Working Years with Dr. Verghese Kurien

By R S Tolia • Ring Side View • 17 Sep 2012

( Published is The Garhwal Post- September 17-18, 2012)

Passing away of Dr Verghese Kurien at 1:15 am on 9th September  morning, in a Nadiad Hospital, near Anand ( Gujarat ), is going to be mourned by millions of Indian farmers organized through their co-operatives as well as lakhs of those who worked the world-reknowned system designed and managed ( Amul Pattern ) by this technocrat well-wisher of the hard toiling farming community. This writer happens to belong to the latter group of his admirers cum co-workers. For many like me, his ardent admirers, he was a living example of what could be achieved through sheer dedication, hard-work, a transparent working style and highest standards of integrity for transformation of rural India. He was a firm believer of handing over of modern technology and management in the hands of farmers themselves rather than the middlemen. He was a known stickler for strict integrity and a tough, no non-sense task master. He also did not suffer fools but was indulgent towards simple hill – people. His gift of the Lal Kuan Dairy Embro-Transplant Plant( ETP ) is a testimony of the latter.                                                                                                                                                                              

Operation Flood Phase III in Uttar Pradesh 

This writer had the opportunity to work with Dr Verghese Kurien, when he held the command of the National Dairy Development Board ( NDDB ) as its Chairman, as the Managing Director of the Provincial Cooperative Dairy Federation ( PCDF ) for nearly three years ( January 1990 to June 1992). Dr Kurien, as is well known, guided the destiny of NDDB from 1968 to 1998. My association with him ran parallel to the Third Phase of what was known as the Operation Flood, which covered the decade 1985 to 1996. Incidently, the First Phase was from 1970-79 and the Second Phase from 1981 to 1985. In 1998 when he was about to quit NDDB an attempt was made by the bureaucracy to wrest away the control of NDDB but due to his intervention Dr Amrita Patel, who had worked as Managing Director of NDDB for many years, succeeded to the post. It is another story that in 2002 Dr Amrita Patel parted his company and made an attempt to change the very character of dairy co-operative movement. By this time Uttarakhand had been created in year 2000 and this writer again became a witness to the tense situation that existed between the group led by Dr Amrita Patel and the one that still toed the Kurien-line.

Last Meeting with Dr Kurian, IIRMA Workshop

Being close to both the individuals this writer was invited as a former MD of a State Apex Dairy Federation, one of the chosen three MDs, to a Workshop organised in the Indian Institute of Rural Management, ( IRMA) Anand, in year 2002. I remember Dr Amrita Patel did not attend this important Workshop but sent me a message to join her and Mr Tikkoo, the new MD, NDDB, over a lunch. During this lunch chairman Dr Patel and MD NDDB, Mr Tikku shared with me the new direction in which NDDB, and hence the dairy co-operative movement was being proposed to be taken and its opposition by Dr Kurien. According to the duo with the liberalisation of the Indian economy time had come to take the dairy co-operative movement into corporate line, if it was to compete successfully with the big international dairy brands like the Nestle.

Post lunch, it was the turn of Dr Kurien to convince all of us that the new line that NDDB was following was a sure prescription of playing into the hands of the Big Brands of international dairy world.  According to him, the wisdom lay in still retaining our faith in the capacity and loyalty of the Indian farmers. Even though I no more represented a big player of co-operative dairy, namely the Parag brand of Uttar Pradesh PCCDF but a toddler called Aanchal, representing a fledgling of a new splintered brand from Uttaranchal ( 2002 ), it was indeed very touching for me to be briefed by both the giants of Indian dairy co-operative world – Dr Kurien, and his equally illustrious protégé for several decades, Dr Amrita Desai, on the new course being charted out for NDDB. I did consider it to be a privilege to be a confidant of both the sparring groups, and it also made me realize that  my innings in Uttar Pradesh as its MD of PCDF after all were not a total wash out and it must have  left some imprints in the statistical dairy annals of NDDB. With all modesty, years 1990 – 92, witnessed, a major watershed period for Uttar Pradesh dairy history when dairy cooperative sector added a massive processing capacity and broke all past liquid milk marketing records by a huge margin ( registering an annual growth rate of 29% ! These were the turn-around years for Northern India dairy states, UP leading the pack by a huge margin.

