My contribution to the Souvenir brought out on the occasion of the 75th birthday of Charutar Arogya Mandal , Chairman Dr. Amrita Patel. I will try an English translation and post the same later. The souvenir was brought out in English, Gujarati and Hindi. I chose to write in Hindi.
अगस्त या सितंबर १९६८ का हल्की बारिश वाला दिन मै आणंद रेलवे स्टेशन से ट्रेन से कंजरी के लिये निकला।
डा॰ माइकल हाल्स (माइक) नेशनल डेयरी डेवलपमेंट बोर्ड (एनडीडीबी) के संस्थापक सदस्यों मे से एक थे और कुछ माह पहले ही भारतीय प्रबंधन संस्थान अहमदाबाद से आणंद आये थे । उन्हीं के कहने से मै कंजरी स्थित पशु आहार संयंत्र की एनिमल न्यूट्रिस्ट डा॰ अम्रिता पटेल से मिलने जा रहा था।
उसी साल मई से मैने एनडीडीबी मे नौकरी शुरू की थी। अपना गाँव, फिर गोरखपुर के बाद अब आणंद का सारा माहौल एकदम नया था।
नई जगह ,नये लोग, फ़र्राटेदार अंग्रेज़ी न बोल पाने से अंग्रेजीदां लोगों से मिलने जुलने मे हिचकिचाहट से भरा, मै जब मिस पटेल से मिला तो लगा ही नही मै किसी अजनबी से मिल रहा हूँ।
कैटलफीड संयंत्र का संचालन,प्रबंधन, फ़ीड फारमुलेशन मे विभिन्न पदार्थों के मिश्रण की प्रक्रिया , गुणवत्ता आदि विषयों पर चर्चा मे समय कैसे बीता पता न चला। दोपहर खाने का समय हो गया था । मिस पटेल ने कहा खाना खा कर जाओ जब तक मै कुछ कहूँ उन्होने घर से लाया टिफ़िन खोला, दो मे से एक रोटी और पालक के सालन का कुछ भाग एक प्लेट मे रख मुझे दे दिया !
१९६८ के आषाढ़ के उस दिन मिस पटेल से पहली बार मिलने पर उनके व्यवहार मे घुली सहज मानवता और स्नेहिल आतिथ्य की आकर्षक विशिष्टता मानस पटल पर बार बार कौंध जाती है।
एनडीडीबी मे उनके साथ काम करने और नज़दीक से जानने का मौक़ा मिला। १९७४ मे डा॰ कुरियन के एक्ज़ीक्यूटिव असिस्टेंट और १९८७ मे मानव संसाधन प्रभाग मे निदेशक पद पर मेरी पर हुई नियुक्तियों मे मिस पटेल ने अहम भूमिका निभाई ।
१९७४ मे एक दिन अचानक फोन आया।
“तुम्हारा नाम प्रस्तावित किया है मैने डा॰ कुरियन के एक्ज़ीक्यूटिव असिस्टेंट पद के लिये”
ज्यादा टिकता नही है कोई उनके साथ इस पद पर”
मिस पटेल कह रही थीं।
मै भौंचक रह गया । बहुत ना नुकुड की।
अंत मे मैने कहा “अंग्रेजी अब बोल तो लेता हूं पर अच्छी अंग्रेजी लिखने मे दिक्कत होती है” ।
मिस पटेल नही मानी बोली;
” जा कर डाक्टर कुरियन से मिल लो वही निर्णय लेंगे”
कुछ मिनटो मे डा॰ कुरियन का फोन आ गया। दोपहर बाद जा कर मिला उनसे मिला ।ना नुकुड की कोशिश यहां भी नाकाम रही।
वह अपनी ही बोलते रहे, क्या करना होगा, किस तरह गोपनीयता सुरक्षित रखना ज़रूरी होगा, यह काम २४ घंटे का है, आदि। अंत मे हिम्मत कर मैने कहा;
अब आगे कुछ बोलना बेकार था। सोचता हूं मिस पटेल का यह कहना कि “ज्यादा टिकता नही है उनके साथ कोई इस पद पर” शायद बहुत गहरी सोच का परिणाम रहा होगा।
आखिर मैने डा॰ कुरियन के एक्ज़ीक्यूटिव असिस्टेंट और बाद मे डायरेक्ट (चेयरमैन’स आफिस) के पदो पर बहुत दिनो तक लगभग १९७४ से १९९८ तक जुडा रहा। एनडीडीबी में कुल ३२ साल १९६८ से २००० तक !
कैसे मालूम था मिस पटेल आपको कि मै इतने दिन टिका रहूंगा !
मानव संसाधन प्रभाग के निदेशक पर मेरी नियुक्ति तो मिस पटेल का लगभग एक तरफा निर्णय था । मै तिलहन और वानस्पितिक तैल विभाग का निदेशक था पर मिस पटेल की योजना थी कि री- आरगेनाइजेशन बाद मानव संसाधन विभाग बनाया जाय। इस बार भी इफ बट की बातें उठी पर सब दरकिनार करते हुये मिस पटेल ने यह निर्णय लिया। मुझे इस काम मे सफलता मिली या न मिली पर मिस पटेल से सहयोग पूरा मिला ।
वैसे एनडीडीबी मे मिस पटेल के साथ काम करने का मौक़ा पहली बार मुझे मिला जब मै लगभग एक महीना १९७४ मे बतौर एनडीडीबी कर्मचारियों के दल के सदस्य के साथ इंटरनेशनल डेयरी कांग्रेस, नई दिल्ली के आयोजन मे सहायता के लिये भेजा गया था।
एक विकासशील देश पहली बार मे हो रहा यह आयोजन इतिहास तो रच ही रहा था पर एक भारतीय महिला का सेक्रेटरी जनरल होना भी हम सब के लिये गौरव का विषय था।मिस पटेल की कार्य संपादन क्षमता विशेषकर योजनाबद्ध सिलसिलेवार काम कैसे पूरा हो, कौन क्या करे,समय से कौन सा कार्य निष्पादित हुआ या न हुआ पर समय समय से सामूहिक चर्चा वाली कार्यशैली नज़दीक से देखी।
जब एचएम पटेल साहब की तबीयत ख़राब हुई और अहमदाबाद अस्पताल मे उन्हे भरती करा दिया गया था तब डा॰ कुरियन ने कहा कि मिस पटेल अकेली अहमदाबाद नही जायेंगी और मुझे साथ जाने को कहा । मै लगभग पाँच दिन उनके साथ रहा।
एचएम साहब को अस्पताल मे आ कर देखने वालों का तांता तो लगा ही रहता था। पर जब समाचार आया कि एचएम साहब के विरोधी राजनीतिज्ञ “दिखावे” की हमदर्दी दिखाने का ढोंग रच ताम झाम सहित फूलों का गुच्छा ले कर आ रहे हैं और मिस पटेल को वहाँ उनके स्वागतार्थ खड़ा होना पड़ेगा तब वहाँ मिस पटेल का दूसरा रूप देखने को मिला।
गहरी आंतरिक पीड़ा थी, क्षोभ था, पर पिता के पास रहना था सभ्यता का तक़ाज़ा। अस्पताल के कई चक्कर लगाये थे मैने मिस पटेल के साथ साथ। मुश्किल से मानी थी लौटने को पिता के पास।
यह विडंबना ही है मानवी त्रासदी।
पिता के देहावसान पर अंत्येष्टि की पूरी तैयारी और हमारे समाज मे पुत्र से जो अपेक्षा होती है उसे पुत्री ने उसे भलीभाँति निभाया । फिर शुरू हुई चरोतर आरोग्य मंडल और अस्पताल का कार्यभार संभालने की क़वायद जो पिता की धरोहर ही नही पर मिस पटेल की सोच से जुड़ी प्राथमिकताओं – पर्यावरण एवं स्वास्थ्य से जुड़ी हैं । मैने नज़दीक से देखा है जाना है इन विषयों मे मिस पटेल कितना रुचि रखती है ।
मुझे याद आता है मिस पटेल की वह बात जो वह हर महिला अफ़सर की नियुक्ति के पहले उनसे साक्षात्कार के वक़्त होती थी । औपचारिकताओं और कुछ अन्य प्रश्नों के बाद साक्षात्कार के अंत मे मिस पटेल हर एक से पूछती थी;
“अगर यह नौकरी तुम्हें मिलती है तो कितने साल काम करोगी?”
