'Milkman' and his White Revolution

Dr Verghese Kurien is better known as the “Father of White Revolution” in India. Also called the “Milkman of India,” Kurien was the architect behind the success of the largest dairy development programme in the world, christened “Operation Flood”. He was the chairman of the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Limited and his name is synonymous with the Amul brand.

Born on November 26, 1921 in Kozhikode, Kerala, Kurien graduated in Physics from Loyola College, Madras in 1940. He did his B.E.(Mechanical) from the Madras University and did his Masters in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan State University, USA. In between, he completed special studies in engineering at the Tata Iron and Steel Company Institute at Jamshedpur and underwent nine months of specialised training in dairy engineering at the National Dairy Research Institute of Bangalore.

In Gujarat, Kurien started his career with Kaira Milk Union and established ‘Amul’ brand. The three-tier dairy cooperative pattern, nurtured by Kurien, was replicated in the country and today this three tier pattern is known across the world as “AMUL” Model.
Thanks to Kurien, India has become world’s highest milk producing country through his “White Revolution.”

Kurien started various organisations like the Indian Immunological Society, Indian Dairy Machinery Company, Mother Dairy Tribhuvandas Foundation and many others. He was also founder Chairman of National Dairy Development Board and the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (Gujarat).

The work of  Kurien was rewarded with various national and international awards. He has been honoured with Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan.
In addition, he is also the recipient of international awards like the World Food Prize and the Ramon Magsaysay award for community leadership, the “Wateler Peace Prize” of Carnegie Foundation for the year 1986 by His Royal Highness Prince Claus of The Netherlands.

Everyday, a familiar sight in rural India is men and women milk producers line up outside their village dairy co-operatives awaiting their turn to sell milk. It is these small holder milk producers with one or two milch animals who have together contributed to make India the world’s top milk producer. This success did not come overnight but through persistent toil by the milk producers, particularly women in rural areas, aided by committed professionals and the vision, expertise of the National Dairy Development Board under the leadership of Kurien, the Operation Flood - the world’s largest food and development programme, formulated and implemented by the NDDB.

All these resulted in the phenomenal growth of India’s dairy sector and better life for millions of rural poor. Operation Flood is a rare example of food aid being used to attain self-sufficiency and integrate millions of marginal farmers into the economic mainstream.

Remunerative occupation
India was able to increase its milk production from 22 million tonnes in 1970 to 66.2 mt in 1996 through operation flood. Operation Flood introduced modernisation in liquid milk processing, transport, packaging, marketing and product innovations in milk products. Most importantly, it made dairying a remunerative occupation for millions of India’s rural poor.

Between 1996 and 2014, milk production in India increased from 66.2 mt to about 140 mt. Presently, there are 15 state co-operative dairy federations, 189 district milk unions covering about 1.56 lakh village dairy cooperative societies and around 15.2 million milk producer members of which about 29 per cent are women.

There are over 26,600 women village dairy cooperative societies where women are not only members but also serve as elected leaders. Today, women membership is around 43 lakh and whose combined cash income from sale of milk to cooperatives is estimated at US$5 billion. This does not include other private producers and the unorganised sector. Dairy cooperatives in India will always remember his valuable contribution.

(The writer is Deputy Manager (Engineering), Karnataka Milk Federation-SHIMUL, Karnataka)

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