Dr Kurien, who continued to be the Chairman of Board of Directors of both IRMA and the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation ( Amul ), promised all of us that if NDDB did not help them the GMMFC had enough resources to support us ( today GMMF has an annual turn over of Rs 11,000 crores ), which was quite true. This was the stage where GMMF was helping the Sri Lankan Government in setting up their very own Amul pattern of dairy cooperative network. To us, rather me, it appeared as a rather sad situation, to see two good past friends like Dr Kurien and Dr Amrita Patel, stand apart like two different poles of ideologies, not even on talking terms. To be fair to Dr Kurien, even at this advance stage, his faith in the loyalty and capability of the Indian farmers, had remained unshaken and he had full faith that NDDB should not deter from its earlier approach and stand by the Indian dairy producer and the dairy cooperatives. It is his unshaken faith in the strength of the Indian cooperative movement that endeared him to many of us, who have had long long innings in the cooperative world. Like Premier Jawaharal lal Nehru he was one of the staunchest supporters of co-operative movement.

Tribhvan Das Patel and Lal Bahadur Shashtri

In his numerous meetings, at the Anand headquarters of the National Dairy Development Board, when all the Managing Directors used to assemble for reviews of Operation Flood or meetings at Delhi or his visits to the states, he will not fail to recall how he was patronised by the founder Chairman of two- village dairy cooperatives in Khera district of Gujarat, later known as Anand, late Tribhuvan Das Patel, and he would reiterate the exact words uttered by him. Premier Lal Bahadur Shastri, was another person, he would often recall, especially how after spending a night in one of the cooperative villages of Khera, all by himself with a farmer-family, the next day he requested Dr Kurien how Amul could be up-scaled all  over the country. This direction gave birth to Operation Flood, or the White Revolution, and created NDDB, which ultimately helped India relegate the United States of America ( USA ) to the second position in highest milk production in the world.

On my return to Dehradun, as the FRDC, I filed a long Report on the proceedings of this important Workshop and what stand Uttaranchal as a state should take on this controversy and a copy of which was lodged in the Secretariat Library then under establishment. NDDB under the scheme of things was trying to strike MoUs with various State Dairy Federation, where NDDB would help them improve the quality and effectiveness of their marketing wings. In a way, it was an infringement in the autonomy of the dairy co-operative sector, but NDDB, not a co-operative itself, did not feel that it was doing any harm to the very concept of a three –tier cooperative structure of India.  NDDB believed that the marketing network of the dairy co-operative required to be professionalised and this could only be done through such MoUs. Uttaranchal did go ahead with the experiment, ultimately this was to turn out as an impractical experiment. Be that as it may, this Workshop held at IRMA turned out to be my last meeting with the only man whom I have admired and loved working with, for what he has done for the Indian farming community.

The impact left on the developing countries of Asia, Latin America and Africa by AMUL and Dr Kurien  was huge. I remember one day when I asked a co-Commonwealth Fellow, while studying in Reading University some years later, as to what could possibly be his dream. This Fellow, a Head of a major African State’s Dairy Development organisation, replied without losing a moment –  “ A visit to AMUL in Gujarat and meeting with Dr Kurien, I have heard so much about both and it reads like a fairy tale to me, just unbelievable !”. NDDB and AMUL have received visitors from the Heads of State of almost all developing nations of the world and the Amul story continues. 

A Stormy Introduction

My differences with Sugar-cane Secretary, Akhand Pratap Singh, had prompted me, then as Cane Commissioner of   UP, to proceed on study leave and for the last 10 months I was enjoying my long delayed research work of my PhD thesis in the State Archives at Niralanagar, Lucknow. From Butler Palace I took a riksha daily to Niralanagar, where the State Archive was situated, and back home again by another riksha. This was my first sabbatical and much of my pre-mutiny records consultations became possible and thanks to this break I was able to complete my PhD in  1996. It was on one such evening after I returned from my archival work that I was visited by one Dr Bisht of NDDB State Office and he took an assurance from me that if requested I should not say no to the offer. Dr Bisht confided with me that I had been short-listed by NDDB for posting as the next Managing Director of the Provincial Cooperative Dairy Federation ( PCDF), as well as the ex-officio Secretary Dairy Development and Milk Commissioner, a three-in-one post.  

