The architect of ‘White Revolution’, Verghese Kurien, who led ‘Operation Flood’ to transform India from a milk-deficient country to the world’s biggest milk producer, is credited with laying the foundation of the nation’s co-operative dairy model.
Hailed as the undisputed ‘Milkman of India’, who created the billion dollar brand Amul, Dr Kurien, who passed away on Sunday morning at the age of 90, had received both national and international recognition.
The Indian government had conferred on him the Padma Vibhushan while he was also the recipient of World Food Price, Ramon Magsaysay award for Community Leadership, Carnegie-Wateler World Peace Prize and International Person of the Year award from US.
Born in Kozhikode, Kerala on November 26, 1921, Dr Kurien had graduated in science from Loyola College in Chennai (1940) and obtained his degree in engineering from the Guindy College of Engineering in Chennai.
After a stint at TISCO, Jamshedpur, Dr Kurien got the Government of India’s (GoI) scholarship to study dairy engineering.
Following specialised training at Imperial Institute of Animal Husbandry and Dairying in Bangalore, Dr Kurien went to the United States where he completed his masters’ degree in mechanical engineering, with dairy engineering as a minor subject, from the Michigan State University in 1948.
On his return to India, Dr Kurien was assigned to join Government Creamery located at Anand in Gujarat to serve his bond period. By the end of 1949, Dr Kurien got release orders from his job at the creamery.
Dr Kurien joined Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union Limited in 1949, on the request of Tribhuvandas Patel, the then dairy chairman. The dairy was formed at the initiative of Sardar Vallabhabhai Patel.
Later, Mr Patel asked Dr Kurien to help set up a dairy processing plant, which saw the birth of Amul.
Amul’s co-operative model became a success and it was replicated throughout Gujarat. The different dairy unions were later brought under the banner of Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF).
Dedicating his professional life to empowering the Indian farmers through co-operatives, Dr Kurien, served GCMMF from 1973 to 2006, and Institute of Rural Management (IRMA) from 1979 to 2006.
Dr Kurien’s tenure at Anand changed the destiny of Indian dairy industry. He began helping the fledgling dairy co-operative. The first dairy co-operative union in Gujarat was formed in 1946 with two village dairy co-operative societies as its members.
The number of member societies has now increased to 16,100, with 3.2 million members pouring milk.
Dr Kurien is also credited with being the first one to produce powder from buffalo milk, when elsewhere in the world, cow milk was used to produce milk powder.
Impressed by the success of Amul, then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri established the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) to replicate the Amul model across the country and Dr Kurien was made its chairman.
NDDB launched ‘Operation Flood’ in 1970, making India the largest milk producer in the world. He served as chairman of NDDB for 33 years from 1965 to 1998.
The Board ensured replication of Amul model across India.
It played an instrumental role in increasing the milk production of the country significantly.
India’s milk procurement increased from 20 million metric tonnes (MMT) per year in the 60s to 122 MMT in 2011.
Dr Kurien’s main contribution was in designing of systems and institutions, which enabled people to develop themselves, as he believed the development of man can best be achieved by putting in his hands the instruments of development.
Interestingly, the ‘milkman’ of India did not consume milk himself. He used to say, “I do not drink milk as I don’t like it.”