“पुरुष प्रधान समाज मे महिलाओं को सोच विचार कर प्रोफ़ेशनल ज़िंदगी मे आना चाहिये । बराबरी के साथ काम करना होगा क्योंकि महिला किसी भी तरह कार्यपालन मे पुरुष से कम नही”
“देखो शादी करना, घर चलाना, बच्चों को पालना, संस्कार देना उतना ही महत्वपूर्ण कार्य है जितना किसी संस्था मे काम करना उसका संचालन करना। कुछ को प्रोफ़ेसन और घर दोनो चलाना होता है वहीं बैलेंस की बात आती है।”
“शैलेन्द्र तुमसे ऐसा नही कह सकते है पर मै कह रही हूँ
मैने निर्णय लिया कि सारा जीवन प्रोफ़ेसन को दूँगी और कर भी रही हूँ इसलिये साफ़ साफ़ बताओ कि अभी कितने साल काम करने का इरादा है? पर जितने साल कहो उतने ज़रूर करना।”
कितनी कठिन राह चुनी आपने मिस पटेल और चुनी डगर पर चलती रहीं इतने सालों तक।प्रोफ़ेशनल और पर्सनल ज़िंदगी का बैलेंस हमेशा रखा।
कुछ पारिवारिक ज़रूरतों और कुछ अन्य कारणवश मैने २००० मे एनडीडीबी से प्रीमैच्योर रिटायरमेंट लिया। पर मुझे हर्ष एवं संतोष इस बात का है कि मुझे मिस पटेल के साथ काम करने का मौक़ा मिला । कसौटी पर खरा उतरा या नही राम जाने पर मुझे और किरन को भी एचएम परिवार के बहुत से सदस्यों को जानने का मौक़ा मिला । यह नाता अब तक क़ायम है चाहे हम कितनी भी दूर हों ।
आपकी पचहत्तरवीं वर्षगाँठ पर किरन और मेरी तरफ़ से ढेरों शुभकामनायें ! एक बार फिर आपको आपकी मानवता को नमन,
समतामूलक (Equitable) समाज का अभिप्राय मेरी समझ से ऐसे आदर्श समाज से है जिसके मूल मे समता हो। दूसरे शब्दों मे ऐसा समाज जिसका अंतर्निहित मूल्य समता हो ।
समता (equity) और समानता (equality) को लेकर काफ़ी भ्रम है । किसी ने कहा है “Equality is impossible, Equity is possible”!
मानव समाज मे सभी एक जैसे न होते हुये भी मानव ही हैं ।
मेरा मानना है समाज मे बस समानता इतनी ही थी, है और रहेगी !
असमानता दूर करने के लिये बहुत से प्रयत्नों की बात करे तो समाजवाद और कम्युनिज्म के द्वारा असमानता दूर करने का विषय जरूर उठेगा।वैसे तो कुछ लोग पूँजीवाद को भी विषमता कम/ दूर करने के कारक के रूप मे मानते हैं ।
पर कितनी सफल रही ऐसी सामाजिक परिवर्तन लाने की क़वायदें ?
प्रकृति मे समानता होते हुये भी भिन्नता है ।एक ही खेत मे बोये सरसों में एक जैसा बीज,एक जैसी खाद, एक जैसे रख रखाव होने के बावजूद भी उस खेत मे सरसों के सभी पौधे एक समान नही होते हैं।
हर एक पौधे से भी सरसों के दाने समान मात्रा मे नही निकलते हैं । पर होते तो सब के सब पौधे सरसों के ही है।
समाज संबंधों पर आधारित होता है ।संबंध आपसी समझ और सर्वजनीन मान्यताओं से बनते हैं (जन्मते है), बढ़ते हैं (गाढ़े होते हैं), कालांतर मे संबंधो मे बदलाव (परिवर्तन) होता है, संबंध क्षीण होते है और समाप्त भी हो जाते हैं । फिर नये संबंध बनते है । फिर वही चक्र । इसीलिये कहा जाता है समाज परिवर्तनशील होता है ।
समानतामूलक समाज सिर्फ मनभावन आदर्श ही है। प्रकृति तो विविधता की जननी है ।एकता मे अनेकता का आदर्श ही नही पर प्रकृति का स्वभाव है । प्रकृति के मूल मे समता है समानता नही ।
सामाजिक संरचना भी प्रकृति के नियमों पर आधारित होती है।
समानतामूलक समाज, समाजवादी और साम्यवादी विचारधाराओं का आदर्श है
पर समता मूलक समाज से भिन्न भी है ।
समतामूलक समाज के मूल में सबके साथ बराबरी का भाव और व्यवहार, सबको समान अवसर, स्वप्रयत्नो से अपने और अपने आसपास बदलाव लाने की भावना और विश्वास आदि मूल्य हैं ।
I write this on the morning of Christmas Day of 2019 from Toronto. My 6 year old granddaughter gave me a beautiful card with a message that she wrote for me.
Unlike her I wrote to my great grand father but since he didn’t know how to read or write I wrote to my grand father in Hindi. It had a lot of spelling mistakes. I still have that letter somewhere because my grandfather corrected my spelling errors and my letter was sent back to me by post. It was exciting to get a letter by post that too from my grand father.
That was 1952 or may be 1953.
In 2019 my grand daughter writes to me in English. I wrote from Nanpara in Hindi and she writes from Toronto in English
How times have changed ! My first visit to Canada was in 1980. That was an official trip. I visited Canada several times thereafter but never had an idea of living here. I now spend 5-6 months each year in Canada.
In 1987, NDDB sponsored my dear colleague ( Late) Dr SP Mittal and me for a three month long Training Programme to Canada and USA. We attended workshops and seminars on Human Resource Development staying in various cities and traveling from east to west coast a couple of times. However, we spent a larger part of our time in Victoria, BC. This was a long trip and we greatly missed Indian Food. Dr. Mittal and I both liked to cook. Rob and Carol Nelson who were our hosts in Victoria, graciously allowed us to use their kitchen. But getting groceries was a difficult task.
Toronto was different though. We went to restaurants serving Indian Food but it was costly. We liked Chinese food as it was always served in more than adequate quantities and also at prices much less than the food served in Indian restaurants.
That was then.
Yesterday I went to an Indian store, “Panchvati” some 15 kilometres from our place. What a store! Everything I could think of is available.
The famous Parle G biscuit was on the shelf. Yes Pale G, how can we forget ..The Company was to lay off 10000 workers in August last.
To dip Parle G in hot tea and eat and then sip tea… was a luxury to be indulged in when I was growing up.
I am glad that Parle continues to survive and export too.
Shri Anirudh Singh after reading this post has the following to say in the comments column “Sir, it is really very pleasant, when someone brought us back towards our childhood and particularly by our dear one. The style and manner in which you expressed this was really great. One thing I also want to bring in your kind notice and humbly to correct you that the news propagating that ParleAgro layed off her 10,000 worker was baseless and there was no tinge of truth in this falsely painted story. Presently I am working with Parle Group. Regards”
So much for truthfulness of main stream media !
I also found Dhara the NDDB owned brand of edible oil on one shelf at Panchvati.
I was Director Oilseeds and Vegetable Oil Wing in 1987 before NDDB became a body corporate under an act of Parliament.
NDDB launched Dhara after I moved from Oilseeds and Vegetable Oil wing to the newly created Human Resource Development Group.
I continued to oversee Chairman’s office besides assuming charge as one man department of Human Resource Development. Dr. (Miss) Amrita Patel the then Managing Director thought that I would be the most suitable person to head the newly created HRD function in NDDB. It was initially kept separate from Personnel Administration and Legal function.
But I had no back ground in HR.
Although there was one thing that Dr SP Mittal and I had successfully done. Miss Patel had entrusted the two of us to negotiate with the NDDB Employees Union and settle labour cases. There were a large number of cases pending in labour court, Labour Tribunal and and High Court. Dr. Mittal’s patience, listening ability and gentle demeanour together with my ability to connect with the leadership of the Union and support we had from Miss Patel helped us settle most of the cases barring some critical ones. ?
Dr V Kurien was consulted and Dr SP Mittal and I were sponsored for a training programme cum study tour of US of A and Canada for getting exposed to latest in HR theory and practices. Mr Rob Nelson and Carol Nelson who were Canadian International Development Agency appointed HR consultants to NDDB were he ones who organised our programme in North America.
I went to Dr Kurien and said
“Sir I am would be on tour to US and Canada for a training programe”
“I know, Miss Patel told me. I don’t know whats this HR VehR. But Madam wants you to go so go and enjoy “
Later on return when Dr Mittal and I would reflect on our learning’s we found that most of the theories that we learnt in North America were already being practiced in the organisation that we were working with.
We learnt to use new labels; Vision, Strategy, Structure, Key processes, Key roles, Rewards and Recognition, Culture etC.
RK Nagar pays tributes to his Guru …Dr Michael Halse…It is a long piece but worth a read particularly for those who wish to know more about the unsung heroes who under Dr Kurien’s leadership made the “White Revolution “ a reality in India.
Mike was a born Englishman but as many of us would say he was more Indian than many Indians. He will be known for his strategic inputs for development of dairying in the cooperative sector and employment generation in India. He was a great man and should remain so – untarnished by the prejudices of others, which is so common in India in particular.
Dr Michael Halse — or Mike as I knew him — was not only a wonderful, kind-hearted soul but also a great teacher. We worked together in NDDB during a period that is now but a memory. All my real learning, post university degrees, was with him.
I first met Mike on 8th July 1969 at the NDDB office in Anand. He was then not only the FAO advisor, but also a member of the Board of NDDB — and incidentally, probably one of the only foreign nationals, if not the only one, ever to be on the ‘Board’ of an institution formed by the Government of India. He was also the head of the Management & Manpower Development division (MMD) — one of NDDB’s two service-providing divisions (the other one was Engineering).
NDDB was then in its formative years and Mike was in the process of building a core team of professionals to lead various functions as the organisation grew. He, therefore, had the responsibility to pick the key start-up staff. It was in this context that I first met him when I was interviewed by him and three others (all Indians) for the position of ‘Apprentice Executive- Economics’. I was pitted against three gold medalists from well-known universities, whereas my academic credentials were just ordinary.