This three-in-one posting in the Dairy sector, I came to know much later, was also a compromise struck with Dr Kurien, who had a great dislike for a service known as the IAS. UP was a beneficiary state under Operation Flood Phase Three ( 1985 -96 ) and already 5 precious years had gone by without much happening in the field.  Nearly 5 years had been consumed in realigning the PCDF through recruitment of new professional staff and restructuring of the entire outfit. The new MD who had barely been there, one of my batch-mates, had been picked up by the Cabinet Secretariat for sensitive posting, and resultantly the post was again going to fall vacant. This precisely was also an irritant for Dr Kurian as he was very anxious that whoever was picked up for such a crucial post should stay there for a minimum of 3 years if not longer. The IAS alone could fit the bill but there was no guarantee that the chosen incumbent was going to remain there long enough. UP, well known for this ephemeral kind of tenurial guarantee was not a blue-eyed boy of Dr Kurien, and he had strongly remonstrated with the Ministry of Agriculture. When accosted by the Ministry APC Raj Bhargava squarely blamed the NDDB bureaucracy for the lack of progress and he had stated that the delay lay in the mercurial processing at the NDDB Head Office and UP was not at fault at all. There was no love lost between the UP APC Branch which handled dairy sector and the NDDB who were spearheading the Operation Flood. A high-level meeting was already fixed to take stock of the situation at the Agriculture Ministry, which was being attended by Chairman NDDB and APC Raj Bhargava, to be personally presided over by Secretary Agriculture, Govt of India, and it was at this stage that I was asked to take over and be ready to hold the brief for the claims made by Uttar Pradesh.

Although it was peak of wintry January in 1990 but the Conference room of Krishi Mantralaya in New Delhi was rife with expectations of hot exchanges between a no-nonsense Chairman of NDDB and an equally no-holds barred APC of UP, Raj Bhargav, equally well known for his temper. Having been a part of the APC Branch on many an occasions in the past e.g. co-operatives twice over, rural development, wasteland management/forest etc I had tried my best to prepare a fighting but truthful case on behalf of UP dairy department.

The exchanges that took place in this memorable high-level meeting gave me a fore-taste of a missionary called Dr Kurien, and his extremely sharp and prompt appraisal qualities. This meeting ended with the NDDB staff being on the back-foot, if not entirely at fault, as one senior staff made just one mistake, to be immediately seized up and corrected by the NDDB Chair by correcting him :  “ in dairy sector  we do not create and build processing capacities based on annual procurement-averages but on flushes.” This was my initiation into the world of Operation Flood and the culture and the world that had been single-handedly created by this legen, Dr Kurien, which only excelled in pure excellence, in any thing it took up. Mediocrity and lack of integrity were virtues which received no reprieve, no re-hearing. Later, as we all know Operation Golden Flow, SAFAL, Salt etc followed, of course not all as successful as Milk, but to a large extent breaking down monopolies which strangulated these growing sectors of Indian rural economy. I was also personally involved with the Tree Growers’ Cooperative movement, which later evolved into a Ecologocical society. However, that story is left for some other appropriate occasion. For this a personal call came to me from Dr Kurian himself, and there was no question to say no to his offer, and by this time I had moved on to the Hill Development department, a different charge. Dr Kurian also believed in long term associations and he built his work on mutual loyalties, a hall mark of all successful ventures.

IRMA and NDDB

Being new to the sector also knowing that this first-round victory needed to be consolidated while the iron was still hot I organised a visit to NDDB with the new APC, Mr Saxena, who was also new both to the APC set up and dairy sector. At IRMA, yet another creation which had visible impact of its Chairman, Dr Kurien. We saw how innovatively the faculty were selected i.e. through taking a live session in class by the applicant Lecturers, the selection board also participating in the live class session. The student also had a say in awarding marks to the applicant Lecturer ! NDDB was awash with the impact of the meeting which had taken place at the Krishi Bhawan, every senior Manager wishing to have a separate session with the two of us, explaining their point of view, trying to prove that their Division was not at fault. We very patiently heard all of them. This also taught us a lesson as to how work is organized at the NDDB level, how every one works 24×7 and how slack indeed we had been ourselves !

