The Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF) is witnessing a power struggle for the top post at a critical juncture even as the second largest federation after Amul is strapped to find new markets for its surplus milk and skimmed milk powder (SMP).

KMF, which reported a Rs. 5,600 crore in turnover the last financial year, has been seeing both the present in-charge Managing Director, A.S. Premnath, and former in-charge Managing Director M.N. Venkatramu playing musical chairs for the top position in the last couple of years.

Their slugfest reached new heights on Tuesday when the KMF board suspended Mr. Venkatramu amid charges that the board meeting was invalid and his subsequent refusal to vacate the position, after both sides engaged in an ugly verbal duel.

Production glut

Having had a good run for more than a decade, KMF, which represents over 20 lakh farmers’ families across the State, is now struggling with increasing milk procurement and shrinking markets.

Milk procurement is up by almost 23 per cent in the last one year alone, touching 51 lakh kg a day, while many other States, which were once milk deficit and KMF’s customers, have been reporting good production in recent times.

Consequently, KMF finds itself with a huge pile of SMP stock that is now close to 20,000 tonnes. Not only this, the federation also has to clear about Rs.200 crore it owes to various milk cooperatives.

IAS officer as head

Meanwhile, KMF board, in its September 5 meeting, suggested to the government that an IAS officer be posted to head the federation, which is seen as a model to empowering rural women through a decentralised cooperative setup.

With KMF Chairperson G. Somashekar Reddy now lodged in Andhra Pradesh jail in connection with the cash-for-bail case, and the power struggle for the top post, many insiders to whom The Hindu spoke to conceded KMF’s image has not only taken a beating for the first time in its 37 years, but it may also affect its very future.

Intimidation

So much so a senior official said some units had stopped sending files to the Managing Director’s office as there was confusion who the official was. A day after the board appointed Mr. Premnath, it is reliably learnt, some officials went on leave allegedly due to threats, exposing divisions between the feuding groups.

Though day-to-day administration may not be affected, the official said, crucial decisions that have financial implications could be affected. He said the board’s decision being backed by the government could mean that some semblance of normality could be expected.

Huge challenge

Acknowledging the huge challenge before him, Mr. Premnath said his primary task now was to clear SMP stocks accumulated for the last 5 to 6 months as well as to clear the arrears. He had apprised Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar of the situation and had sought government fund to tide over the crisis.

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