Science and Technology Ministry headed by Dr Harsh Vardhan announcing a decision to fund research in use of cow dung

New Delhi: Scientists are aghast at the Science and Technology Ministry headed by Dr Harsh Vardhan announcing a decision to fund research in use of cow dung, urine and milk in medicines, toothpastes and shampoos.

More than 110 scientists have signed a petition addressed to the minister, asking him to withdraw the invitation issued by the Department of Science and Technology, saying such a research is "unscientific" and "flawed," as it would severely undermine the credibility of the Indian scientific establishment. Because such an invitation "presumes the efficacies" of various cow products.

The document inviting research proposals from scientists and non-government organisations has cited several Ayurveda texts and claimed that products from cows are prescribed for a range of health disorders, from asthma and arthritis to cancer and diabetes, kidney malfunctions and high blood pressure.

"The list defies common sense as many of the ailments (on the list) were not known to the authors of the ancient texts," physicists Aniket Sule at the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, Mumbai, and Soumitro Banerjee at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata, said in the appeal they posted seeking more signatories.

Within four hours, over 110 other scientists from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, National Centre for Radio Astronomy, Pune, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, and universities in Calicut, Mysore and Jadavpur, among other institutions, had signed the appeal.The DST has set a March 14 deadline for research proposals under the programme titled: ‘Scientific utilisation through research -- prime products from indigenous cows.’

Sule and Banerjee have pointed out that the document does not encourage fair comparison with other breeds of cows or other bovine species within the country. "It seems the purpose of this scheme is to pour money to aid the confirmation bias of the proponents of this scheme," they have said.

"We earnestly request you to withdraw this call for proposals...," reads the appeal which is also addressed to DST Secretary Ashutosh Sharma and K Vijay Rghavan, principal scientific adviser to the government.

"Better to reformulate the proposal to encourage open inquiry," they said.

The scientists have also issued a simultaneous appeal to other scientists across India to recognise the call for proposals as a "biased attempt to push the narrative of the special status of

Indian cows" by funding research that feeds into a "confirmation bias." "As a counter narrative to such efforts, we appeal to all in the scientific community to use the coming National Science

Day on February 28 to educate the public about why it may be unreasonable to 'expect miracles' from products from indigenous cows."