Results ? The State co-ordinator NDDB, Lucknow was recalled back to NDDB headquarters changed by another experienced hand, GM Finance Agarwal got his marching orders, and  many others received their individual pink-chips and thereafter things speeded –up with a break-neck speed. At our own end the impact was no less earth-shaking as we ourselves re-organized ourselves and started developing a new work-culture at the PCDF headquarters and out at the Milk Unions level. On my part I commenced preparation of Work manuals, systematising all related works, paying attention to long over due audit reports and of course, a intensive round of field, visiting each and every Milk Union, every potential district, revamping the Dairy development sector, which was outside the fold of Operation Flood. From a hitherto adversarial relationship the equation between the PCDF and State Coordinator, NDDB, staffchanged into that of comraderie and a joint team, overnight. It was a win- win situation for both the organisations From that of a spy of NDDB the State Co-ordinator now received welcome from the MD, PCDF as a Friend, Guide and Philosopher..

IRMA courses were encouraged and innovative incentives were offered to our newly recruited professionals, some 250 plus of them, young boys and girls. As against being discouraged to take IIRMA Rural Management courses we now offered them leave to appear in IIRMA tests, leave with pay for joining IIRMA professional courses. And above all, the Milk Union of their choice once they returned after successful completion of IRMA course. I was happy to post three such IIRMA graduates on their return, before I relinquished my charge in June 1992. This created a very positive climate for further and in-service learning in PCDF.

Revamping UP Milk Board

While PCDF was so activized, put on its paces I thought it was rather naive to neglect those districts which were not covered by Operation Flood, some 23 of them, including the eight Hill districts. These non-OF district were called the Milk Board districts. Interestingly, while the Lucknow Milk Union, one of the premier OF districts was the oldest Milk Union of the state, it was Lal Kuan Milk Union, Naini Tal district which was the second oldest in the entire state. Dr Kurian had taken the Chairman of PCDF, Mr Virendra Rautela, chairman of Lal Kuan Milk Union, as one of the Directors of NDDB.

It was well known in NDDB circles that Dr Kurian had a soft corner for Hill regions and he specially liked Mr Virendra Rautela, for his quite hill-men like simplicity. On being asked what NDDB could do for hill dairy farmers Mr Rautela remarked that our cattle stock lacked productivity and if something could be done to upgrade it. Dr Kurian ordered a state of the art Embryo-Transplant Plant ( ETP) for the Lal Kuan Milk Union and also got trained Dr Kamal Singh, who today heads Uttarakhand Livestock Board , as its CEO, and who went on to create a National Records in single-flush conception ! The Milk Board districts were also put on a reform curve consisting of several steps.

Mulayam Singh Yadav had taken over as Chief Minister and I commenced by closing the office of District Dairy Officer of Etawa district, his home turf, along with 16 more such non-OF districts. All these officers were put on Milk Route Survey mould in as many new districts. This was perhaps one of the boldest moves in the entire history of Milk Board and brought in 16 new districts, following the Amul pattern of dairy development. In the State plan dairy was added to District sector, thus bringing huge budgetary support for each of these new districts of non-OF into OF mould of dairy development. Thus, while the OF districts were revamped new many non-OF districts were also added bringing in state budget and levying of revised Cess on dairy development, which was used for development of dairy infrastructure. In short, the office of Milk Board also got converted from a regulatory office to one now involved in challenging the Operation Flood districts. From just 23 OF districts the Amul pattern of dairy development was thus extended to double that number and that meant a resurgence of dairy development, all over Uttar Pradesh. The eight Hill districts also received extra attention in the field of dairy development, through funding by the State government. These changes impacted on OF progress also and the changes in UP became a role model for the NDDB and other States which were recipient of Operation Flood benefits.

 

 

Write – ups  on Dr Kurien generally tend to concentrate on macro details of Operation Flood e.g.  investments, annual turn – over of cooperative marketing institutions like GCMMF or institutions of excellences like Indian Institute of Rural Management, Anand ( IRMA ), Beedaj Buffaloe Centre, Dairy Infrastructure Manufacturing Co and so on,  whereas for a common man his real success lay in setting up fail-safe systems like Amul pattern of dairy procurement and its disposal, strictly following principles of co-operation, e.g. equity, democracy, transparency and loyalty to co-operative principles.