During the interview process I had a heated argument with Mike on the utilisation of PL-480 food aid funds. I thought he was an American who was trying to justify use of funds generated through sale of PL-480 food aid on unproductive research, and was trying to throw out of the window my argument that the funds generated should be deployed to produce more food within India. The interview ended with my, somewhat arrogant and bitter remark: “Sir, you are free to keep your views, I will keep mine”. I could see Mike turning red in the face, I presumed out of anger.
No one, especially an Indian interviewer, would have hired me for this kind of an arrogant and uncivilised behavior. But to my utter surprise, he picked me over others. I was taken aback when my name was announced as the selected candidate, especially because after the written test that had preceded the interview, I had, in my own judgment performed very poorly.
Mike never held my uncivilised behavior against me but even praised my performance in the interview a couple of weeks after I joined. I instantly knew I had come to the right person to learn what university education had not taught me.
I later came to know that using food aid as an investment to produce more milk in India was the project Mike was working on. This project later came to be known as “Operation Flood”. I did not know at the time of the job interview that my answer, though delivered in the most uncharitable and arrogant fashion, was bang on. I believe that more than the right answer, it was my conviction and Mike’s magnanimity behind my selection.
My learning begins: Baroda project
(Supply model: My learning begins): Mike told me that he was attaching me to a consultancy project that NDDB was currently doing for Baroda dairy and that I should ‘help’ with the supply analysis. Thinking that I had only to assist someone, I thought the pressure was off my head. I was wrong. By “assisting”, what Mike meant was that I had to not only analyse rural survey data already collected from rural Baroda but also make sense out of it and then develop a milk procurement and production enhancement model by integrating into it a production enhancement inputs delivery system.
For me this was a tall order as I had never done something like this before. So, when I told Mike that I would need some expert guidance on it, he came back to me with a very cool answer, “RK, you have university degrees in Agriculture, Dairy Science and Agricultural Economics. You are the only one with this comprehensive subject knowledge here — you are the expert. I don’t know who else in NDDB can guide you?” With this Mike initiated the process of teaching me how to put academic learning into practice.
My learning, in the true sense of the word, had begun. Fortunately, after a lot of hard work, I could develop a satisfactory model. But I came to know about Mike’s satisfaction with my work only when he used the model as a case study in a teaching session in IIM, Ahmedabad where he was a guest lecturer. In the classroom Mike credited me, by name, and fortunately for me two of my classmates from Agriculture College who were in that batch brought this news to me with the rather funny remark: “Now are we to study through case studies written by you?”
I believe it is still rare for a senior academician or officer to openly acknowledge someone’s work especially if he happens to be a beginner and a nobody.
(Lesson in human resource management; concept of state grid and feeder, feeder-balancing)
By the time I had finished working on the Baroda supply model, I had been in NDDB for barely six weeks. At this point I was suddenly asked to proceed to Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan, where Mike was to undertake a consultancy project to study the working of Jaipur Dairy and evolve a plan for its economic viability.
The Jaipur Milk Scheme (JMS), a Government of Rajasthan enterprise, was managed by two senior Rajasthan Administrative Service (RAS) officers. With a handling capacity of 25,000 litres per day, JMS was losing money and the government was not able to figure out how to get the unit out of the red.
In the very first meeting with the General Manager and Deputy General Manager — RAS officers — Mike introduced me as follows: “Meet my colleague R K Nagar. He is NDDB’s Economist”. He indirectly signaled to me to not use my official designation while I was in Jaipur in any meeting with any official of the JMS. I followed Mike’s unspoken advice.
Mike gave me my first and very important lesson in HR management — “if you respect your colleagues and treat them as equals on the team, others will respect them too”.
I never forgot this lesson. In fact this single most important teaching of Mike in my start up days in NDDB helped me throughout my career to earn full and unqualified cooperation and support of my colleagues, from the time I began to head teams in 1974 through my leaving in January 1999. I attribute my success in various senior positions from 1982 onwards, where I was leading multi-disciplinary teams of highly qualified and experienced professionals, to this particular lesson in HRM.
Doing a little more:
Mike always believed in ‘doing a little more for the client then what was asked for’ for a simple reason: winning the confidence of the client. It was also a good marketing strategy.
In a study on the Jaipur Milk Scheme (JMS), ‘doing a little more’ meant doing something that was unthinkable even for the JMS and state government officials. Mike suggested that we create a grid of state dairies (all except JMS were non-existent) and link them together as ‘feeder/feeder-balancing dairies’.
The concept itself was simple. A feeder dairy was one whose milk procurement exceeds its marketing requirement for most parts of the year and therefore, rather than refusing to accept milk, it would transfer the surplus to the dairy that needed it to meet its marketing requirements. A feeder-balancing dairy was one that had milk drying facilities so that in the flush season it would convert all the surplus milk into milk powder and butter and conserve them for recombination into liquid milk during the lean season. All these dairies were to focus on a simple product mix of fluid milk (two to three varieties) to suit the purchasing power of various market segments.
I am convinced that, prompted by this particular recommendation, the Government of Rajasthan approached the World Bank to finance a dairy development project for the state as under Operation Flood phase I only one milkshed — Bikaner (being an existing hinterland milkshed of Delhi) was included. Eventually three states — Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka — obtained World Bank finance to develop dairying on the Amul model and later all three became part of the second phase of Operation Flood.
Bangalore Project:Two Axis Pricing
Most milksheds in India have a fairly good proportion of both cows and buffaloes and therefore procurement of milk of both the species is important. Moreover in milksheds where there is higher proportion of cows, say near two-third of all milch animals, the seasonal supply variations are not very severe.
Although I was not a part of the field team for this project, Mike involved me with an analysis that can be rightly termed as the genesis of the ‘two-axis pricing system’ in India that revolutionized primary dairy cooperative organization and milk procurement.
Prior to introduction of two-axis pricing, dairies bought milk from producers either on the basis of fat content or on a volume basis. Milk testing was followed mainly by dairies in Gujarat which bought milk on fat basis. Fat based buying discouraged cow milk production whereas purchase on a volume basis encouraged adulteration of buffalo milk with water or skimming of excess fat.
To overcome this problem, the Bangalore dairy introduced a purchase formula that was intended to encourage cow milk production through a premium price. This was the undoing of its procurement operation which was through a network of contractors.
What actually happened was that at a particular fat content, cow milk commanded a higher price than buffalo milk. As a result contractors started adulterating buffalo milk or skimmed excess fat and adjusted it to a level where it would pass off as cow milk and earn a premium. The formula had boomeranged and the Bangalore dairy was losing heavily.
In response to this problem, Mike offered a brilliant proposition — why not base buying milk on both the fat and non-fat-solids (SNF) content. Since variation in SNF content of cow and buffalo milk was only marginal — barely 0.5 per cent, bringing in SNF in price calculation would greatly reduce the disparity. If such a formula was evolved and if we were able to find a way to implement it by economically testing milk for both fat and SNF content, a major challenge in developing a reliable supply chain would get addressed.
The elaborate exercise (in which mike involved me) that followed thereafter was to find a ratio that reflected the ways in which the consumer market individually valued fat and SNF and to apply it in a formula for milk procurement. It worked and in years to follow became the basic principle of milk procurement pricing under OF.
In fact this one single discovery solved a seemingly unsolvable problem of creating price parity between cow and buffalo milk and has resulted in setting in stone the growth cycle in milk production in India. It also set in motion research to find accurate and economical ways to test milk for its Fat and SNF content in villages. This is how the first indigenous electronic milk analyser was developed jointly by the NDDB and Rajasthan Electronics Corporation, following which electronic milk testing came to India in a big way for testing milk at the society level. Today, there are hundreds of companies supplying a wide range of economical indigenous milk analysers, but few know who and what was behind it. Two axis pricing and electronic milk testing together can be said to have stimulated the demand for milk production enhancement inputs and triggered a growth pattern unprecedented in the history of Indian dairying.
Madras Milk Market study: Before I joined Mike, he had guided two other consultancies. One of these was the Madras (now Chennai) Milk Market study. One of the most significant findings of this study, which later became a very important part of the marketing strategy in the metros cities under OF, was that the poorest paid the highest price for milk although apparently it seemed otherwise. In other words, for the price the poor were paying they bought the most expensive milk solids thanks to rampant dilution with water. For them milk was only a white liquid to whiten their coffee.
Barauni Dairy operations study: A study, carried out in Barauni in Bihar state, highlighted the importance of branding and promotion. This was the first study where a new brand name —Sudha — was suggested and ever since it has been the brand name of all dairy products marketed by the Bihar State Cooperative Dairy Federation.
Gujarat Agro Industries Corporation (GAIC) Cattle feed plants: The GAIC, a Government of Gujarat enterprise, wanted to build three cattle feed manufacturing plants — one each in Mehsana, Surat and Rajkot — similar to the one owned and operated by AMUL near Anand. Each of these plants was to manufacture 100 tonnes of compounded cattle feed concentrate every day for marketing within the district. These were the first three turnkey projects that were to be implemented by NDDB.
At this point NDDB did not have its own pool of experienced engineers to plan and execute projects on turnkey basis. The cattle feed plant projects were, therefore, executed under the guidance of Mr. V H Shah and his team of engineers from Amul. Mr. Shah was on the NDDB Board and was responsible for building NDDB’s engineering capabilities in much the same way as Mike was doing with Management and Manpower Development. NDDB recruited fresh engineering graduates as trainees and placed them as site engineers as understudy to Shah’s team.
