The sprawling Delhi Milk Scheme complex on Patel Road, adjacent to Shadipur Bus Depot, is a landmark in itself. The 34-acre facility stands right on one of the busiest roads in the area and is also clearly visible from the elevated Metro nearby. This is where Delhi at one point of time used to get almost all its packaged milk supply from.

A visit to the complex reveals the tough times this venture has been through. There are some closed rooms near the entrance, the presence of guards at the reception with notices clearly stating that retired staff members are not to be allowed in without permission -- all indicate that all is not well at the DMS.

A walk down the neat but poorly-lit passage of the administrative block, which has been around for over 50 years now, gives an impression of attempts being made to make the best use of the infrastructure at hand. On the first floor, General Manager B. S. Beniwal is more than eager to reveal how DMS is finding its moorings back and is on the verge of charting another path of ascent.

It is vested interests, he insists, that brought about the downfall of this great institution. Within years of its launch, DMS – which in the 1960s had a milk drier facility -- had started witnessing problems. Verghese Kurien, the ‘Milkman of India’, tried twice to intervene, but after he was manhandled once, he was forced to withdraw. The incident is said to have paved way for the setting up of Mother Dairy in 1974.

DMS, later led by several IAS officers, went downhill and lost its market share even as other players like Mother Dairy came of age. With the losses touching a high of Rs.10.99 crore in 2008-09, the Government of India through the UPSC advertised for the post of General Manager; and Prof. Beniwal, a doctor in Dairy Management who was teaching at Agriculture University, Hisar, was selected for a five-year term.

When he took over, the complex had hoardings of various union leaders displayed all over, including around the main gate. Staff discipline and morale were at an all-time low. The new management immediately cracked down on the erring staff. The rooms near the main gate, which were under control of the union leaders, were vacated; biometric system of attendance was introduced and when threats came that the machines would be smashed, the biometric system network was expanded to cover the main plant too. Unwarranted entry of workers into the administrative offices was also restricted. The message was loud and clear -- indiscipline would not invite suspension; it would lead to dismissal.

With the Union Ministry of Agriculture, which controls DMS through the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, backing the new management, the workers decided to fall in line.

Proud of the achievement, Prof. Beniwal said: “I have not had to take serious disciplinary action against even a single worker thus far. All increments have been given and there has not been a single suspension or dismissal.”

The burly General Manager, who himself comes from a family of agriculturists and freedom fighters, was no pushover and took the threats which came his way initially in his stride. He said what also helped settle issues amicably were the open courts that were organised to listen to the grievances of all the employees.

“Notices were given to all the employees to give their complaints and suggestions and about 150 letters were received. We divided these into about 15 groups and each one of them was heard separately by the managers and officers. All the cases were heard and decided the same day. This took the satisfaction level up several notches.”

In DMS there are about 25 Group A and B officers and about 750 Group C workers. Prof. Beniwal said he had come with a mission. “I had told myself I will develop a system which will make it viable.”

To win over the support and respect of the workers, the management also initiated a number of confidence building measures. Discipline, some cost cutting measures and reduction in wastages were key in making DMS come out of the red, he said, adding that all this has been made possible within the old framework and while working with the same staff.

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