Amul Dairy Co-operatives

It was the co-operative milk collection methodology developed in the two dairy co-operative in the Khera district of Gujarat which was standardised and operationalized wherever Amul pattern was made applicable. Simply stated on a pre-determined milk route, identified scientifically after a survey of the route and the villagers prepared to work on co-operative principles milk producers cooperatives are registered, milk is collected twice daily, samples of milk are kept both at the village level and a sample is also sent to the central processing unit and based on the fat content of the milk so collected, payments are made fortnightly or monthly, as may be decided. The staff who collects mil is a local trained into book –keeping and milk testing and he is a functionary of the dairy society. The village cooperatives are federated at the district level and the district outfit, a central cooperative, is called Milk Co-operative Union; its Board Members are elected democratically from amongst the chairpersons of the village cooperatives. The office bearers have to be producers of milk and if any office bearers fails to deliver milk to his/her primary society below a set minimum number of days, he/she is automatically disqualified to hold any office.

This is how the dairy co-operatives have been saved from the politicians and have been preserved only for the producers farmers. This is one major departure where Amul dairy co-operatives differ from other agricultural co-operatives. The audit is compulsory and members get “bonus” on pro-rata basis of units of milk supplied to the cooperatives. Society members are free to decide how to invest in co-operative education or any of the villager welfare activities. It is a common site to visit any dairy-operative village and find all financial and physical details, year-wise, painted on the four walls of the society building. Absolute transparency in financial transactions, payment by check and so on are the hall mark of a Amul dairy co-operative, any where in India.

Loyalty to their co-operatives and co-operative principles have held the dairy co-operative farmers and their movement intact. This has been the biggest contribution of Dr Kurien to the co-operative world, the Amul pattern of co-operatives, a 100%  producer-centric co-operative.

Use of Modern -Technology : Complaint redressal

Much before the Right to Information Act, 2005 taught us the value and benefits of transparency, it was the Amul pattern of working, namely use of modern technology and reporting mechanism, as well as updated auditing of financial accounts and their open sharing with the ordinary members, that came into practice in our country-side through the Amul pattern of co-operative working. It is an all pervasive use of technology in data generation, data analysis and transmission of data electronically, without any fear of human manipulation that has differentiated the dairy sector from the other agricultural co-operatives. This brings in absolute credibility and confidence in financial operations. The double-axis fat measurement, which determines the milk pricining is equally a case of application of scientific principles to agricultural operations. Milk procurement, pricing etc are all generated on computer and its a Computer –sheet that is sent back to the forwarding milk society. The sample testing results are also all marked through machines.

The complaint redrassal is also scientifically organised, as the Milk Van which collects milk also carries a Compliant Box, which are quickly examined at the milk collection centre and the complaints are redressed with the help of a quick follow up action. It is as much the “concern for complaint” that binds the member to the organisation, the society at the village level or at the Milk Union level. Customer- care, or member –care, manifest in members’ loyalty to his organisation, the dairy co-operative, easily is the main hall mark of this world class system, as it is this virtue that has made Amul the world class brand that it is today.

National, State Milk-Grids and Milk Price Stabilisation

Operation Flood, as we have seen already, was made operational in a gradual way. NDDB after its establishment in 1970 operationalised Operation Flood, also known as the White Revolution, in three phases : in 1970-79 Phase metropolitan cities like Bombay, Delhi, Chennai and Calcutta were targeted ( Mother Dairies ), a take off on how Khera co-operatives leveraged the huge Bombay milk demand, it was completed at a cost of Rs 116 crores. Phase II ( 1981-85 ) targeted 42.5 lakh milk producers of 43,000 villages and Phase III (  1985-96 ) expanded the Operation Flood in potential districts in other States, of which UP was one. This systematic and phased programme ultimately catapulted India into become the world’s biggest milk producer country, relegating the mighty USA to the second slot. Today India produces nearly 17 % of the world’s milk production. It took India nearly four decades to become the top producers of milk in the world and Dr Kurien played a stellar role in this outstanding achievement.

