The government’s premier think tank NITI Aayog has come up with a plan to make Gaushalas (cow shelters) “economically viable” and turn the lakhs of homeless cattle roaming about India into valuable assets. The bovine rescue plan involves the production and sale of bio-fertilizers and organic manure (cow dung) which would be used in agriculture.  

On Friday, a report titled “Production and Promotion of Organic and Bio-fertilizers with special focus on Improving Economic Viability of Gaushala” was released at a function held at the Aayog’s office in Delhi that started with a blessing from a certain Shri Ramesh Babaji Maharaj, who attended it virtually. Other invitees included people running Gaushalas in different places. There was a young “sadhu” Mahant Anantananda from Haridwar, Uttarakhand who too addressed the gathering virtually. “We will do organic farming on 1,000 acres on both sides of the Ganga. We will make this initiative a success,” Mahant Anantananda declared.

Bovine project

Member Ramesh Chand said the implementation of the report, which has as one of its recommendations, making it mandatory for fertilizer companies to sell at least 10-20 per cent of organic manure as part of their mix, would help achieve the target of bringing 25 per cent cultivable area (of gross cropped area of 196 million hectare) under organic/natural farming by 2030. Currently, 1.1 mh are under natural farming and 2 per cent under organic farming, according to sources.

Chand asserted that all the recommendations of the report will be implemented. “We will take it up at a high level from time to time. We will take it up to the Prime Minister level since he is our Chairman,” Chand said while releasing the report.

Cow-shed economics

According to the NITI Aayog report, the total cost of running a gaushala of 1,000 cows works out to be ₹1.18 lakh per day including land, while without land it is around ₹82,475. Meanwhile, income from the sale of products from gaushalas contributes only 30 per cent share to the upkeep of the place, while the rest is contributed through donations, grants, and miscellaneous sources. Chand said the recommendations will help gaushalas become at least 50 per cent economically viable while rest can be managed from donations and other activities.

One of the invited guests suggested the government should get MNREGA workers to work at Gaushalas and distribute the finished bio-fertiliser products free of cost to farmers.