New Delhi: The government's Animal Welfare Board, the main agency for framing laws for the protection of animals, has a predominance of members dedicated to cause of the cow. At least eight out of 10 independent board members are associated with cow research and cow shelters or have been vocal about cow protection.
The board also has eight directors from the government.
One of the independent members, Sunil Mansinghka, is the chief co-ordinator of the "Go Vigyan Anusandhan Kendra" - a centre for research on benefits of cow urine and dung. "Grab your opportunity to be a Gau Sevak (cow protector)" - urges the centre's website.
Questioned about the tilt in the Animal Welfare Board towards cow specialists, Mr Mansinghka quipped: "In our scriptures, there are 84 lakh creatures, so do you think there should be 84 lakh members in the board?"
He asserted: "Cow is life on Earth and represents all animals. The milk, urine and dung of dogs, cats and other animals are of no use."
The Board's apparent cow-centric approach, first reported by the Print, is at odds with its role as an advocate for all animals.
The bios of the board members leave little room to question the perception that it is somewhat skewed.
Mohan Singh Ahluwalia is the president of Gwala Gaddi, a company that claims to make "100% premium herbal cow ghee" and also claims to "promote and protect Indian cows" according to its Facebook page and official website.
RS Chauhan, a veterinary doctor, is the president of the Cow Therapy Society, an editor of 'The Indian Cow' journal and the editor-in-chief of 'International Journal on Cow Science' journal.
Hitesh Jani, another independent board member, specifies on his LinkedIn page that he specialises in 'Gauvigyan' (Cow Science) and that he also runs a program called "Inter Disciplinary Cow Science Awareness and Research".
Ajit Sharad Kelkar is an author of a book "Abhinav Krishi Chintan", which was published by the agency "Gaurashtra (Cow nation)".
Dhan Pal Singh is a member of Gayatri Parivaar, which runs cow shelters in India. Mr Singh is also vocal about stringent cow protection laws and has often spoken on the subject.
Girish J Shah is the managing trustee of Samast Mahajan, an organisation which supports 350 animal shelters across Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, most of them dedicated to cows.
Rajeev Gupta is a former Secretary in the Department of Youth Affairs. The retired IAS officer, when still serving, had written a blog saying that "institutions keeping cattle like Goshalas, Gosadans require necessary government support for their sustenance." He also wrote: "The 'useless' cattle can be made into 'useful' cattle by proper use of dung, urine and draught animal power."
Details of two more Independent members, Rajni Kaul and Ram Krishan Raghuvanshi, were not available.
Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan defended the panel, saying, "Is it a crime to be Gau Rakshak (cow protector)? If someone has put his life into cow protection, it is a significant certification of their commitment to the environment and to animal welfare."