Milkman of India Kurien dies at 90

Last Updated: Sun, Sep 09, 2012 15:36 hrs

Anand, Gujarat, Sept 9 (IBNS) Verghese Kurien, who gifted India the Amul dairy-food brand and played a central role in Operation Flood when he came to be known as the Milkman of India, died at Nadiad in Gujarat early Sunday. He was 90.

Known as the father of White Revolution whose work had inspired a film of Shyam Benegal, Kurien died after a brief illness.

He is survived by his wife, one daughter Nirmala Kurien and a grandson, Siddharth.

His body has been kept at Anand for the people to pay their tribute to the man who had revolutionized the dairy industry of India.

"With a heavy heart we are sorry to inform that Dr. V. Kurien, father of the White Revolution, is no more. He passed away today morning at 1.50 am. Funeral will take place today afternoon at around 4.00 pm at Anand," said the Amul.

Kurien was suffering from kidney problems and was admitted to a hospital in Nadiad.

The living legend of India´s dairy revolution´s death best summed up by a mourning Indian when he posted on Facebook: "Gujraat ke asli sher Dr. v kurien ab hmare beech nahi rahe (The real tiger of Gujarat is now no more with us).

The founding chairman of the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), Kurien created the iconic Amul brand of dairy products and made India the world´s largest milk producer.

His achievements with the GCMMF led Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri to appoint him founder-chairman of the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) in 1965, to replicate Amul´s successes on a nationwide scale.

A few years later, the NDDB under Kurien launched Operation Flood (or the White Revolution) which was the world´s largest dairy development programme.

Operation Flood helped India become the world´s largest milk producer; in 2010-11, with close to 17 percent of the global production.

Kurien had been awarded nationally and internationally. He received the Padma Vibhushan (India´s second-highest civilian honour), the World Food Prize and the Magsaysay Award.

In his own words about the Amul brand, Kurien said "Amul's birth is indelibly linked to the freedom movement in India."

"It was Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel who said that if the farmers of India are to get economic freedom then they must get out of the clutches of the 'middlemen'."

"The first Amul cooperative was the result of a farmers' meeting in Samarkha (Kaira district, Gujarat) on 4 January 1946, called by Morarji Desai under the advice from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, to fight rapacious milk contractors. It was Sardar's vision to organise farmers, to have them gain control over production, procurement and marketing by entrusting the task of managing these to qualified professionals, thereby eliminating the middle men, the bane in farmers' prosperity.

"The decision was taken that day in January 1946: Milk producers' cooperatives in villages, federated into a district union, should alone handle the sale of milk from Kaira to the government-run Bombay Milk Scheme. This was the origin of the Anand pattern of cooperatives. The colonial government refused to deal with the cooperative. The farmers called a milk strike. After fifteen days the government capitulated. This was the beginning of Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers' Union Ltd., Anand, registered on 14 December 1946," wrote Kurien in The Amul saga.

"Amul is the brand name of 2 million farmers, members of 10,000 village dairy cooperative societies throughout Gujarat. This is the heart of Amul, it is what gives strength to Amul, and it is what is so special about the Amul saga," he wrote.

Verghese Kurien was born on 26 Nov 1921 at Calicut, Madras Presidency in British India (which is now Kozhikode in Kerala).

His father was a civil surgeon in Cochin. He graduated in Physics from Loyola College, Madras in 1940 and then did B.E. (mechanical engineering) from the College of Engineering, Guindy (then the University of Madras).

After completing his degree, he joined the Tata Steel Technical Institute, Jamshedpur from where he graduated in 1946. He then went to the United States on a government scholarship to earn his Master of Science in metallurgical engineering (with distinction) from Michigan State University.

Kurien belongs to the Syrian Christian community of India.

Kurien in May 1949 on a Government of India deputation first arrived at the Government Research Creamery, Anand. Since then he built the dairy development cooperative model into one of the largest and most successful institutions in India.

His work earned so much adulation that when Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited Anand to inaugurate Amul "factory", he had embraced Kurien.

Kurien is the man who gave India Operation Flood. It was a rural development programme started by NDDB in 1970. One of the largest of its kind, the programme objective was to create a nationwide milk grid.

It later came to be known as the White Revolution of India which had indeed alleviate poverty and foiled malpractices by milk traders and merchants.

Operation Flood had inspired Manthan, the 1976 Hindi film made by Shyam Benegal starring Smita Patil and Girish Karnad, based on a story written jointly by Dr. Verghese Kurien and Benegal.

The National Award winning film with the haunting tunes of Mero Gaam Katha Parey became the success song of India´s dairy revolution as it demonstrated the power of "collective might".

R.I.P. Dr Kurien!

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