New Delhi: Union Science Minister Harsh Vardhan Tuesday pulled up representatives of several ministries over the delay in approving and funding research projects that aim to scientifically validate the uniqueness of indigenous cows and its products under an inter-ministerial funding programme.
The minister now wants these projects to be fast-tracked so there is some “significant development” in time for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech on 75th Independence Day, he indicated at a virtual meeting Tuesday with officials of his ministry and other government agencies associated with the programme.
The programme — ‘Scientific Utilisation Through Research Augmentation Prime Products from Indigenous Cows (SUTRA-PIC)’ India — was formally launched over a year ago and had been planned with the support of various ministries and government agencies.
These include the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Department of Biotechnology, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha & Homoeopathy (Ayush), Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
The programme looked for scientists to carry out research on primary products of indigenous cows, including urine and dung, with an aim to develop personal care products such as toothpaste, shampoos and mosquito repellents as well as look for cures to diseases like cancer and diabetes.
The Union minister expressed his disappointment that there had been no progress under the programme since 2016, when a meeting at IIT-Delhi had first given shape to it.
‘Economic potential in promoting indigenous cow products’
Initially, the programme was launched in 2017 and named ‘Scientific Validation and Research on Panchgavya (SVAROP)’. Panchagavya is a mixture of five cow products — milk, curd, ghee, dung and urine.
However, no project proposals had been funded under this programme.
Due to this reason, the programme had been relaunched in 2020, Harsh Vardhan said, and expressed disappointment that no significant progress has been made even after a year.
“Covid-19 pandemic cannot be used as an excuse for this delay, since other work has been happening in the ministries despite the pandemic,” he said during the meeting.
He reiterated that the promotion of indigenous cows was important to the Narendra Modi government.
“It is not just because we are emotionally attached to cows, there is a lot of economic potential in promoting indigenous cow products as well,” he said.
The minister added that even though the benefits of Panchgavya were “well known” to Ayurveda, “people these days want scientific validation”.
The Union minister also said these proposals would have ended up in dustbins had the Modi government not been re-elected to power in 2019.
174 proposals shortlisted
Speaking at the meeting, DST Secretary Ashutosh Sharma said a total of 337 research proposals had been received under the call for proposals issued last February. Of these, 174 proposals have been shortlisted and are currently lying with different ministries that are part of the programme, he said.
Sharma set a three-week deadline for ministries to select the final projects that will be funded under the programme. He added that he would ensure that the funds for these projects are released by May. A total of Rs 98 crore has been earmarked for these projects.
Harsh Vardhan added that he would personally review progress every few months over the next three years. He also said some significant progress should be made by the time Modi makes the 75th Independence Day speech next year.
(Edited by Neha Mahajan)