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Updated: September 12, 2012 00:47 IST

Visionary extraordinaire

M. S. Swaminathan
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MILKING IDEAS: Verghese Kurien saw merit in the power of cooperative societies and developed a ‘one-stop’ method of meeting the needs of those involved in milk production. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy
MILKING IDEAS: Verghese Kurien saw merit in the power of cooperative societies and developed a ‘one-stop’ method of meeting the needs of those involved in milk production. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Verghese Kurien transformed a small-scale household activity into the world’s largest milk producing enterprise

Much has already been said and written about the monumental contributions of Verghese Kurien to the development of the Indian dairy industry, rooted on the Gandhian Principle of production by masses. I met Dr. Kurien soon after his return from Michigan State University and his taking up residence at Anand. From then on, we shared ideas and experiences in the area of rural transformation through agriculture and dairying. Among the very many unique contributions of Dr. Kurien which led to India becoming the leading milk producer of the world, I would like to highlight a few.

Decentralised production

First, he rightly concentrated on the processing, pricing and marketing aspects of milk production. He knew that if dairying became profitable, farm women and men would automatically care for the animals and look after breeding and nutrition. He also knew that in our country, only a decentralised production of milk, done by women, supported by key centralised services in the fields of animal nutrition, health care and processing would help to ensure both the income security of rural families and the production of the necessary quantities of milk for the country. He therefore saw great merit in the power of cooperative milk societies in conferring concurrently the advantages of production by the masses and the benefits of modern centralised dairy processing technology. He developed a “one stop” method of meeting the needs of over 75 million women engaged in milk production. Thus, the Amul cooperative units not only purchased milk but also provided breeding, health care and nutrition support for the animals, to the great benefit of the milk suppliers. Thanks to Dr. Kurien’s emphasis on payment based on butterfat content, the buffalo started getting attention once again. The survival of milch buffalo breeds and their dominant role in the dairy industry today is primarily because of the milk purchase and pricing procedures introduced by Dr. Kurien.

Processing and marketing

His other major contribution was the diversification of processing and marketing channels. Thus, milk became available through bulk vending machines, as well as through direct home delivery procedures and distribution through sachets. Such a multiple delivery channel made it easy for consumers to get milk whenever and wherever needed. Dr. Kurien ensured the economic viability of milk processing plants by deputing multidisciplinary spearhead teams to assess the quantity of milk available in an area and the capacity needed for the optimum functioning of the processing plant before it was established. When milk became available in plenty, he diversified the product mix by converting milk into milk powder. He also ensured a steady supply of milk throughout the year by the judicious combination of milk powder and raw milk. Above all, he developed a unique system of training potential dairy managers through the organisation of a Siksha Dairy at the Anand Agricultural University, designed to impart training in all aspects of the dairy industry, ranging from milking the animal to processing, value-addition and marketing.


A lasting contribution of his was the establishment of the Institute of Rural Management at Anand to provide the country with well trained and competent managers for handling rural enterprises including dairying. I was the Principal Secretary in the Union Ministry of Agriculture when the inspiring report prepared by Dr. Kamala Choudhary and Dr. Kurien came for approval. This was the first time that a serious attempt was being made in our country to professionalise rural cooperatives. Looking back, it is difficult to believe that one person could have achieved so much in his lifetime, transforming a small-scale household activity into the world’s largest milk producing enterprise. More than for any one else, the following description of an extraordinary individual by Rainer Maria Rilke fits Dr. Kurien.

“Again and again in history some special people in the crowd wake up. They have no ground in the crowd, and they emerge according to much broader laws. They carry strange customs with them, and demand room for bold actions. The future speaks ruthlessly through them.

They save the world.”

(M.S. Swaminathan is Member, Rajya Sabha.)


The man who revolutionised white September 10, 2012

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Fitting tribute by one giant to another. Its a shame that the GoI could not confer Bharart Ratna on these giants. Time to institute an award instead in the name of Dr.Kurien as "Praja Ratna". Dr.MSS thanks for the concise description of Dr.Kurien's work.

from:  SC Rajshekar
Posted on: Sep 13, 2012 at 17:07 IST

automatic choice for BHARAT RATNA though as usual posthumous;

from:  britto madhavan
Posted on: Sep 12, 2012 at 20:26 IST

'Lives of great men all remind us, We can make our lives sublime, and departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time...' -- H.W. Longfellow. The father of Operation Flood was one such great man who remained true to his own convictions throughout his life.
Throughout his life Dr.Kurien worked for a kind of rural development that could be brought out only through social transformation --- empowering, educating and enriching the lives of the rural people, especially the poor and the women folk as their participation was absolutely essential for effecting the metamorphosis required for the accomplishment of social justice. He turned his idea of establishing a practical working relationship between rural producers and farmers with professional managers and engineers into a reality and through visionary efforts made sustainability the mantra for success and development.

