New Delhi: A government committee has recommended unique identification numbers for cows as one way to prevent their trafficking, according to documents filed by the central government with the Supreme Court.

The unique ID will contain details of the cattle’s age, breed, sex, height, body colour, horn type, tail switch and special marks, according to the panel set up by the home ministry. In the case of milch cattle, it will also have the lactation profile. This ID will take the form of a polyurethane tag.

“Registration proof must be maintained by the owner of the cattle which may be transferred to the next owner in case a legitimate sale/transfer takes place," according to the August 2016 report of the panel that the government has just filed in the court.

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The expert committee was set up in response to a 2015 public interest litigation seeking the apex court’s intervention on smuggling of cows to Bangladesh from the border states.

The case, which has been heard by a bench headed by current Chief Justice J.S. Khehar since 2015, will come up for hearing on 25 April and the government’s law officer solicitor general Ranjit Kumar is expected to appear.

Akhil Bharatiya Krishi Goseva Sangh, a Maharashtra-based organization, the petitioner, is also on the expert panel.

The panel also recommended maintaining state- and national-level registries of cattle and prohibiting livestock markets within a 20km radius of the international border with Bangladesh.

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The unique identification system for cattle is already put to use by the National Dairy Development Board, organized cattle farms and insurance companies.

Inderjeet Singh, director at the Central Institute for Research on Buffaloes in Hisar, said that polyurethane tagging is the most effective livestock identification system.

According to the guidelines issued under the National Dairy Plan, the tags are made from thermoplastic polyurethane elastomer, a material resistant to ultraviolet light and high and low temperatures, and impossible to tamper with once sealed.

“Tags are placed in both ears of the animal and a unique number is given to each based on its bodily features. It usually costs Rs10-25 per tag and is very accurate," Singh said.

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In January, media reports said India had embarked on a project to tag all its cattle and assign them unique IDs in an attempt to increase the productivity of the country’s dairy industry. Mint couldn’t ascertain the status of that plan.

The cow is considered holy by Hindus and in recent weeks, several states have seen an increase in attacks on anyone transporting cattle by self-styled cow protectors. The government is also considering a law banning cow slaughter.

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