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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Operation (Flood) Accomplished - Rest In Peace Verghese Kurien

Amul Girl cries for the first time,
since her appearance in 1960s.
Image Source: Amul Website
The year was probably 1987/88, and I had seen a film by Shyam Benegal, titled Manthan, which coincidentally shares it's year of birth with me. In those days of Door Darshan, anything other than Krishi Darshan was eagerly lapped up, but a song from the film remained with me. This very song, Mero Gaam Katha Parey, sung by Preeti Sagar, would push me to watch the film again, years later, in around 1994, and I became a fan of Dr. Verghese Kurien.
shovon chakraborty
If there's one single person ever, who has changed the entire landscape of a whole region, thorough his sheer persistence and relentless pursuits of the vision, which he believed in, here was the man. He took on the middlemen - the wholesalers, the moneylenders, and even the age-old feudal structure, present in the villages, in and around Anand. Nobody, from the moneyed classes, were happy with him. But his efforts resulted in the flowing of not red blood, but white milk, and led to a historic revolution among the local untouchables and the economically backward communities. Dr. Kurien lead from the front to create iconic institutions, such as, Amul, Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), Institute of Rural Management - Anand (IRMA) and many more. His open brief to Sylvester daCunha resulted in the creation of the "Amul Baby" or "Amul Girl", perhaps the most iconic Indian brand symbols.
shovon chakraborty
When Dr. Kurien landed at Anand, the situation was bleak. But, his vision, coupled with the guts to walk the talk, started a chain reaction, which has been variously termed as Operation Flood and White Revolution of India. As Mr. R.P. Aneja, the former Managing Director of National Dairy Development Board and a colleague of Kurien for 24 years, recounted in The Hindu Business Line, "Before the IT industry made India matter in the world, the biggest success story of the country was its dairy sector." "Who was responsible for this revolution? One person who more or less single-handedly organised millions of small and marginal farmers into very successful organisations was Verghese Kurien." he went on to declare.
shovon chakraborty
In the decades immediately after the independence, India was hugely dependent on imports of milk powder for meeting its nutritional needs. After, Dr. Kurien's efforts bore fruit, India became self-sufficient in milk and even started exporting milk powder and other milk products. Its annual milk production increased from 20 million tonnes in the 1970s to 80 million tonnes in the 1990s and 122 million tonnes by 2010, earning the title of World's topmost milk producer in the process. Amul, which began its journey with just two village dairy co-operative societies and 247 litres of milk, has grown to be a Rs. 11,668 crore brand with milk collection of 3.88 billion litres in 2011-12. Today, GCMMF, which markets its dairy products under the Amul brand name, has emerged as India's largest integrated dairy products manufacturing and marketing organisation.
verghese kurien milkman of india amul baby shed tears
But, Dr. Verghese Kurien's achievements and impacts are not merely measured by numbers or revenues in Rs . His actual impact can be gauged from the empowerment of millions of people, both from India and abroad, and who came largely from the so called lower strata of the society. Kurien emphasised that democracy in Delhi needed to be underpinned by democracy in the villages. He was a firm believer in the unmatched combination of farmers and professionals working together to serve the rural areas. And, the institutions set up by him have visibly demonstrated that cooperatives do work as democratic institutions in India. His efforts not only helped the marginalized people to gain their rightful place in the society, but also ensured that, unlike communist ideologies, all sections were part of the growth and the development process.
shovon obituary dr. verghese kurien
Especially, in today's political atmosphere, vitiated by increasing levels of hatred and intolerance, Dr. Kurien's ideas of empowering the masses at the root, through the cooperatives model, and heralding in an era of inclusive development, stand tall.
obituary dr. verghese kurien
A truly remarkable man, among the very best, India has ever given birth to, Dr. Kurien, the Milkman of India, lived to fulfill a dream, which he had. There will never be another like him and his 58 years old  "baby daughter", the Amul Girl, has actually personified the grief of the entire nation. We can only salute you Dr. Kurien, and thank you for the real-life lessons! Rest In Peace Sir!
shovon obituary dr. verghese kurien
shovon obituary dr. verghese kurien

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