Just as India is grided for electric supply, Dr Kurien has also replicated the same model for production of liquid milk. Milk, a perishable commodity, can not be stored long once its produced, it is therefore pushed from the rural hinterlands into urban areas where the majority of the consumer resides. The National Milk Grid ensures this supply through an inter-State arrangement, mediated by NDDB, and the contributing states get suitable margins for feeding into the National Grid. Milk production in winter and summers has a ratio of 1.6 : 1, and while in winters milk production rises, consumption slums and in summers the position is reversed. The gap between demand and supply is managed through the National Grid and State Milk Grids as well as conversion of milk into milk-powder, during winter months, and its re=constitution by reversing the process, during the peak demand season of summers. UP established two huge milk –powder plants at Meerut and Varanasi, respectively, which have a daily capacity to convert 3 lakh litres of liquid milk into milk-powder. These arrangements have brought about a rationality in milk prices throughout the year when price fluctuation are guided by the demand supply gap. While the private sector exploits the milk-producers by buying high in summer and paying low, if at all, during winter flush, the co-operatives ensure that the milk producers get a reasonable milk price throughout the year.

The National and State Milk Grids, through the Mother Dairy chain of dairies in the metropolitan cities of India and the state Milk Unions through their chain of district Milk Unions ensure that while the producer gets a reasonable price for their production the consumers also are saved from the vagaries of processed milk prices. Co-operatives thus not only safeguard the interests of the producers but also ensures controlling the milk prices in the urban areas. Inter-linking the surplus regions with the demand centres of the country for an essential commodity like milk, in a vast country such as India, is an Herculean task which only a visionary like Dr Kurien could possibly plan and achieve. Thus, it is not only the farmers who need to remember and thank Dr Kurien but also all those who today receive pure processed milk, art reasonable prices, who ought to be thankful to him.

Cattle, Cattle-feed and Animal-care

Amul pattern of dairy development has many components which to a lay-man may not be visible. To borrow the words of our former APC TSR Subramanium ( who later on went on to become the Cabinet Secretary in Government of India ), though mentioned in some other context, the Amul pattern is the best model of a “ Pre – production to Post – Marketing ” chain of management. Here, the Pre-production ( of Milk ) aspects consisted of caring for the real producer ( milch cattle )  by way of its genetics, fodder, health care, literally the works. No amount of care could be considered too much. The Beedaj Cattle Breeding Farm undertook frontier research in buffaloe and cattle genetics, Cattle Feed received high attention, as did the Urea Blocks, projects looked after the Green Fodder and then there were seminars and trainings aimed at improving cattle –care. Mobile vet Units were also tried out, not every where very successfully, but then every activity was based on sustainability principle. “ You ( the farmer-member ) received a service, if you were prepared to pay ( no free-bees),” such marketing principles were very much the part of NDDB culture, all ingrained by that technocrat, Dr Kurien. To the few of us, who really took the entire movement in all seriousness, these were a few golden practices which became our main learning lesson, to be applied to any thing we attempted to do for the farmer. As an MD of a State Milk Federation you cared about the financial health of the undertaking.

It was this concern which took me no time in deciding to hand over a major liability of PCDF, the loss making Jersey Breeding Farm, at Rai Bareilly to the care of NDDB, when such an offer came to me through Dr Bannerjee, the Delhi Office NDDB GM. APC TSR Subramanium fully endorsed my decision, as NDDB only had the interest of UP cattle breeders at heart in taking over. It was this mutual trust that had been developed between the various State federations and the NDDB which worked through synergy, and much of it was the handiwork of Dr Kurien. This revamped Jersey Farm was soon being used to supply improved Jersey hybrid frozen-semen under the Artificial Insemination programme of the state, while a loss making entry from PCDF balance sheet was thus taken off, making it look healthier, as even our two  Training Centres had turned into “profit”–making ( a dirty word in co-operative lexicon ) centres !  Today, if our Kalsi Red Sindhi Farm is doing well I would unhesitatingly credit the success to that culture, which was spread during the Operation Flood days. Dr Kamal Singh, CEO Uttarakhand Livestock Board, just happens to be one of the many eminent veterinarians who stand committed to what Dr Kurien envisaged for livestock population of the country. During the implementation of DASP World Bank project in Uttarakhand many of the OF learnings we had occasion to introduce, only the credit lines appear missing. I remember when the Artificial Insemination rates were increased many-fold, AH Minister was successfully brought about to agree to the increased rates, as being sustainable in the long run. Invisibly Dr Kurien had left behind such a rich legacy of how things needed to be done that continued to enthuse and guide all those who had had occasion to work with him, learn from him. The Green Fodder project which SRTT Himotthan today implements in Uttarakhand fully reflects  the concern that Operation Flood project taught us to imbibe. It has its beginnings in the ambitious Fodder project of Almora, that we commenced under Milk Board schemes.