Mike knew that unless operating systems and key managers were in position well before the factories were to be commissioned, there wouldbe serious problems that could jeopardise NDDB’s chances of getting future turnkey projects. Therefore, as a part of the overall consultancy, he recruited a core team of trainees for each of the three projects. Each team consisted of four persons — one each from the functional areas of purchase (for raw material purchase), animal nutrition (for raw material analysis and feed formulation), finance and marketing. They were all fresh university graduates taken on as trainees.
Mike’s idea of recruiting the marketing guys well ahead of commissioning the plant was to start a seeding programme and create a demand for the feed so that when the plant was commissioned it would begin to operate at least at the break-even capacity. At the same time he helped Amul utilise their recently expanded capacity where they manufactured feed and packed it in the brand name of the three client organisations. The feed marketed under the seeding programme enabled the Gujarat Agro Industries plants to firmly establish their respective brand names. Mike also knew that eventually NDDB would succeed in getting these plants transferred to the cooperative unions of the respective districts and therefore selected brand names that closely aligned with the brand name of the cooperatives. This was indeed a clever forward thinking.
A close look at Mikes approach to all these studies and project indicates that, through these consultancies Mike was in fact evolving operating principles that were to later became key strategy elements in implementing OF and in the process training us in strategic planning. The strategy came in full view when he introduced the concept of composite spearhead teams under OF-II.
OF Proposal and FAO-WFP Mission Visit Preparation
1969 was the year when NDDB was developing a project to fulfill its mandate of ‘replicating ‘Anand’ in other parts of India. An ‘Anand’ meant creating an institutional structure — a farmers’ cooperative led by an elected board and managed by professional managers — that owned and operated the infrastructure to procure, process and market milk produced by its members. The cooperative also provides its members with a package of technical inputs to increase members’ dairy animal productivity. In other words, under the cooperative umbrella, all the four functions — production, procurement, processing, marketing — are integrated.
Replication of Anands meant massive investments, simultaneously in infrastructure, systems and institution building.
To find funds, Mike evolved a project titled “Milk Marketing in the four metro cities and linking them to their hinterland milksheds”. The project was based on a thorough study of the Amul Dairy in Anand and its linkages with the Bombay (now Mumbai) milk market as well as its linkage with the neighboring Baroda (now Vadodara) dairy, where the concepts of feeder/balancing were in operation. Mike carried out these studies when he was still the Ford Foundation representative with the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA).
Mike, beautifully translated Dr. V Kurien’s vision and evolved the above mentioned project that later became globally known as “Operation Flood”. The core idea was to obtain food aid — milk powder and butter oil — from the European community and generate rupee funds for investment to create the cooperative dairy sector in India. The EEC was finding it difficult to deal with massive surpluses of milk powder and butter oil and was willing to dump these as gifts to developing nations, especially India where milk forms the main source of protein for a predominantly vegetarian population.
Dr Kurien and Mike sensed the danger that if the EEC succeeded in convincing the Government of India to accept the surplus as a free gift and in turn give it free to urban consumers in major cities, it would spell the doom for the cooperative sector and would kill small scale milk production in rural India. This would, in turn, deprive millions of small rural producers of the milk income that sustained them, and would push them further down into poverty. There was little time and NDDB had to act quickly with a proposal that would save rural milk producers from the catastrophe looming on the horizon.
The proposal, “Milk Marketing in the four metro cities and linking them to their hinterland milksheds”, was the direct outcome of Dr Kurien and Mike’s brainstorming. Only two of them were involved. For them, as Dr Kurien later said “converting a threat into an opportunity” was of paramount importance. And they succeeded in this as the Government of India formally moved a proposal to obtain food aid of milk powder and butter oil from the EEC through the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP). The project aimed at linking 57 of India’s most promising milksheds spread over 10 states with the dairies of the four metros — Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta and Madras.
I think no one other than Dr Kurien and Mike had much of an idea as to what was going on. I sometimes wonder if they themselves were at all sure of a positive response from the EEC. Therefore, there was hardly any visible activity in NDDB that would indicate that the project proposal was on the way to approval. Then suddenly there was the formal information from the Government of India that FAO was sending a joint FAO-WFP mission to NDDB’s headquarters in Anand for a field visit to consider the proposal. Some tentative dates for the mission’s visit were indicated and we all thought we would have enough time to prepare for the forthcoming visit.
We were wrong. The mission not only preponed the visit but also asked for massive data (that we did not have) and other supporting documents. They wanted to make sure that the project was indeed workable as even FAO had seen this kind of a proposal — using food aid as investment for increasing local food production — for the first time. On our part we had to ensure that there were enough ‘attractives’ for the mission to agree to the proposal. The mission gave us only two days to keep all the supporting documentation ready.
But Mike was a genius. He was calm and cool as a cucumber. I am sure he was well prepared for this sudden assault and had enough ammunition in his armor. He knew that we simply could not let go of this opportunity.
On Mike’s team, we were a handful — barely ten to twelve people. Mike collected us all and set us to work on the tasks to keep all that was needed ready for the mission’s visit. His strategy was to overwhelm the team with reading material, so much of it that they would have no choice but to listen to what we said and read what we provided at leisure when they were back in Rome.
Excepting the Madras Milk Market study and the Barauni report, all the other consultancy reports were in the early draft stage. Mike then planned to complete other reports like Jaipur, Bangalore etc as the first draft. He wanted them to look as good as the final draft, so he himself got on with writing them. But in order not to make us feel small, he gave us the responsibility to work on the first draft. To complete the task, he divided us into three teams.
The first team was to write the draft report and as they completed a section of the report, it was to be promptly handed to him for ‘editing’. The second team was to take the ‘edited text’ and have it stenciled (the only technology available to us in those days), check the stencil and make corrections where needed, and the third team was to have it polycopied and arrange it in right order. Over the next 48 hours, some eight reports were written and polycopied. Mike had simultaneously written the main project document titled “Operation Flood I” and edited “Operation Flood II” the statistical document to support “OF I”.
Early the next morning Mike took the arranged sets of all the reports with him to Ahmedabad and dropped them off for binding on the way to airport where he was to receive the FAO-WFP team. On his way back, he collected the bound reports and carried them with him. While he dropped the team at the Amul guest house for breakfast, the bound volumes of the reports were brought to the office for us to make into sets for each member of the team. As soon as they were finished we sent them back to Mike in the guest house before the team finished the breakfast. The strategy was to ‘attack’ the team with the ‘reading material’ before they came to the meeting about half an hour after breakfast.
Mike added three more documents to this pack of NDDB reports to emphasise the importance of the project. They were: two research papers Mike had done while he was with IIM Ahmedabad — titled ‘Agco 1’ and ‘Agco 2’ — and the proceedings of the seminar of the Protein Food Association of India. These proceedings, published under the title of ‘Protein Emergency’, highlighted the need to urgently augment both calories and protein in Indian diet as the limited intake of calories was causing the dietary protein to be used to provide energy. The Agco papers had dealt with the current situation in Indian agriculture and the delicate interrelationship of the Indian farm and dairy sub-sectors. The argument, as I recollect it, was that the development of agriculture, especially the food sector (that also provides the bulk of feed resources — as crop residues — for the livestock sector) was vital for the growth of the livestock, especially the small scale dairy sector.
Mike then explained to the FAO-WFP team in great detail the concept of the project, the key elements of the operating strategy and that the basis of the evolved project was grounded in a number of studies where the concepts had been successfully tested.
The FAO-WFP mission was so mesmerised with the presentation, its visit to Amul dairy and to the village societies that it could not find any reason to disapprove the project. The mission however cleared the project with a rider. Having found that the database was not strong enough to support the projections, the mission desired that detailed supply studies be carried out in 57 hinterland milksheds and detailed demand studies in the four metros to determine if the processing capacity that we planned to build in both the milksheds and in the metros were justified. They also wanted to know if the number of primary village cooperatives that were projected to be organised over seven years was feasible and that the cooperatives would be viable.
All of this was to be done in the next 12 months after which the FAO-WFP planned to send another review mission to recommend continuation or otherwise of the project.
The first mission’s visit was an amazing experience for the entire group. What an extraordinary show of organizing and leadership skills it was and on the top of it, Mike did not show any sign of fatigue and irritation any time. It seemed that his energy level had quadrupled in this situation of urgency.
In the process, he taught us that however small or insignificant a project may appear, it does have a place in larger scheme of things. And we must meaningfully use every learning experience.
Operation Flood document
The visiting mission was presented with two documents titled Operation Flood-I and II respectively. Whereas OF II document contained all the statistics — to the extent they were available to justify the project — the OF I document contained the project details as to how the funds generated from the sale of donated commodities would be used. This was the most clever piece of Mike’s work. No one in the MMD was even remotely aware of what was being done until it appeared for production as typed version. The funny part is that much of it was produced on the night when we were all busy reproducing copies of the consultancy reports. The OF I document was in fact done in between editing of these half-a- dozen consultancy reports. And that made the achievement all the more spectacular.
