The claim by Ms. Pragya Thakur, BJP candidate from Bhopal, that her cancer was cured by cow urine has once again brought to the fore the issue whether medical science in our country will be governed by myths or by scientific evidence based approach. Dr S S Rajput, a surgeon at Ram Manohar Lohia Institute of Medical Sciences in Lucknow has confirmed that he had done three radical operations on her breasts to get her rid of cancer. The doctor’s statement has exposed the claim of Sadhvi about cow urine as a cure of her breast cancer.
Benefits of cow urine for human consumption have been propagated since long. The propaganda has increased manifold after the present government came to power. Any item to be consumed by us must be proven for its usefulness and harmlessness. This is even more important for the products labeled to be used for medicinal purpose.
Modern scientific system of medicine enhanced the knowledge gained in the past and developed it further on the basis of new scientific innovations. Anatomy and Physiology made us understand the basic structure and functioning of the life systems. Our body has an elaborate system to utilise whatever is needed and to excrete those materials which are either not required or are harmful.
It is a common knowledge that part of the food which we consume is digested and rest is excreted through the gastrointestinal track. After the food has been metabolised in the body, the waste products are excreted in urine. The chemical composition of urine of mammals is essentially the same. That cow urine is different from human urine sans evidence.
Urine is a liquid produced by the kidneys to remove waste products from the bloodstream. Basic composition of cow/human urine are Water, Urea, Sodium, Chloride, Sulfate, Potassium, Phosphate, Creatinine, Ammonia, Uric Acid, Calcium, Magnesium etc. Since the composition of human and cow urine are similar, it is difficult to believe that with similar composition how only the cow urine is useful for human body?
To get scientific information of the utility of the cow urine and cow dung for the human consumption, information under RTI was obtained from the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, government of India. They replied that “the information is not maintained by this CPIO of cattle Division”. Simultaneously same information was sought from the Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (GADVASU), Ludhiana.
The information received from 22 departments of the GADVASU denied any such information with them. It is worth mentioning here that GADVASU, Ludhiana, has been ranked first among the 14 state veterinary universities in the country, as per the ranking of agricultural universities and research institutes conducted by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi, for 2016-17.
Thus there is no scientific information available about the usefulness of cow urine for human health at the highest level of academics in the veterinary. On the contrary some studies have reported toxic effects of cow urine concoction. Moreover cow urine consumed in crude form could be infectious and may lead to serious health problems.
Many scientists have already exposed the claims by Baba Ramdev and others that the cow urine destroys the ‘poison like Betadine’. They show in their experiment that the pure water discoloured by adding Betadine to it is again purified by adding cow urine into it.
This occurs with any urine because of the chemical reaction of Sodium Thiosulphate present in the urine which reacts with Tri-Iodide ion present in Betadine. When the two react there is formation of Sodium Iodide which is a colourless solution and this reaction is same with any urine.
According to veteran historian D N Jha, the cow and its products (milk, curd, clarified butter, dung and urine) or their mixture called Panchagavya assumed a purificatory role during the medieval period. But here too several Dharmasastra forbid its use by women and the lower castes because if a Shudra drinks cow urine he goes to hell.
Therefore one has to be to be skeptical about the role of cow urine for human health. The evidence does not hold true on that. It is more of a belief system than science. The propaganda about the benefits of the cow urine in the recent days seems to be connected to the Hindutva Agenda of the RSS and its outfits. It is part of their strategy to push the society back to the medieval times.
It is high time that the Ministry of Pharmaceuticals as well as the Ministry of Health intervene to stop this propaganda. It is for the election commission to see whether spreading of such obscurantist unscientific ideas meets the requirement to cancel her nomination.
Dr Arun Mitra is a freelance journalist. Views are personal.