Remembering the father of the White Revolution, Dr Verghese Kurien

The man behind Operation Flood or the White Revolution

"Dr Verghese Kurien, a passionate Indian" is how everybody remembers the man. He who is synonymous with the word milk in India, who led the country to become the largest producer of milk and milk products, who formed what is one of the most popular and endearing Indian brands, Amul, succumbed to ailments due to old age in Nadiad, Gujarat on Sunday, September 9. Dr Kurien was 90.

Born on November 26, 1921 in Kerala, Dr Kurien earned a degree in mechanical engineering. Highly decorated by the Government of India and renowned institutions the world over, he is best known to have led the White Revolution in the country with the dairy development cooperative model that is now a part of national history. He also went ahead to build Amul as a highly successful indigenous brand from a little town called Anand in Gujarat.

“Eight hours for dairy, eight hours for family and eight hours for sleep” – words from Dr Verghese Kurien who is known as the Father of the White Revolution. He is so called because of his initiatives and immense contribution to the dairy sector. Also the entire credit of making a small city Anand a world known city and the Milk Capital of India goes to Dr Verghese Kurien who started Amul there and made it a brand. He is the person who transformed the rural India and made India the largest producer of milk. In the production of milk India crossed United States way back in 1998. Also known as the Milkman of India, Dr Kurien’s endless efforts has alleviated millions of rural Indian out of poverty. He was honored with many prestigious awards like Padma Vibhushan, the World Food Prize and the Magsaysay Award.

Dr Kurien was born on 26th November 1921 to an affluent Christain family at Kozhikode, Kerala. Dr Kurien did his graduation in Physics from Loyola College, Madras in 1940 and Bachelors in mechanical engineering from the College of Engineering, Guindy. After this, he joined the Tata Steel Technical Institute, Jamshedpur. He got a specialised training in dairying at the National Dairy Research Institute, Bangalore. On the scholarship from the Government of India he went to the United States to earn a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering (Distinction) from Michigan State University in 1948.

On 13th May 1949, Mr Verghese Kurien came to Anand to serve his bond period and without enthusiasm of doing it. He joined half heartedly at the Government creamery on a salary of Rs.600 per month. Initially he just wanted to serve the bond and get away. But this did not happen, what happened at that time revolutionized India’s diary sector.

While working at Anand, he found that poor and illiterate farmers were being used by the distributors of milk. Polson Dairy that was established in 1930 was the only dairy in the Anand district and Gujarat. Though their products were of superior quality but Indian farmers were being exploited. First of all they were not paid well for the milk. Secondly they were not allowed to sell milk directly to the vendors. While working, Kurien got inspired by the leader Tribhuvandas Patel who was working on the cooperative movement against this exploitation. Kurien along with Patel started working on cooperatives in the Kheda district. This led to the establishment of Amul on 14th December 1949. Initially it was known as KDCMPUL (Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producer’s union Limited) and used to supply milk and other dairy products without proper supply chain. When initiated, it had two co-operative societies and 247 liters of milk. At present Amul has 15 million milk producers and 1,44,246 dairy co-operative societies across the country.

How Amul got its name?

Dr Kurien started the Milk cooperative movement and named it Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers Union Ltd (KDCMPUL), which later came to known as Amul because Mr. Kurien wanted a simple and easy to pronounce name. Also the name should include and help in growth of the union. Suggestions regarding the name were asked from the employees and farmers. ‘Amulya’ was then recommended by a quality control supervisor. It is a Sanskrit word meaning priceless. The name was later changed to Amul to incorporate union in the same. From there the brand AMUL- Anand Milk Union Limited, came into existence.

Amul received a complete success when the H.M. Dalaya, friend of Dr Kurien invented the process of making skim milk powder and condensed milk from buffalo milk instead of cow’s milk. Amul was working on cooperative scheme and it got so popular that it received government’s attention.

How co-operatives work?

For a group of villages many co-operative societies were formed. Their main role was to collect milk twice a day from the farmers of these villages. Quality of the milk and fat content in it was the deciding factor as far as the payment was concerned. Surprise checks, educating farmers and standard fat measurement machines were part of the process to make it smooth and to avoid misconduct. On the same collection day milk cans were transferred to Milk Chiller Unit. After few hours it followed pasteurization, cooling and packing. The packed milk is then transported to the wholesale distributor and then to the retailers and finally to the consumers. With amendments this supply chain and Amul brand become a grand name.

Operation Flood – The White Revolution

To inaugurate the new cattle-feed plant of Amul, the then Prime Minister Mr. Lal Bahadur Shastri was invited to Anand in 1964. He was so impressed with the entire process that he asked Dr Kurien to replicate the same model across the country as this model was helping the farmers to improve their economic condition. To fulfill this objective, the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) in the year 1965 was formed and Dr Kurien was made in charge of this board. At that time demand for milk was growing and crossed its supply. Money shortage was the another biggest problem. To solve this NDDB tried to pursue various World Banks to donate money and that too without any condition. In 1969 when the President of World Bank came to India Dr Kurien asked him to – “Give me money and forget about it”. Few days later loan was approved and that too without any condition for the operation that later on known as Operation Flood. Its main objective was to replicate the working of Anand project across India. Operation flood was implemented in three successive phases.

Awards

Universities across the world had honored him and he received 12 honorary degrees. He was also the recipient of Padma Vibhushan in 1999, International Person of the Year Award in 1993, World Food Prize in 1989, Wateler Peace Prize Award in 1986, Krushi Ratna Award in 1986, Padma Bhushan in 1966, Padma Shri in 1965 and Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1963.

Such were the efforts of this remarkable engineer who died on 9 September 2012 in Nadiad, near Anand in Gujarat, India. Dr Kurien will always be remembered for his great efforts and contribution to the dairy sector and in uplifting farmers.

Verghese Kurien man behind white revolution