Cows in India may get their own ‘Aadhaar card’

The Aadhaar, the new biometric identity card that Indians are swearing by, is likely to find an application among cattle.

Of late, the right wing BJP-led government at the Centre has been worried about the fate and future of cows, considered holy by many Hindus.

The government believes there should be a proper cow census in the country. What better than an Aadhaar card for cattle, then?

According to what the Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar told the Supreme Court on Monday, the Modi government is all set to roll out tamper-proof identity tags for all cattle, beginning with cows.

To avoid confusion — as cows tend to look alike — each cow will be given a unique identity number, the type and size of their horns, the length and thickness of their tails, and the height and weight of each candidate.

When the plan comes into effect, no cow in the world is likely to feel as numbered and protected as the Indian cow, a critic of the scheme said. “Next thing you know, cows will be opening bank accounts”, the critic was full of sarcasm, clearly.

On the face of it, the cow card was thought up to prevent illegal transportation of cattle and livestock to Bangladesh. Inside the country, too, trading in cows and buffaloes has been a fraught issue. Although the buffalo is not considered generally as a divine animal — certainly not in the same league as the cow — only last week, in Delhi, three buffalo traders were intercepted by the cow vigilante and beaten up. There have been violence over cow trade recently in Alwar in Rajatshan, Uttar Pradesh and Jammu.

The idea of the cow card was first mooted by a government-appointed panel headed by a joint secretary. The panel was entrusted with the idea of gifting the Indian cow a safe passage through its life. It was with this intent that the government made beef consumption illegal.

The panel’s report was submitted to the Supreme Court on Monday. Ranjit Kumar, representing the government, said the government fully backed the suggestions of the panel.

On asking for details, Kumar elaborated on the cards, and explained that the polyurethane tags — which each cow must wear if all goes as planned — will have details like identification marks, age, breed, sex, lactation, colour and the number of young ones the animal has mothered or fathered.

The Supreme Court is hearing a petition to stop smuggling of the cattle to slaughtered at beef export units. India is one of the biggest exporters of beef in the world.

Cow protection suggestions have included stronger institutional framework against cattle smuggling, sensitization of enforcement agencies, shelter for cattle, and stricter prosecution for cattle abuse. Cow slaughter is most prevalent in the states of West Bengal and Assam, which share a border with Bangladesh.

The panel suggested there should be an online data base for cows. A registrar — naturally, human — for cattle could be appointed, the panel said.

Cow worshippers are happy. “It’s time we protected the cow,” one of them said after the court hearing for the day. “With an Aadhaar card for the cows, man and beast are equal. That is true animal kindness. That is true socialism.”

On the main road, just outside the Supreme Court, stray cows help up the traffic for a short while. For obvious reasons, no one dared to drive them away.