Modi creates new ministry for cow welfare, among other things
Giriraj Singh, known for his Hindutva leanings, will head the new animal husbandry ministry, which was earlier a department in the Ministry of Agriculture
The Narendra Modi government has created a ministry for animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries and made Begusarai MP Giriraj Singh the Cabinet minister responsible for it.
This is being seen as an extension of the Hindutva agenda, as what was a department in the Ministry of Agriculture is now a separate ministry.
The ministry will look after animal rearing and dairying as an area, and will also include the upkeep of cow shelters (gau shalas), sources say.
The official version, however, is that the aim of the move is to double the income of farmers, something Prime Minister Narendra Modi has claimed as one of his prime visions.
“This was a department under the Ministry of Agriculture. But now it has been elevated to the status of a separate ministry. The aim is to double farm incomes,” BJP MP Nishikant Dubey told Asiaville. “Increasing farm incomes requires more focused attention to different sources of farmers’ incomes. Agricultural earnings are one, but another source is animal rearing and dairying. It was felt that this required special attention and required the creation of a separate ministry.”
A close aide of Giriraj Singh said that given his experience of having been animal husbandry minister in Bihar in the past, Singh was an ideal choice for this role.
Significantly, Singh has in the past been accused of being a Hindutva hardliner, who is also outspoken about his ideological convictions.
In 2015, Singh had controversially said that just as there was a difference between sister and wife, there was a difference between beef and mutton. This was in reaction to RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s statement that there was no difference between someone who ate mutton and someone who ate beef.
In a recent interview to Asiaville, Singh had accused Rahul Gandhi of pursuing the agenda of Pakistan. Referring to Navjot Singh Sidhu and Mani Shankar Aiyar, he had said that they had deliberately sided with Pakistan while visiting the country. Singh had also said that flags of the Indian Union Muslim League that fluttered in Wayanad when Gandhi went to contest there were reminiscent of the Pakistani flag and should be banned.
With Singh at the helm, the ministry – which will include cow rearing, apart from poultry and the rearing of goats and sheep – will be keenly watched.
Cow protection has been a major controversy in the last five years, with some instances of lynching of people over suspicion of beef storage or transporting of cattle for “slaughter” coming to light.
The fact that the ministry is headed by a Cabinet minister rather than a minister of state is also crucial, as the ministry may possibly take up reports/rumours of cow slaughter or beef storage with state governments.