protection of the cow—a favourite theme of the party’s ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

The government plans to introduce measures to end cow slaughter very soon, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said at a function in Kolhapur on Monday.

The current law is seen as having loopholes that are being exploited by slaughterhouses.

When it was last in power in 1995-99, the Shiv Sena-BJP combine passed a bill banning cow slaughter, but the proposed law was not sent to the President for signature.

After the BJP came to power at the centre as well as in Maharashtra in 2014, the Union home ministry asked the state if it wanted to follow up on the bill, a suggestion to which the state government was amenable, a Press Trust of India report said.

Maharashtra’s minister of revenue, agriculture and animal husbandry Eknath Khadse said the government was also preparing a policy to take care of cows abandoned by owners because they had stopped producing milk or planned to sell the animals to slaughter houses “because they are unable to carry the burden of their maintenance".

Under the scheme, cow protection homes will be built across the state.

“We want non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to come forward to do this work and they will be given grants by the state government for ensuring welfare of the cows," Khadse said.

Khadse said details of the expenditure are still to be worked out. But he claimed the financial burden on the state government wouldn’t be heavy because the centre typically underwrites the cost of such programmes.

“However, we want NGOs to come forward and give a guarantee that they will look after a minimum of 100 cows if they want to become eligible for getting government grants. The government will also help these NGOs by giving land on concessional lease if government land is available in area of its operation," he added.

The NGOs taking care of cows will be free to sell cow dung and urine, which are used in several Ayurvedic medicines and cosmetics, Khadse said.

He further said a prevailing ban on slaughter of milk-producing cows and healthy bulls was routinely violated by transporting them out of the state.

The government plans to clamp restrictions on cattle transport by insisting on certificates from local revenue authorities and a government veterinary doctor, the minister said.

In January 2014, Mint reported that exports of Indian beef were expected to rise to a record 1.8 million tonnes in 2013-14, accounting for about 20% of the world trade in beef. Exports, which hit 17,500 crore in 2012-13, have risen 102% over the last three years because of rising demand.

If the state government implements its cow protection plan, meat exports may take a hit.

The opposition Congress said the BJP was paying mere lip service to cow protection.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about a so-called pink revolution (increase in meat exports) during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s tenure; however, in his government’s first six months, meat export has increased by 16%," Congress spokesman Sachin Sawant said.

Agricultural expert Budhajirao Mulik, a trustee of the Bhumata Charitable Trust, which works in the field of increasing agricultural productivity, suggested some steps to ensure farmers’ interests, if that indeed was the government’s intention.

“The cow stops giving milk due to two reasons; one, she is unable to conceive and two, she passes the age of producing milk. If she is not able to produce milk due to the first problem, then the government should help the farmer with modern techniques of breeding," said Mulik.

“Even if she is unable to give milk due to the second reason, she continues to give dung and urine and this can be used to produce bio-fertilizers. And as farm products using bio-fertilizers and pesticides command a higher price in the market, the NGO which will be given the task of maintaining cows should be directed to make bio-fertilizers available to farmers at concessional rates," Mulik added.

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