When ‘characterless’ cows fed India
Cows are a touchy topic in India these days but never before has our cow worship been tainted with xenophobia. All cows are not holy anymore — only native Indian breeds count. A legislator from the northern state of Haryana dubbed foreign bulls ‘characterless’ a few weeks ago. Apparently, they molest morally sound native cows and even buffaloes out on the street.
Three decades ago, these same foreign breeds were much in demand. Poor villagers borrowed money at extortionate rates to bring home a straight-backed Jersey hybrid cow with dreams of becoming milk millionaires. And before that, for a very long time, foreign breeds of cattle had been fulfilling the nutritional needs of millions in India with milk powder.
Mark the despair in these two voices heard in Parliament on March 29, 1967:
“There is dearth of milk powder supply in West Bengal. As a result, the entire milk supply scheme is going to collapse next month, and the children and the mothers are not going to get milk.”
“I know, sir…all the available supplies are being directed to Bihar because of the drought situation…even in Bihar, since the supplies are limited, they are being directed for the use of vulnerable groups of population like nursing mothers and infants and young children.”
Milk powder was a big deal those days in a country where the annual per capita milk availability was only 46kg when even Pakistan averaged 82kg of milk per person.
Desperate times called for desperate measures, and on December 21, 1955 Parliament was informed that Central Food Technological Institute in Mysore had developed a groundnut-based milk substitute. “It has a high food value and it is only slightly inferior to cow’s or buffalo’s milk. Its cost will be a third or fourth of that of cow’s milk,” said then minister for natural resources K D Malaviya.
But real succor arrived in the form of milk powder from faraway countries