This very concern prompted us to implement a major women-centric Mahila Dairy project, funded through the STEP project of Women & Child Development Ministry, modelled after the Patna Dairy project. It rose out of a remonstrance from Ms Uma Pillai, Joint Secretary of the same Ministry, who belonged to UP cadre, to the effect that while Dairy development had done quite well in UP it had  not doing anything specifically for rural women ! Thanks to her assistance we commenced a new project with 90 % assistance from the Ministry and it ultimately did several rounds, each including more districts and some of it even spilled over to the new state of Uttarakhand. Dr Yogendra Narain, similarly, who had recently assumed charge of the Greater Noida and read about our Women Dairy’s successes, close to Delhi, wished to retain its rural setting through Women managed cooperative dairies. Concern for good stock of cattle for farmers encouraged us to commence yet another innovative project, the Saghan Mini Dairy project. This project ultimately became so popular, that by the time I was to leave the dairy sector for Gorakhpur Commissioner-ship, Chief Minister Kalyan Singh had deemed it worth inclusion in his BJP Election Manifesto !

First Hill Dairy Conference in Almora

As I have to bring this obituary to a closure I can not do without coming to my favourite topic, the Hill districts of UP. At this stage, however, I had absolutely no clue that my interlude as Commissioner Gorakhpur Division would be abruptly cut short  and I would soon be saddled with the responsibility of looking after Hill Development Department, as soon as my previous APC, TSR Subramanium took over as the new Chief Secretary of UP ! Along side Operation Flood Mission we had taken up took  Amul pattern of dairy development to the remaining Milk Board districts, and this included our eight hill districts. We took up expansion Almora and Lal Kuan dairies, setting up new chilling Centres at Srinagar, Khatima, Bhowali and Bageshwar. Foundations for new dairy processing plants were laid at Simli ( Chamoli ) while several new milk-routes were surveyed for places like Champawat and Pithoragarh.

Through a major milk-marketing campaign the “Parag” pouch- milk was offered to Lord Badrinath, while a chain of liquid milk concessionaires was established all along the entire Meerut-Badrinath route ( the Pilgrim Route ), to sustain this offering to the border regions. The Srinagar chilling plant, set up during RK Dar’s visionary tenure, soon became functional. Innovative liquid milk sales campaigns, recovering the used milk-pouches to be replaced by a attractive Lottery coupons, fired every ones imagination and pushed liquid milk sales sky high! Such moves brought laurels to the PCDF functionaries from NDDB and our marketing managers received invitations for lectures in IIMs, sharing their milk- marketing strategies !

To demonstrate that dairy development was equally crucial and possible in the mountain regions and that dairying in hills is perhaps more important than even hill agriculture, an ambitious Dairy Conference of all Hill States was organised, the first such Conference at Almora. While researching for an article on Hill Dairying  came across a statement by the Imperial Dairy Consultant who famously remarked in 1930s that  “  in hill regions farmers do not raise cattle for milk, milk is a by product, the main product being the cow-dung so very crucial for hill agriculture !”.