from:  vyjayanthi
Posted on: Sep 12, 2012 at 18:47 IST

Dr. V.Kurien's pioneered rural development in the form of poverty alleviation and economic betterment that enabled the empowerment of the rural poor especially the women resulting in sustained development and effecting social transformation in the rural society. By decentralizing the dairy business he enabled grass root level participation, successfully took governance to all tiers whereby producers decided their own policies and controlled the organization. The innovative and unique methods of procuring, processing and marketing gave small and medium producers an advantage, made possible by the integrated cooperative structure called the Anand pattern. The producers owned and controlled the resources they created there by forging their own development.The method of value addition made the products world class and best sellers. Dr. Kurien's visionary efforts resulted in Operation flood, like the writer of this article who was one of the founding fathers of the green revolution.

from:  vyjayanthi
Posted on: Sep 12, 2012 at 17:55 IST

To be frank i was not pretty aware of the great deedas of this honourable man.Thanks for the article for bringing a clear picture about his contribution in a vivid way.I understand he is a crusader who traveeled different paths with his trend setting ideas that consequently changed the lives of thousands of poeple across the country.
Milkman of the past had to suffer a lot and they were not able eke out a prosperous living.Now i have seen poeple from country side make substancial income through milking.
Our country needs visionaries like Dr Verghese Kurien who can bring real change in the country's all aspects.

from:  Pallikunnil Divakaran
Posted on: Sep 12, 2012 at 17:49 IST

Through your writing readers now know a few things more about Dr Kurien. Thank you for the information. Dr Kurien is our national hero. We need universities in every state to be named after him as a fitting remembrance.

from:  Ayyappa
Posted on: Sep 12, 2012 at 10:50 IST

Some thirty years ago it was a common scene in the streets of Bangalore for early morning walkers. Milkmen would bring their cows to the streets and those who purchase milk would first ensure that the vessel was empty and then the milkman draws milk to the vessel. For this after much bargaining and haggling the milkman used to get only a pittance. There no doubt were nice people among the purchasers but were exceptions rather than the rule. In all upper class functions it was common to hear jokes at the cost of milkmen. Such was the contempt with which the relatively well to do held the unfortunate milkman. Around that time if one wanted diary milk he had to produce his ration card and get his quota. One man changed all this that brought respectability to the profession of milkmen and made milk freely available. That is Dr.Kurien the man handpicked by no less a person than Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

from:  Baikadi Suryanarayana Rao
Posted on: Sep 12, 2012 at 09:58 IST

Time for such visionary models in other sectors like healthcare and education to make india no 1 in such indices also...

from:  ramesh
Posted on: Sep 12, 2012 at 08:52 IST

An excellent reminiscence by the Father of Green Revolution about a milk man born to lead India to be the number one in production,processing and marketing and above all empowering more than 75 million women.I was fortunate to be in a committee to select the best farmer organized by a leading newspaper of Kerala-Malayala Manorama- for three terms with Dr M S Swaminathan as Chairman and Dr Varghese Kurian as the first member.He took the diversity of crops and animals and involvement of women in production and marketing as one of the criteria.He heard every one to make comments and the Chairman used Dr Kurian's words as last.It is a tryst with destiny that Dr Kurian a visionary was spotted by Sardar Patel and abundant patronage given by all Prime Ministers notably Lal Bahadur Shastri who coined the term 'Jai kissan and jai jawa'n Legacy of Dr Kurian needs to cross the boundaries of Gujarat and Karnataka in milk production and processing.

from:  Dr K V Peter
Posted on: Sep 12, 2012 at 08:10 IST

A great tribute by the author to Dr.Varghese Kurien.

from:  jayachandran
Posted on: Sep 12, 2012 at 07:29 IST

Very inspiring article. Thanks for writing and posting it.

from:  Narayanan
Posted on: Sep 12, 2012 at 07:15 IST

A short but fitting tribute to Dr Kurien -- truly, he stands in the company of the likes of the legendary Dr. Norman Borlaug.

from:  Jay Ravi
Posted on: Sep 12, 2012 at 06:16 IST

A wonderful tribute to Dr. Kurien. He surely was a visionary extraordinaire.

from:  Harish Dixit
Posted on: Sep 12, 2012 at 05:15 IST
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