The entire investment was divided into 10 action items that were again grouped in three categories: investments for the cooperatives, investments common for all the cooperatives and central investments with NDDB. He not only clearly specified what these action items meant and how they were to be implemented, Mike made a clever fund allocation for each action item to indicate how the funds generated would be fully utilised over a seven-year project period. His genius lay in the fact that there were no parameters that could be considered reliable enough to make these projections. Yet when the project implementation began, most of these parameters were very close to real parameters.
Was it a sheer coincidence or his sharp observations during those seemingly insignificant consultancy projects that enabled him to develop parameters close to real ones? The lesson for me was to be ever watchful, observe closely if planning has to be made meaningful.
Building Database for Planning: Forward Planning for OF II and III
Since we had only one year at our disposal and that we were still a handful, doing detailed market study of the four metros and milk supply potential studies in 57 milksheds was a tall order. The responsibility for these studies fell on four of us — Shailendra Kumar and Nandi Naithani, both statisticians; PV Mathew, the marketing expert; and me the economist with qualifications in dairying and agriculture. Whereas Mathew was to define deliverables from the demand study, I was to do it for the supply study. Shailendra and Nandi were to work on the survey design. We outsourced the services of a senior statistician — Mani from Operations Research Group (ORG), Baroda — to help us with data analysis as we had planned to use ORG’s computer centre for data analysis (ORG was a company of a well-known industrial house, Sarabhai, with whom Mike had excellent personal relations). When it came to actual field work though, much of the responsibility fell on Shailendra, Nandi Naithani and me.
It was a marathon exercise. Field work for data collection lasted a full ten months. The three of us collectively did field work in the northern region (Delhi metro and its hinterland milksheds). Then each one of us got one region each to independently organize and manage the field work. I got the South, Shailendra the West and Nandi the East. The ‘Rural Household Survey’ (RHS) and ‘Urban Household Survey’ (UHS) were collectively termed as the “MIS series”.
During this process, thanks to Mike’s continued guidance, we developed our expertise in survey design and field team management to such an extent that when the GOI initiated Small and Marginal farmers’ centric development projects- it chose to depute its senior officers to train with us in Anand.
Operation Flood implementation officially began in 1971. Much of 1972-73 was spent on working on acquiring the computer and finalizing requirements for systems development. OF had still not gathered momentum and there were considerable difficulties especially in developing the milk procurement side. Many new issues were emerging — from quality assessment to adulteration to producers’ loyalty shifting during the lean season and so on.
The onetime data gathered from the milksheds in 1971 was not adequate to do any meaningful long term planning for procurement operation. Mike especially felt that unless we captured milkshed-wise seasonal variation in production, retention by the producer household and marketable surplus on a continuous basis for three to four years, we would not have a credible basis to develop the National Milk Grid, as seasonal variation in supply and demand was crucial for its management.
This meant that we had to redesign the entire survey, prepare new and more elaborate investigator training manuals (making sure that no question is open to multiple interpretations by the investigator), rework the analysis methodology and rewrite the computer programmes.
The survey program was then extended for 3 years (termed CIS) to capture seasonal variations in supply and demand in all OF I milksheds and 4 metros. At the same time there were demands for surveys to be carried out in Rajasthan, MP and Karnataka, 3 states covered under World Bank assisted dairy development programs and scores of independent feasibility studies from other states. Perhaps unintentionally, a strong database was getting created for planning OFII.
Computer for NDDB
While Mike guided us on completion of the rural household surveys in 57 districts and urban demand surveys in four metros, he had already identified other work that must logically follow. Since the data processing for these large scale surveys was done at ORG, Baroda at a considerable cost, Mike felt that it was time that NDDB had its own computer centre since MIS and monitoring functions were going to be very important during the project implementation phase and timely analysis of data was going to be vital for the success of the project.
Mike started toying with the idea of NDDB having its own computer centre well before OF was formally approved by the FAO. I think it was in early 1970. One fine day an American expert landed in the office with the brief to assess computerisation needs of NDDB and recommend a configuration. He spent a good two weeks in Anand, and since no one in NDDB at that time had any idea of the volume of data that we would handle under the project, the expert recommended a HP table top calculator with some memory.
It was a disappointing beginning. But Mike had other ideas. He waited for the FAO to formally approve the project and then roped in the British government to agree to gift a computer to NDDB. In between in early 1972 there was an expert — Wally Saunders from a British consulting firm (Urwick, Lugg and Gould consulting in agriculture and agri-business) — who suggested that it would be best to develop in-house expertise in systems analysis-systems design and put this team to work with experts to assess the actual computerisation needs.
Mike convinced Dr Kurien to send two officers from MMD to UK for a three-month customised training in Systems Analysis/Design with ICL, UK and, in Computer Applications in Agriculture with ULG and arranged a FAO fellowship for Shailendra Kumar and me. Following this training we were to coordinate with the experts deputed by the donor agency — British ODA in this case.
Following our return from the UK, and following an elaborate year-long exercise, the British government gifted to NDDB an ICL 1904 series computer. At the time, this configuration was one of the most powerful in India and certainly in Gujarat. With the arrival of this computer, the culture of computerisation of dairy sector data took birth in India.
There are many other notables in Mike’s contribution. For example, a direct outcome of the demand studies was the urgent need for research in developing automated processes for hygienically manufacturing indigenous dairy products (milk sweets) by cooperatives since, after fluid milk and Ghee, milk sweets formed the third largest group in terms of value, far ahead of butter and milk powder (including baby food); setting up of IRMA to meet in the growing need of managers to professionally manage rural enterprises; the project he did for the Tribhuvandas Foundation to take cooperative dairies beyond collecting and processing milk and touch other aspects of rural life (women’s health, child nutrition, income generating activities for village women, use of common village property for income generation and its use for common village services etc.) for all round welfare of the members of the cooperatives; the vegetable oil project that he viewed as a vital link with Operation Flood to secure growing needs of animal nutrition; fruit and vegetables, Electricity cooperatives, cotton cooperatives etc. since he rightly believed that the guiding principles that empower the rural poor remain the same while the strategies and operating systems can be specific according to the nature of the commodity/service. And by involving us in these projects, He taught us how to paint a broader canvas.
Through all of this work, Mike challenged us to take on tasks that seemed impossible, encouraged and guided us, and in the end gave us all the credit. In doing so, he taught us lessons we have never forgotten and left us with a debt to him that we never repay.
Mike was a great thinker, extremely passionate about his work and maintained a low profile. His approach was clear, unambiguous and aimed at empowering the rural poor. Given the foundation that had been created under operation flood- the pool of trained manpower in NDDB, he shared Dr. Kurien’s vision that NDDB must work in other sub sectors of the rural economy and transform the rural scene. I had the good fortune to learn a lot more about these ‘other’ non-dairy projects during long post dinner brain storming sessions when I was with him for nearly 2 months in Pakistan and Washington DC as a member of the World Bank’s Pakistan Dairy Sector Review project team led by Dr. Kurien himself.
Everyone knew that he and Dr. Kurien had a great bond. They shared a common vision; both had a mission- to raise the level of the rural poor for they both believed that the true sign of development of a society is development of its rural population.
Truly speaking, Dr. Kurien was the architect of India’s white revolution and Mike was his structural engineer’ who gave the architect’s vision the right expression. That in my eyes, for me was Mike, my Guru with whom learning was such an enriching experience.
Emerging Issues on Meat Sector as : Human Foods of Animal Orgin , Food Saftey and Food Security , in India.
I , recently , happened to read the learned treatise on these and allied subjects by Prof.Dr.John Abraham , on face book. First of all I thank him for the mass of information on this topic of vital importance to India, he has placed before the consuming public as also before Government .
Quite different from the contents of his treatise but allied to the issues raised by him , I venture to place before the public and the policy makers my concerns about the Government’s attitude towards meat as food in general and consumption of beef in particular.
Sentiments among a section of the people in the country to treat the cow as Gomatha and therefore a sacred animal is what I want to talk about. Their interference in place and out of place , compelled the Government to ban the slaughter and consumption meat from cows and its offspring : denying a large section of people including Hindus like me , access to beef , the food we prefer , to satisfy the sentiments , whims and fancies of groups of religious fanatics . Enacting such a draconian law has absolutely no rhyme or reason as holy scriptures of the SANATHANA Dharma , nowhere restricts nor bans the consumption of beef.
By the enactment of the ban on cow slaughter and consumption of beef the Government has in one stroke jeopardised the food security of the country and condemned the the poorest of the poor farmers to bear the burden of enormous numbers of unproductive Indian Cattle eating them out of their houses and homes , as they can no longer trade their surplus animals as part of the country ‘s food chain. 80 per cent of the cattle in India are owned by the small and marginal farmers and the landless , both urban and rural.
We are also , ipso facto , ignoring the enormous food bank the surplus indigenous cattle constitute ! If we breed them for beef production, using beef breeds from Europe or America , we can progressively double , triple or even quadruple the beef out put , starting from the very next year onwards.
The standard argument against slaughter of indigenous cattle had always been that they are needed to produce the work animals for Indian Agriculture . This is no longer true : draught animals now contribute less than 20 per cent of the total farm power used in the country , the rest comes from electrical and mechanical sources . The indigenous cows committed to draught animal production is now redundant . The livestock census 2019 clearly shows that there is drastic reduction in draught animal numbers and with female among indigenous cattle increasing in proportion !
The second argument was that , the indigenous stock constitute the enormously important germ plasm pool . This is true but the female of the species alone are enough to meet that requirement . Trading in indigenous surplus stock is therefore the critical factor balancing the economy of the farm households.