Thus following the cues provided by the systems and principles of Operation Flood we introduced dairying into the hill districts of Uttarakhand, becoming conscious of the role and importance of the so called non-descript hill cattle, and in the process of its other products, its urine its dung. The latter used as compost, the only nutrient hill farmer knew for generations. Some where, the seeds of Organic Farming and Hill Agriculture, could thus be traced to those dairy development days of yore where, one tried to ensure ushering While Revolution in the hills district as well even though they were, typically so, were not considered good candidates for a successful application of the Amul pattern of co-operative dairying. Organic farming thus, at least for us, also becomes a gift of Dr Kurien, as without the express concern for poor hill cattle, organic farming would not have received our attention, as would be seen from my early notes when reflecting on introduction of organic farming in Uttarakhand ( Food For Thought & Action, Field Trip Report, 9 June 2001, pages 41- 46  ). While touring country-side with Binita Shah, who brought in this concept of farming to our state, and Dr Bhagat Burfal, I was still a dairy development man at heart, who looked at cattle as a wonderful gift to the human kind. The Majhkali field was to develop later as a training centre for organic farmers. If I had the option of doing it again I would like to ride the “Pre-production to Post-marketing” line of approach to each of our development interventions in the mountain regions. I continue to hold on to that precious learning from my dairy development days. Wherever I have been posted I have endeavoured my best to see that all the learning, all systems must be duly and assiduously documented and left behind for those who come after you.

Massive documentation that had been left behind by me in Co-operatives, Rural Development, Cane Development, Dairy Development, Administrative Academy of Administration Naini Tal and even in Uttarakhand Information Commission is just a response to the need for developing a systemic working habit, the most important lesson one learned through mentors such as Dr Verghese Kurien.

A Memorial for Dr Verghese Kurien in Uttarakhand

Soon after formation of the new state I headed for NDDB for reviving my old contacts and prepared a long Monograph on progress of dairy development in Uttarakhand comparing it with all other 10 mountain States and submitted it personally to Dr Amrita Patel, Chairperson NDDB. This Monograph shows that by 2001 in all respects i.e. number of dairy co-operatives, farmer members, milk procurement and liquid milk marketing Uttaranchal in 2001 was way ahead of any other mountain state. While it was some consolation because many of the activities were still those which had been commenced as in Milk Board days the feeling remained that we could have done far better. This Monograph makes many suggestions to NDDB e.g. establishment of a Centre for Integrated Mountain Dairy Development, with the objective of development of a module for dairy development in the mountain regions, development of mountain cattle breeds, manufacture of vaccines, development and production of perennial alpine grass seeds, fodder trees etc. ( This Monograph was later reproduced in my book, Food For Thought & Action,  Issues for Dairy Development in a Mountain State Uttaranchal : 2001, pages  24 – 40, 2004 ).

While I remained state’s FRDC ( 2000-2003 ) I was officially responsible but after I became Chief Secretary in 2003 it was not possible to pay that much attention to the dairy development sector. How I wish now that I had stayed there longer than I actually did  ( 2000-2003) ! I continue to hold that under diversification of agriculture dairy development on Amul pattern continues to be one development intervention which has the potential to do good to the farming community, as has been demonstrated in thousands of villages in Gujarat and OF districts of India. Considering Dr Verghese Kurien’s monumental contributions to the over all economy of a resurgent India it is only befitting that there should be some befitting memorial to cherish his contributions.

My humble recommendation would be to name the revamped Red Sindhi Farm at Kalsi after him as Dr Verghese Kurien Red Sindhi Farm, to remind ourselves constantly of the faith Dr Kurien had in the Indian farmers’ innate farming capabilities and the milch-cattle route that he chose to demonstrate this to the entire world. 

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I worked closely with Dr Verghese Kurien and Dr Amrita Desai as a part of Operation Flood team in Phase III ( Jan 1990  – June 1992 ), in Uttar Pradesh. As Managing Director of Provincial Cooperative Dairy Federation ( PCDF ) I was instrumental in establishing or expanding milk processing capacity in as many as 23 districts of UP under Operation Flood. In addition to being MD, I was also the Secretary & Commissioner Dairy / Milk and established two new funded projects, one for rural women and other for milch cattle distribution. Milk marketing also touched a new record high and PCDF registered the fastest growth rate in the entire country. The Noida vertical dairy and the Powder Milk processing Plants of Meerut and Varanasi were also set up during this period. Through two dairy projects, UP Mahila Cooperative Dairy Project and Saghan Dairy Animal Projects subsidy-free loans worth more than Rs 125 crores were also disbursed through dairy cooperatives. A video-speech entitled “ Kurien, Kisan and Kalyan”, incorporating the Speech delivered by Dr Kurien at the expansion launch of Lucknow Milk Union Plant, freely translated live in Hindi by this me was also released in January 1992. Mr Kalyan Singh the then Chief Minister, was the chief guest at the function.

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