India: online cow dung patties selling like hot cakes

29.12.2015 - Tony Henderson

India: online cow dung patties selling like hot cakes
Patties drying on roof, Narhi village in Bihar (Image by Tony Henderson)

There is an old saying, “I will believe it when cows fly”, well, it’s not quite like that but how about cow dung patties flying off the virtual shelves after online corporate marketing campaigns?

My Pressenza colleague in Dhaka, Bangladesh, reports on the phenomenon in India where people are in hot pursuit of cow dung as fuel cakes on the Indian continent at online marketplaces.

“With the holiday season in full swing, there is one unusual item flying off the virtual shelves: Cow dung patties, that are selling like hot cakes,” Shamsul Basunia says.

Shamsul continues: “The patties – cow poop mixed with hay, made mainly made by women in rural areas and used to fuel fires – have long been available in India’s villages, but now online retailers including Amazon and eBay are reaching out to the country’s ever-increasing urban population with the product.

“Some retailers say they’re offering discounts for large orders. Some customers are asking for gift wrapping. In India, where Hindus worship cows as sacred, cow dung cakes have been used for centuries to fuel fires for cooking or in Hindu rituals. Across rural India, piles of drying cow dung are ubiquitous. Many Hindus regarding the cow as the living symbol of their religion. Hindu welfare organizations run gaushalas, or cow shelters, in many cities where abandoned cows found wandering the
streets are given food and shelter. Feeding a cow is seen by many Hindus as a way to appease or approach the dieties – and get one’s wishes fulfilled.”

To severely criticise this marketing ploy might seem to some making a mountain out of a molehill but what might be a novelty – not to under rate the genuine use by Hindus of the product – to some, hits the rural village user hard.

What was once a common and readily available necessity could be priced beyond the means of the subsistence hand-to-mouth lifestyles on many poor people.

With money as a bottom line as has become the norm, and not the human being and its essentials, the so-called ‘free market’ and commercialism rides roughshod over ordinary people’s rights, and this is a case in point.

Is it extreme to ask that the Indian government establishes regulations preventing the use of essential fuels – the cow dung pattie – from such online sales in an effort to leave what’s left of village infrastructures intact under its dire pressures from urbanisation and cultural invasions?

At Pressenza we think not.

Categories: Asia, Economics
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