Now , about the holy cows : a myth with no religeous or scriptural sanctions ! I had studied Sanskrit for more than 15 years during my academic life : as my second language from prep school to BSc ! I therefore had plenty of exposure to holy scripture , in original Devanagari : some as part of the curriculum , the other because of access I had to university libraries. I have not come across any recorded restrictions on slaughter of cattle or for that matter , consumption of beef, any where in the scriptures. On the contrary there are recorded evidence on the ritual slaughter of cows and on the popularity of beef as human food.
In the Vedic era , Aswamedha was the ritual of the Kshatriyas , involving horses : where as Gomedha was the ritual of the Brahmins. The ritual caparisoned cow after its ritual wandering about in villages , was ceremonially sacrificed and the beef served to Brahmin Guests at the ceremonial feast at the end of the Gomedha Yaga !
The cow was recognized as a very important livestock , intensely associated with the welfare of the farm family, but never was treated as the gomatha ! Deification of the cow evolved during the era of Adi Sankara ! It was never ever considered holy before !
Thus , there are no religious or scriptural sanctions for a total ban of cow slaughter or consumption of beef. It is high time that right thinking citizens rose against the ban and compel the government to repeal the draconian law on ban of cow slaughter and consumption of beef !
True, I had to pay for the premium plan that I took on WordPress but that was my choice. I could have chosen an option and start writing without paying a dime!
In retrospect it was a good decision.
My wife asked me “How much did pay for it?”
As I normally tend to do when confronted with such questions I tried to avoide answering the question directly and instead gave her a long speech on how unlike during our childhood, now every thing in this world comes with a price. Ending with “No free lunch dear these days” !
That made her pause but I could clearly see that she wasn’t impressed
Mercifully my grand daughter walked into the room and the subject of our conversation changed quickly.
Looking at life in retrospect is real fun in old age. This is because we have a lot of space on the wall of “Past”, some space on the wall of “Present” but as we get older the space on the wall of “Future” gets not only lesser day by day but seems very uncertain.
I have been thinking of writing some thing or the other for years now. But never started writing. Actually I wrote a lot off and on. But wasn’t satisfied with what I wrote and since it was written on paper I would destroy my own writing. In the electronic age it is different. I have been able to locate some poems that I wrote in Hindi seven years ago made some changes and published it on my blog VrikhsaMandir.com.
One of my favourite poems on the subject of looking at life retrospectively is by Harvansh Rai Bachan, father of famous Indian Mega Film Star, Amitabh Bachan, titled is Jeewan ki aapa Dhapi me (जीवन की आपाधापी में..)
Lyrics in Hindi with English translation can be accessed at
I repeat what I said earlier, WordPress is very kind because it’s kindness enables me to write, re write, edit, put in draft or schedule a date and time for publishing or just publish instantly. I can always delete a post.
So much flexibility !
Before I end, those of you who follow my blog may have read the page titled “Meeting Dr. V. Kurien” in November 1967 where I describe my interview that he took and which opened the gate for my first full time job.
My letter of appointment dated 10th May 1968, makes very interesting reading.
It goes some thing like this.
With respect to his application dated 30 April 1968 Shri Kumar is hereby appointed as Project Assistant with retrospective effect from 1 May 1968. …
I thank in retrospect for the fine use of word retrospect that enabled me get my first full time job and not lose the salary for ten days as my appointment letter was issued on 10 May 1968 whereas I started working from 1 May 1968.
And also in retrospect I thank WordPress again because of which I am able to write and rewrite with so much of ease.
Michael Halse became a member of the founding board of National Dairy Development Board from 1965 1968. He was FAO advisor NDDB from 1968 till 1983. When Operation Flood I was launched in 1970 he was appointed as the Team Leader of FAO experts assigned to NDDB. He helped conceptualise and set up the Management and Manpower Development Group in 1968. Earlier Mike was a Ford Foundation Advisor to the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
He worked with Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, Mr. PL Tandon, Prof Ravi Mathai, Dr Kamla Chowdry and others founding team members of IIM Ahmedabad.
He went on a vacation to England shortly after I moved to Anand in late April 1968.
I stayed at Mike’s home in Amul Dairy Campus close to Dr Kurien’s home for four months till I rented a room in a house across the Amul Dairy campus. Mike returned to India August that year.
Life in Anand
Mike had a house was full of books. I loved books. But barring a few they all were in English. I loved being given a bedroom full of books. Mike encouraged me to read. He would find time to teach me Economics and also to correct my written English. I could never measure up to his standards.
Mike liked my village background. I had lived and studied in my village and grew up in a joint farming family. This would be a topic of many a discussion post dinner. Mike loved his whisky. I was then a teetotaler. Nevertheless the discussions would go at times past midnight.
At Anand, Mike led a lonely life. He had very few friends. When Miked moved to Anand from Ahmedabad he had a cook Paul and helper Dinesh.
Later Kanti, Bharat and one more ( I forget the name ) the “Three Musketeers” joined as Mike’s support staff.
These three individuals over time became closest to him. He helped them in any which way he could. He supported his helpers to set up a restaurant named “Three Musketeers” outside the Amul Dairy Complex by supporting them financially, in the design of the physical facilities, interiors, kitchen and arranging their training in catering and hotel management for them.
Once the restaurant became operational Mike would usually be found in the evenings at the restaurant puffing his cigarette at a corner table.
The antidote to Mike’s loneliness was work, work and work. A perfectionist, he always used a pencil and eraser to write draft notes, letters and reports. At times he would type his letters on his typewriter. But the bulk of typing work was done by his Secretary, J H Mehta who also took dictation.
My first and last “Paper”
Mike’s ability to edit drafts made by others was phenomenal. In February 1969, before the launch of Operation Flood-I programme, he encouraged me to attend the annual Indian Dairy Conference at Chandigarh. I had to undergo a surgical operation in Delhi. He knew about it and Delhi was en-route to Chandigarh. I had not even completed one year of service but as a special case Dr S C Ray, Secretary (CEO) of NDDB, obtained approval from the Executive Committee of NDDB and I was given leave for a month to be adjusted against the leave that I would be earning on completion of the first year of year of my service and in future.
Dr Ray said “Shailendra, we can not pay you for the medical expenses as we do not have any scheme for reimbursing such expenses, but we can think of reimbursing your travel cost if you present a paper at the Indian Dairy Conference in Chandigarh”. I had just completed my assignment on sampling of household and analysis of data for the Baroda Milk Market Study. Mike suggested that I write a paper!
I was hesitant. A lot of effort went into it and finally I wrote a paper describing the sampling methodology and process that we had used for deciding the optimal sample size for a household survey to estimate demand for milk in an urban area. Despite three revisions, I could not produce something that met with Mike’s approval. I had to leave for Chandigarh on the appointed day and the paper was not ready. Mike took it upon himself to finalise it. He completely rewrote the text description and sent polygraphed copies of the paper with Dr R P Aneja to Chandigarh. Dr Aneja helped me prepare to present the paper asking questions that might be asked.
I finally did manage to present the paper.
Such acts of encouragement and support to a young employee by seniors was something which taught me a great lesson on how to deal with those who worked with me later in my more than three decades of service with NDDB.
Learning to learn and develop blue prints for future
Mike’s inquiring, inquisitive mind, his ability to understand elements that make complex social, technical and ecological systems, fluency in working with both data and mastery with words must have enabled him not only to write for himself but also write important speeches for Dr Kurien and to edit documents outlining policies, programmes and projects for national, regional and local development related to agriculture and dairying.
However, above all was his ability to understand and expand on ideas that Dr Kurien had on any subject.
In 1974 when I became Executive Assistant to Dr Kurien, I would observe Dr Kurien and Mike meet, discuss, and then Mike going out of the room with some bullet points scribbled in his notebook. He would then make a draft which would be discussed and at times changed and at other times it was just approved by Dr Kurien without any change.
Mike was the editor for all NDDB annual reports, project reports, position papers, etc during 1968-1983.
Alignment in thought processes and articulation
Dr Kurien and Mike were two individuals who thoughts were similar on the future of Dairying in India. Mike was so good at articulating Dr Kurien’s thoughts that often he would leave Dr Kurien’s room only with some hand written cryptic notes and later produce well though out position papers, draft letters, project documents, speeches for Dr Kurien. They will together discuss further make changes and finalise. But need for revisions was minimal.
I was the first person to join NDDB in the newly created Management and Manpower Development (MMD) Group and the 14th employee of NDDB. The MMD Group reported to the Secretary (CEO) of NDDB with professional guidance coming from Mike. Dr R P Aneja, P V Mathew, Dr M P G Kurup, V G Tulpule , R K Nagar and others joined later during 1968 -1970 just in time for the launch of Operation Flood I.
NDDB to develop without any support from Government
NDDB was set up at the behest of the then Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shashtri as an autonomous independent organisation. Dr V Kurien’s vision was to make NDDB a financially strong organisation by making it provide services to earn funds needed to meet its revenue expenses so that it could be run without any support from Government.
The Engineering Group was the first Group in NDDB prior to MMD. The Engineering Group earned revenues for NDDB. In those early year’s NDDB Engineers executed projects for setting up cattle feed plants in Gujarat at Mehsana, Rajkot and Surat .
