'NDDB's biggest success has been empowerment of women'

It’s never easy to step into big, legendary shoes. Considered as the protégé to late Verghese Kurien, Dr Amrita Patel has indeed tried to carve a niche for herself. As chairperson of the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) she has enabled the country to experience what is being described as ‘the second white revolution.’

The National Dairy Plan (NDP) or Mission Milk has just completed a year of implementation. Though the project has shown good progress, Amrita Patel admits that a lot more needs to be done to fulfil all the goals set. In an interview with Swati Bhan of Deccan Herald, she spoke about the life in NDDB in the post-Kurien era.
Excerpts:

The National Dairy Plan was launched last year with a lot of fanfare. Has it been going the way you had expected?

Yes, I am satisfied. It is a process that will take some more time to take its real shape, the way we all have visualised it. But it has taken off well; there are states that are coming forward to adopt it, there are states which have already adopted it. And the most satisfying part is that the farmers who have started adopting the policies have started realising the benefits.
 
How is the NDP going to be effective and profitable for the farmers and the country at large? Why is it being touted as the second white revolution?

The NDP has been envisaged keeping a 15 year horizon, considering that three to five years are required to produce a more productive animal and the time required to develop and expand the systems to increase milk productions. The first phase of the NDP is to be largely financed by the World Bank and it will help in achieving objectives like increasing the productivity of milch animals and help rural milk producers with greater access to the organised milk processing sectors. It is being considered as the second white revolution as 13 states out of the 14 major dairying states have taken it up and even Bihar is now showing interest to come on board. The national steering committee (NSC) has approved an outlay of Rs 130.71 crore for the year 2012-13.
A baseline survey has been completed in nine states and all the major dairying states will be covered. The NDP will also ensure that cooperatives are also supported in providing rural milk producers with greater access to the organised milk processing sector.

How is the NDP going to be implemented phase wise and how will the farmers be the ultimate beneficiaries?

The outlay covers 49 proposals, pertaining to progeny, testing, pedigree selection, strengthening of semen stations. It will ensure ration balancing programme, fodder development and village based milk procurement systems from eight states including Karnataka, Gujarat, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Odisha and Maharashtra.  These activities will contribute to production of high genetic merit bulls, strengthening of existing semen stations for production of disease free semen doses. With the effort to educate farmers for better nutrition to milch animals and disease free semen doses, it will enable better opportunities for sale of surplus milk by facilitating fair and transparent transactions.  These states account for over 90 per cent of the country’s milk production, have 87 per cent of the breedable cattle and buffalo population and 98 per cent of fodder resources. I think to achieve all this even quality veterinary education should be imbibed to enable better spread of knowledge and implementations.
 
You had taken the decision of having joint ventures but at that point of time there was resistance, do you think it could have helped or changed the present system?

Yes, I had been defiant even at that point and I was seeing it as an opportunity for farmers as a better business proposition. On hindsight, I see it as a lost out opportunity and if implemented it could have definitely been profitable for milk producers and consumers.

NDDB has seen a regime of Kurien and now Patel, what is that defining difference between the two regimes?

Dr Kurien had his vision and that has been implemented the way he wanted to see it. As far as I am concerned apart from adding on to what Kurien visualised, NDDB has seen empowerment of women in a big way. With changing times it  has become easier to employ women, empower them and work with them from the highest to the lowest level. It has been our greatest success. It was not possible earlier, as the demands then were different.

What is one of the defining decisions which you think people will remember of your time?

The NDP has been my brainchild and if implemented the way I have visualised it will definitely see the kind of results that I have been talking about. At present when there are talks of milk production being lower that the rising demand, the NDP is a step to take that question forward and bring a solution to the country and the participating states. NDDB had been set up with the mission which was laid down by the founders and it is our duty to carry those dreams forward and cater to the growing demands of our country and the world around.

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