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India is becoming great again as IIT Delhi plays with cow urine, dung

Angshukanta Chakraborty
Angshukanta ChakrabortyDec 19, 2016 | 14:44

India is becoming great again as IIT Delhi plays with cow urine, dung

It is one thing to chance upon the fabled “anti-cancer” properties that Indians believe are to be found in cow urine. It’s simply quite another to steer the course of medical and biochemical research towards this pre-determined end, which is more politically coloured an endeavour than genuine scientific enquiry.

The recently conducted workshop held in the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, saw proposals being floated by scientists that ultimately aim to set up a “cow science university” to validate the health benefits (not discover, or find, or experiment with, but directly validate) of Panchagavya – a concoction of cow urine mixed with cow dung, milk, curd and ghee.

Not only do these so-called workshops and projects have the blessings of the HRD ministry, now under the able guidance of Prakash Javadekar, their sky-rocketing ambitions include taking a branch of pseudo-science, best studied as the history of Indian science and as a matter of curiosity into the past only, to levels for which genuine scientific research struggles for years, if not decades.

According to reports, funding from various government ministries and agencies such as the ministry of science and technology, as well as the Indian Council of Medical Research, etc, would be arranged to study the health benefits of “panchagavya”, and the concoction could be used in various products related to rural development, medicines and even spruced-up food items.

But the IIT Delhi workshop is only one among a slew of such seminars, talks and mini conferences arranged over the period of the last two years.

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Cow urine is the new 'start-up capital'. (Photo: Reuters)

Last month, in November 2016, it was announced in Lok Sabha by the MoS for AYUSH, Shripad Yesso Naik, that the government intended to undertake several research and academic activities to promote the uses of cow urine, especially its “anti-cancer and anti-infective” properties.

"Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) through its constituent laboratories has conducted research studies in collaboration with Go Vigyan Anusandhan Kendra, Nagpur, on cow urine distillate for its antioxidant and bio-enhancing properties on anti-infective and anti-cancer agents and nutrients," Naik said in Lok Sabha.

Even though cow products are supposedly licensed under the Drugs and Cosmetic Rules, 1945, itself an ancient law that needs to updated and amended, it is obvious that the large-scale manufacture and sale of cow urine related products are hardly a matter of rigorous scientific spirit and have much more to do with promoting the cow belt politics that once had the prime minister of the country talking about genetic engineering and plastic surgery in the Vedic age as if those were verified facts.

Unlike proper scientific enquiries, in which a hypothesis is tested until it comes out positive every time, without fail, particularly in case of medicinal and pharmaceutical research, the obsession with cow urine is neither based on strong empirical data, nor has it shown any particular capability to cure diseases, and infections.

Not a single academic journal of international repute has published a paper that proves beyond doubt the anti-cancer properties of cow urine/panchagavya, and yet the nationalisation of the project is underway, steering away funds and grants from precious research areas that have genuine applicability. 

The concerted haste to push cow urine as a medical miracle under the patronage of various ministries, including AYUSH, HRD, science and technology, culture, among others, means that half-baked, ill-founded conclusions about benefits of this bovine byproduct are being taken for empirical facts, something that can be established only after painstakingly elaborate research experiments in laboratories, as well as after being peer-reviewed and approved by wider scientific community. 

How can we accept the so-called findings of the Nagpur-based Go-Vigyan Anusandhan Kendra, that has supposedly conducted research studies on “cow urine distillate for its antioxidant and bio-enhancing properties on anti-infective and anti-cancer agents and nutrients”?

Not only are the findings, if the above line is a gist, completely incomprehensible, scientifically they don’t mean anything except for an infinitely extrapolated twist on the “medical miracle” that is cow urine.

Moreover, as some of the science columnists have argued, this madness over cow urine actually distorts the much-needed focus on indigenous plant species and their therapeutic uses in modern medicine.

Instead of forging a real bond between traditional and allopathic medical methods, the cow urine craze takes away legitimacy from other perfectly interesting topics that could be promoted and honed with true scientific enquiry.

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If business Babas like Ramdev are any pointers, cow is the USP and cow urine is the new ganga jal.

Not only does the extra-medical sanction that cow urine-related hogwash has been systematically afforded under the Modi government severely undermine scientific rigour, it might have a cascading impact on the level of research done across the institutions in the country, particularly those related to fundamental sciences, biotechnology and space missions.

Also, the cow urine craze is equally linked with the explosion of what is being described as “cow capitalism”, with a surfeit of products that brag about cow urine as an ingredient flooding the markets.

Cow urine is the new “start-up capital”, and is being embraced by management and sales professionals as the next Viagra, the wonder drug, to sell to the hundreds of millions of gullible and cow worshipping Hindus.

If cow-loving ministers like Nitin Gadkari, Mahesh Sharma and business Babas like Ramdev are any pointers, cow is the USP and cow urine is the new ganga jal.

In this toxic mix of techno-tradition, the cow-colonisation of Indian FMCG retail would mean that thousands of pharmacies, corner stores, malls, and grocers would be selling an unverified, untested, albeit swadeshi, “medical miracle” to Indians, all under the nose of the central government. 

With no quality control (dead insects have been found in Patanjali noodles) and a price tag within the reach of India’s middle and poorer classes, the cow urine products might be the likeliest choice instead of costlier allopathic medicines and proper treatment.

Not only does this endanger the health of a whole generation of people, the lax laws might impact other food and pharmaceutical products that are used regularly by us.

The business model that starts from heavily compromised Indian ministries via the institutions that we have been looking up to for brilliance in intellectual enquiry and inculcation of the scientific spirit to the thousands of virtual and real world outlets of cow capitalism is of course a bubble that would burst in due time. 

But will it be too late until the concerted chicanery is duly exposed?

Watch:

Last updated: December 19, 2016 | 14:44
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