In 1968 a team of 12 apprentices were selected for Gujarat Agro industries corporation in 4 each in field of Quality, Marketing, Production and Purchase. These plants were later transferred to the Milk Unions of Mehsana, Rajkot and Surat.
They were trained by NDDB with help and support of Amul. The conceptualisation of training design for core competencies was that of Mike. It involved secondment of trainees to Amul, theoretical training in management and practical training in their actual field by buying and selling cattle feed. Mehsana union were selling 60 % of the plant capacity even before the plant was commissioned. So, it was viable even before start.
They also worked on expansion of Sumul Dairy at Surat.
NDDB Engineers were supported by the Projects Division of Amul under Shri V H Shah. The fees earned from project execution was the earning for NDDB.
Earn and learn
MMD on the other hand at that time was a net spender.
MMD Group was involved in learning, researching, gathering data, analysing and planning for projects and programmes for dairy development in the country. We had in Dr Aneja one of the most outstanding dairy technologists. Dr Kurup was our resource for animal husbandry and related matters. Nagar was a young economist with a sharp eye for data interpretation and perspective building. Mathew came from the IIMA and was our man on problem solving on managerial issues but his heart was in marketing. Tulpule Sab was a hands-on dairy technologist with vast experience. In all, it was a compact multi-disciplinary group. I was the data cruncher cum researcher.
This was made possible by the work done by the Engineering Group. NDDB engineers did projects and NDDB charged a fee on project conceptualisation, design, purchase of equipment and erection. In the initial phases, MMD was seen, at least among the younger group not so senior staff, as a group which was just spending and not contributing to the kitty of money needed to run the organisation.
One of the first jobs that I did with Mathew, who was the second person to join MMD, was to do a supply study to estimate milk production in rural Vadodara and a demand study to estimate demand of milk in Vadodara city. These were learning expeditions for the young ones like us who had just been recruited into NDDB.
Later these learnings became the foundations on which the entire effort to produce Blue Books for the first evaluation mission of Operation Flood-I was launched under Mike’s supervision and guidance. For Operation Flood-I, there were 18 identified milksheds across India and so “Supply Studies” supply-study were done in 57 District to help identify 18 Anand’s to be setup under Operation Flood -I. Since the four metro cities were to be major milk markets under Operation Flood —I four “Demand Studies” were conducted in Delhi Mumbai, Kolkata and Madras.
NDDB carried out a “feasibility” report for the proposed Barauni Dairy in 1969. I assisted Mike in data collection analysis and at times acted as interpreter when Mike would conduct interviews in the area. Mike and Dr Aneja (who had recently joined) developed models for data analysis and created the first blue print for doing feasibility studies. We experimented and learnt collecting and analysing data from primary and secondary sources on , production and procurement, making projections, working out product price mix’s and financial analysis.
When I joined NDDB our office was in two story two bed room flat adjacent to Amul Dairy with a common boundary. In 1969 NDDB got the fourth floor of newly built multi-storey Amul Office building. The NDDB campus construction was started in late 68 or may be in 1969, I don’t remember. In 1970 NDDB office was shifted to the campus near Jagnath temple on Khetiwadi Road. Here are some old pictures that I took after office was moved to the campus. . Chairman’s office, Chummery ( now Guest House) , Directors Bungalows and the Old Hostel were first to be built.
Operation Flood-I was a project which was originally planned for a duration of five years but had to be extended to ten years. This was a project under the leadership and guidance of Dr Kurien, shaped by his team comprising perhaps the best professional minds in the field of dairying at that time, H M Dalaya (Dairy Technology), V H Shah (Dairy Engineer), Dr R P Aneja (Dairy Technology & Economics) and Dr M P G Kurup (Animal Husbandry). And Michael Halse as Advisor !
This was followed by Operation Flood-II launched in 1980. In 1978-79, NDDB came out with a project to restructure the edible oil sector and create Amul type producers’ cooperatives for oilseed growers. I was inducted into the Oilseeds Project in 1979 and headed this function till 1987. Mike was involved in conceptualising this project as well.
The first International Dairy Congress to be held in a developing country took place in New Delhi in 1974. It was again the genius of Dr Kurien and his team that did the conceptualisation, planning and implementation. Dr (Miss) Amrita Patel was the Secretary General of the Congress. And, behind the scene it was Mike’s able writing, editing and producing that worked wonders.
A number of new initiatives took place which resulted in the setting up of institutions and projects like the Institute of Rural Management (IRMA) to provide education and training in the area of Rural Management and the Tribhuvandas Foundation (a rural health project in conjunction with milk producers cooperatives).
Some others like the rural electrification project did not see the light of the day and got bogged down in red tape of Government approvals and lack of political will.
Separation and Meeting again
In 1983, Mike went away to Sri Lanka where he worked for the World Bank and we lost touch with him. He approached me when he was very sick and hospitalised. He was rescued, his pension from FAO restored and he was taken to his home in the UK. He visited Anand for a short stint in 1995.
We lost Mike again when he left Anand in 1995-96 to work in Kenya. We found that Mike was living in one of the most crowded slums of Nairobi. He was not in touch with his family. His sister wrote to me and through a friend ,Thomas Thevarkad (First batch IRMA) who was a student of Mike we located Mike in Nairobi. He was taken to England where he passed away.
The year 2000) was most difficult and sad for me.
That is the year I left NDDB and Anand too to begin a new third phase of my life!
From my village in Gorakhpur to Anand and then I moved to Gurgaon …
Well, first of all one must know how to write only then one can think of writing what to write.
Speaking comes easily, particularly , speaking for daily usage. Speaking to others known or unknown and in front of others is a different matter. Public speaking requires different kind of skills and confidence so as to face audiences without stage fright.
Writing even after one becomes proficient is altogether different ball game. Writing is done for self and for others. Writing for self may be just a todo list or entries in a diary or letters and now a days emails to communicate with others.
Writing for others could be for a number of reasons, filling forms to open a bank account, booking a ticket, answering question papers to pass examination, a research paper or a thesis to get a PhD .. the list goes on. Then there are professional writers who write for others and the challenge that they face is that what they write, must resonates not with their own thinking that but with that of those for whom they write. Then there are
अनेक पुराण, वेद और शास्त्र से सम्मत तथा जो रामायण में वर्णित है और कुछ अन्यत्र से भी उपलब्ध रघुनाथ की कथा को तुलसीदास अपने अंत:करण के सुख के लिए अत्यंत मनोहर भाषा रचना में निबद्ध करता है॥ 7॥
Consistent with many Puranas, Vedas and Shastras, which are mentioned in the Ramayana and also available elsewhere, the story of Raghunath is composed by Tulsidas in the most delightful language for the pleasure of his conscience.
However, as is well known reading and recital of Ramcharitamanas has given peace, solace and a sense of purpose to live to millions of Hindus the world over.
Let’s assume that one day my blog, vrikshamandir.com turns out to be highly appreciated and liked by all who read it. How would it then compare with Ramcharimans.
Attempting such a comparison is foolhardy. Both can’t be compared with each other. Tulsidas ji was inspired and guided by a “Higher” purpose which a mortal like me has not yet found to follow consistently even after living for three quarters of a century on this planet. That made his writing of Ramacharitmanas and other creations so precious and timeless.
In order to start this blog, which was in my mind for several years, it was the mantra of Tulsidas ji that inspired me to take the first step and begin writing after years of hesitation.
I started my pilgrimage North in the late sixties not knowing when I set out that it was to be a pilgrimage at all. But it so happened that I was swapped up in a human saga set in motion by a giant among men, called Vergheese Kurien. What I recount below are some of the precepts and principles in leading men, doing things and achieving success that I learned as a part of this great movement.
There are only a lucky few who were fortunate enough to work with the legendary milk man of India: Vergheese Kurien, a visionary and pragmatist, a rare combination of qualities seldom found in one individual: his head in the clouds, but his feet planted squarely on terra firma. I was one among those lucky few and for almost a quarter of a century with a ring-side seat, just an arm’s length away from him, all along. A Leader of men par excellence and a champion of the farmers, he devoted a whole life time to help them shape their destinies and to build for them an empire, vast and powerful, entirely controlled by them through the professionals they employ.
I became a part of this team of professionals lead by Vergheese Kurien and along the way some of his wisdom rubbed off on us: we learned the tricks of the trade: leadership, man management, team spirit, attention to detail, decisiveness, and above all determination. The rules of the game too were as important as the tricks themselves: integrity – personal as well as professional, fairness, equity, punctuality, speed, prudence and accountability. Competence, efficiency and unflinching loyalty were of course prerequisites to become a part of his team.
Management by delegation: delegation of responsibility and authority was the order of the day: we all learned that to load a man with responsibility and matching authority was the surest way to make him grow. We soon realized that one cannot lead from a crowd: one has to stand upfront to lead. Decision making became for us a matter of the head first and then of the heart as well: it was clear that the path to hell was paved with good intensions! In team building we learned to choose our peers, not the serf: the principle was: choose the one good enough to be your boss!
Lo and behold! We were soon a bunch of brats: head strong and cock sure, competent and aggressive, ready to take on the world and to hold on our own. We invaded the country with our tasks, teams and projects, changing the way we did business in our country and building enduring edifices as bulwarks against any onslaught of vested interests: and we succeeded all the way to the market, adding value and enhancing returns for our primary constituents: the farmers in India. And they cheered us on to advance and achieve as never before.
