Male Mahadeshwara hills (MM Hills)– have you heard this in news recently? No surprises if you have not. Something big happened here which should have made it to national headlines. But alas, the national media suffers from something they call ‘tyranny of distance’ when it comes to covering news from the south.
The government of Karnataka (GOK) decided to fence MM Hills. What’s the deal?
MM Hills is home not only to many species of wild animals and birds but also feeds thousands of cows belonging to hundreds of families living in the periphery of the forests. As per estimates, there are approximately 75,000 cows that are dependent on this forest. These cows belong to the native breed Bargur and Hallikar. These breeds of cows provide what is known as A2 milk that is clinically proven to have medicinal properties.The fencing of the hills tantamount to cold blooded murder of thousands of native cows. It’s no secret that Indian breeds of cows are highly endangered with many breeds already extinct. India traditionally had around 60 cow breeds – of which only about 30 exist today. Read those numbers again, that’s a whopping 50% already extinct!
The reason given by the government for this move is to save wildlife – the cows invade on territory otherwise meant for the wild. While this reason appears logical, it cannot be farther from reality. Cow grazing in forest area actually results in increasing biodiversity – this has been proved in studies conducted by Tenzing Ingty, researcher in Ecology and Environment. Every one of us should help in conserving wildlife. However, those being so vocal about wildlife conservation don’t bat an eyelid when it comes to cows that are literally on the brink of extinction. Hundreds of acres of land around Bangalore was originally earmarked for cow grazing (locally called Gou mala). Where did all that land vanish? The cows wouldn’t have to enter the forest for food had those existed. If the government wants to ‘protect’ wildlife and do not want cows to enter forest, it’s their responsibility to restore the Gou Malas. The bottom line is simple – If you are serious about conserving wildlife, start with conserving Cows.
Thankfully, the cows found a savior in his Holiness Sri Sri Raghaveshwara Bharati Swamiji of Ramachandrapura Mutt (@shankaracarya36). His clarion call is being answered by his followers. A total of 20 tons of fodder is being readied everyday by way of donations in cash and kind in a mammoth exercise to save this humble creature from extermination. While this exercise is to ensure food security to the cows till end of this summer, we can only hope that good sense will prevail and government will reverse their decision.