If pigs could fly, cows would belch out oxygen and cow dung would neutralise radioactive elements. But Rajasthan education minister Vasudev Devnani, an engineer no less, believes in these `bovine truths'. The minister held forth on his theories, mixing some well-known facts (at least in India) with some fanciful thinking while speaking about the “scientific importance“ of cow dung at the Hingonia Cow Rehabi litation Centre on Saturday .

After a session on the spiritual and scientific importance of cows for humans, Devnani stated that cows not only inhale oxygen, they also emit it--without offering an explanation as to how they do it. He went on to mention the antiradioactivity properties of cow dung, again without saying how he had reached such a conclusion.

Devnani's home-grown logic is contrary to what science says. A UN Food and Agricultural Organisation study titled Livestock's Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options, released in 2006, say that livestock contribute more to the greenhouse gases that cause global warming than cars. Iron, lead, concrete, etc., is required for absorbing radioactive material, whereas cow dung contains light elements like carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous. I have not come across any such research in physical science, “said Sardar Singh, a former head of physics department at Rajasthan University in Jaipur.

The minister's educational qualification is listed on the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly web portal as BE (Electrical).

After explaining the spiritual importance of cows, Devnani moved on to matters close to the ground, and his heart. “During ploughing, a cow adds urine and dung to the field which acts as fertiliser,“ he said. A few rough calculations later, he stated that one cow could produce enough excreta to make seven acres of land fertile and its urine could protect 100 acres of land from insecticides.

“Merely going close to a cow will relieve you from cold and cough,“ he said and informed the audience that cow dung contained vitamin B, the deficiency of which can lead to general weakness, a weak nervous system and insomnia among humans.

“The benefits of cow urine as medicine are known to all. The burning of cow dung makes the environment free of harmful micro-organisms and mosquitoes and removes odours, making the place fit for living, “he said. The minister reiterated the need to adopt the use of gas plants based on cow dung to meet energy demands.

He slammed society for ignoring the scientific and spiritual importance of cows in its attempt to appear more modern. “It is very distressing that people have forgotten the traditional and scientific value of cows. It is the duty of society, especially the youngsters, to come forward and preserve cows as they work hard for cleanliness and global warming,“ he signed off.