|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
In a scam of sorts in Pakistan during September this year, the Imran Khan government sold off eight buffaloes belonging to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, raising USD 19,000 in the process. The sale was under the much vaunted “austerity auctions” under personnel directions of Prime Minister Imran Khan. These auctions are partly also to showcase penury to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from which Pakistan is seeking bailout of USD 10 billion, which incidentally will be the 13th time IMF rescues Pakistan since late 1980s.
The hilarious part is that amidst the auction drama, Imran was using a helicopter to travel to work - a journey of some 9.3 miles as the crow flies. Incidentally, while Pakistan begs IMF for USD 10 billion, the Pakistani army sits on assets worth over USD 20 billion including 50 housing projects, oil and gas drilling projects, stud farms, an aviation company, diesel producing company linked to America’s Exxonmobil among other assets - as disclosed to Pakistani Senate by Pakistan’s Defence Ministry in July 2016.
In India, the news is about cows, not buffaloes. According to media reports of October 15, 2018, the Army has closed down 15 military farms and sold 16,000 imported Frieswal cows to various States at a price of 1,000 each and the Army plans to sell the remaining 9,000 high-yield milch cattle shortly. Moreover, the remaining 24 military farms, a colonial legacy, will also be shortly closed down and land handed over to the Defence Estates under the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The Frieswal cow, a crossbreed between the Dutch Holstein Friesian and the Indian Sahiwal breeds was developed by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) project directorate on cattle in Meerut in collaboration with MoD. The cow provides on an average 3,600 litres of milk per lactation as against 2,000 litres by Indian cows. The cow requires special nutrition and management system. Media, quoting an army officer states that the cost of one Frieswal is over 1,00,000 (about USD 1500), on an average 400 is spent on the cow daily, plus it needs to be showered thrice before milking. But where each Frieswal cow costs over 1 lakh each, selling off 16,000 of them for just 1,000 each is a scam of sorts even if these cows were not in the lactation cycle. At least Imran Khan extracted USD 2,375 (1,75,251.25 Indian rupees) for each of the eight buffaloes and here we have hawked of a Frieswal cow for 1000 (USD 13.55). Moreover, the report these Frieswal cows were sold to “various States” again is hiding the identity of who the real buyers are; politicians, mafias and what is the involvement of Defence Estates / MoD in this scam, which apparently is still halfway through? As it is, you have some States charging 2% or more cow tax past few years but cows continue to roam public roads with no cowsheds built worth the name? So, which are theses States who have bought these 16,000 cows? Do they have the arrangements for special nutrition and infrastructure to provide the management for these Frieswal cows, will they be let free on roads, or will they land up in the butchery (hopefully not)? The decision to shut down the Military Farms was taken as per recommendations of the government-appointed Shekatkar Committee which submitted its report to then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in December 2016. Following the official directive, the Army has so far closed down 15 farms out of total 39 located all over the country. 16,000 cows have been sold till now, of which 9,000 have been dispatched the remaining 7,000 are to be dispatched once the “States” buying them arrange for their transportation. As per news reports, Nagaland and West Bengal have already bought cows and some more States have evinced interest. It is pathetic that 16,000 Frieswal cows, a breed developed by ICAR under aegis of the MoD have been disposed off in this manner under a government that raises slogans of “Gau Hamari Mata”. It is equally pathetic on part of the Army to jingle 16,000 for these cows. Were two years from the time of the submission of the Shekatkar Committee report not enough for the Government and the Army to find suitable alternative home for these cows?
In this age of Digital India was it so difficult to explore cooperatives of farmers or ex-servicemen across India to take these cows. They would have perhaps readily created the infrastructure if told of these throwaway prices in advance. Has the MoD and Army cross-checked what is the infrastructure at the other end? If indeed the infrastructure is right, it would have been better to donate these cows free of cost rather than charging 1000 each. Also, if these cows are not in the lactation cycle and requisite infrastructure has not been created at the other end, their landing up at the butchery in states like West Bengal and Nagaland can hardly be ruled out, and rest assured the sponsored ‘lynch mobs’ won’t dare to go to these states. But then scams are routine in MoD and the bigger scam will be disposing off the land of the 39 Military Farms. For decades Defence Estates (DE) directly under MoD, in conjunction Cantonment Boards, have been engaged in grabbing defence land and buildings of cantonments in connivance politicians and the land mafia. During the UPA II regime, the then Defence Minster was considering disbandment of the scam-ridden DE that manages 17 lakh acres of defence land worth 20 lakh crore after the Controller General of Defence Accounts (CGDA) indicted DE the tiniest but most corrupt part of MoD, recommending its shut down and its functions be transferred to the three Services. But the present Defence Minister while opening 62 military cantonments to civilian thoroughfare has empowered the DE more, giving them powers even over the local military authorities. Hawking off 16000 Frieswal cows for 16000 would apparently be too small a scam for MoD.
Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are the personal views of the author.