The theme was small holders and their livelihoods: the movement enabled over 10 million marginal and land less households of milk producer members in the cooperative movement to cross the poverty line and to enjoy a far better quality of life, in a sustained and progressively improving rural prosperity ambience. It taught us to look beyond the cow and see the man behind; and work for his welfare. The social capital build up in rural India enabled by the movement resulted in tens of thousands of viable and flourishing community based organizations owned and managed by farmers, institutionalizing their household livestock enterprises, giving them a continuing and sustainable livelihood option.
To me as an individual, the opportunities opened up by the movement were vast and varied, enabling me to become a major player in the development and orchestration of the livestock sector in India, to build and promote a nation-wide input generation network of animal feed mills, frozen semen production stations, bull mother farms, world class laboratories; to be the CEO of the second largest virus vaccine manufacturing plant in the world; and to coordinate and manage an army of professionals: a mixed bag of veterinarians, engineers, scientists, economists, environmentalists, sociologists, agronomists, accountants and administrators. After demitting office in the formal set up the experience and expertise gained over the quarter century I spent working with Dr.Kurien enabled me to become a successful international consultant handling widely varied mix of projects, the National Livestock Policy Perspective for the Government of India and to continue as a Consultant to the World Bank over the past 15 years.
Some say that Kurien is a big Banyan Tree under the shadows of which nothing grows: nothing can be farther from truth. For those of us working with him, it was this shadow that provided the protective umbrella, emboldening us to dare the limits every single day and achieve breakthroughs of personal and group excellence, always shielding us from harm and encouraging us to grow. No other leader has left behind such a vast skill pool of top class professionals and managers, who continue to contribute to nation-building in different sectors of our economy.
Dr. Kurup worked with the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) of India from 1969 to 1993 serving as a member of the of the Board and Executive Director of NDDB from 1991-1993.
As an International Consultant on Livestock and Dairying since 1993 he has worked countries across the world in Asia, Europe,North and America. He is currently based in Toronto.
Some time ago , I was asked by the veterinarians in Kerala , to write them a note on my working life , as many among the younger colleagues in the profession wanted to know what all , exactly , a “Distinguished Alumnus” of the Kerala Veterinary College did with his professional life. What follows is what I wrote for them.
Recently , Dr.Mathew Abraham invited me to join the AKVNA and I would be delighted to do so. I thought to sent you the note below so you can forward it to him and he can use it to introduce me to the mambers of the AKVNA.
I must begin by stating that I was incredibly lucky in my life and career , often because of the circumstances I was in and the Mentors who groomed me as a young professional , particularly Dr.M . N . Menon , who was my Professor , Principal and then my Director, all the time I was a young Veterinary Surgeon in the Kerala State Department of Animal Husbandry . The most critical and benevolent of his career decisions for me was to advise me to choose the option of working in the Indo-Swiss Project , Mattupattywhich was just about to start then (1963 ) while I also had the option to join the faculty of the Veterinary College , Mannuthy , as a Junior Lecturer!
When I qualified as a Veterinarian in 1959 , I thought I would finally, at the end of things, wind up as a back country pill roller in some obscure village. There was no room for ambition as the profession had still not opened up to specialisations in products and services other than care and treatment of very low producing primitive livestock.
My choice of the Indo-Swiss project as my launch vehicle, however turned out to be providential and from there to the NDDB was the start of an epic voyage into an ocean of knowledge, skills, technology and development. I was lucky to be part of a saga of unprecedented growth , development and adventure, in a sector never before seen as a tool for human and economic development. Also It gave me the opportunity to be part Dr.Kurien’simmaculate team , with a ring side seat all through the next 25 years , and with him as my friend , philosopher , guide
Personally for me it gave an incredible and vibrant career catapulting me into the vortex of professional excellence , enormous executive freedom , exhaustive and extensive global travel and unbelievably exotic tasks and opportunities. After 25 years of this wonderful exposure, I demited office in NDDB as its Executive Director and Board Member in 1993 and started practicing as an International Consultant in , Livestock , Dairy and Livestock Related Livelihood , with instant recognition and burgeoning demand. Initially I had the GOI and State Governments as my Clients and soon I was grabbed by the World Bank in 1994 , as a Short Term Consultant.
Even though I was financially comfortable, and professionally satisfied, World Bank offered me a work culture, work ethics, and financial compensation never before experienced: they respected my professional skills and experience, my competence and above all , my recommendations. They paid me extremely well, totally tax free, all travels by business class, top five star hotels for field missions everywhere and all expenses at actuals without limit. I covered for the World Bank the whole of India, and all of South Asia including Afghanistan. I worked for the World Bank for 17 long years and opted for retirement when I reached the age of 75 in 2011.
I had so far in this write up , been waxing eloquent for long now, mostly blowing my own trumpet and now I seek your indulgence for the final act of impertinence , of attaching my CV to this mail, to give you a cursory view of my entire working life.
With best wishes for a healthy and happy life for you all and with my loving regards for you all and your families.
It is said that when Ādi Śaṅkara ( in eighth century AD) was a young boy of eight and wandering near River Narmada, seeking to find his guru, he encountered the seer Govind Bhagvadpada who asked him, “Who are you?”. The boy answered with these stanzas, which are known as “Nirvāṇa Shatkam” or Ātma Shatkam”. Swami Govindapada accepted Ādi Śaṅkara as his disciple. The verses are said to be valued to progress in contemplation practices that lead to Self-Realization. -From Wikipedia
This space is for musings from Saneechar a character from Hindi satire novel “Raag Darbari” by Shrilal Shukla. Raag Darbari is available in English translation also.
I first met Saneechar on Twitter. We used to exchange messages . After some months or may be a year we decided to meet. Saneechar rang the call bell at my home in Gurgaon and I opened the door. We both were strangers to each other till we met that day as we hadn’t seen each other earlier.
I have my twitter ID as “Vaidyaji” a character from Raag Darbari. We both love Rag Darbari. In fact there are a number of us on twitter who have taken their identity on the names of characters from Raag Darbari. Raag Darbari was written in late sixties. The depiction of rural life in India as given in Raag Darbari is unmatched. Even today if you live and observe village life, specially in north India, shadow of many characters of Raag Darbari can be found from among the village folk who live there. In more than one respect this novel is timeless and unmatched.
Saneechar introduces himself in his first post. Let’s read about Saneechar in his own words.
इस हरे–भरे इलाके में एक मकान ने मैदान की एक पूरी–की–पूरी दिशा को कुछ इस तरह घेर लिया था कि उधर से आगे जाना मुश्किल था। मकान वैद्यजी का था। उसका अगला हिस्सा पक्का और देहाती हिसाब से काफ़ी रोबदार था, पीछे की तरफ़ दीवारें कच्ची थीं और उसके पीछे, शुबहा होता था, घूरे पड़े होंगे। झिलमिलाते हवाई अड्डों और लकलकाते होटलों की मार्फत जैसा ‘सिम्बालिक माडर्नाइज़ेशन’ इस देश में हो रहा है, उसका असर इस मकान की वास्तुकला में भी उतर आया था और उससे साबित होता था कि दिल्ली से लेकर शिवपालगंज तक काम करनेवाली देसी बुद्धि सब जगह एक–सी है।
मकान का अगला हिस्सा, जिसमें चबूतरा, बरामदा और एक बड़ा कमरा था, बैठक के नाम से मशहूर था। ईंट–गारा ढोनेवाला मज़दूर भी जानता था कि बैठक का मतलब ईंट और गारे की बनी हुई इमारत–भर नहीं है। नं. 10 डाउनिंग स्ट्रीट, व्हाइट हाउस, क्रेमलिन आदि मकानों के नहीं, ताकतों के नाम हैं।
जिस चबूतरे का ज़िक्र किया है उसी चबूतरे पर एक शख़्स जो दिखने में सम्पूर्ण भारत के किसी भी ग्राम संस्कृति का मौलिक ब्राण्ड एम्बेसडर बन सकने के लिए बिलकुल उपयुक्त है, भाँग पीसता है। उसकी भाँग पूरे ग्रामीण अंचल विशेष रूप से मेरी बैठकी में तो लोकप्रिय है ही। सबसे अहम् बात है कि यह बात वह स्वयं भी बड़े आत्मविश्वास के साथ जानता है। उसकी पी.एचडी. इसी काम में है। निश्चित रूप से इसे करने में उसने किसी भी सामान्य शोधकर्ता की तरह इधर-उधर ताका-झाकी नहीं की है। वह मौलिक रूप से उसकी अपनी ही है, उसका कोई गाइड या सुपरवाईजर नहीं।
जब वह भाँग पीसने से मुक्त हो जाता है तो उसी चबूतरे पर किसी हाकिम-हुक्काम की तरह बैठने की कोशिश करते हुए ग्राम जन-जीवन के विभिन्न पहलुओं पर अपनी सटीक राय बिना किसी झिझक, डर और लम्पटता के देता है जो अकाट्य होती है।
Empowering Farmers through Value Chain Institutions:Operation Flood -The Example
RK Nagar worked with the National Dairy Development Board of India from 1969 to 1998 as a part of the senior management team in project planning, project management and operations of commodity business. He is currently a free lance Management Consultant, Value Chain Design and Development Specialist in Agribusiness and Rural Development. He is based in Toronto.
In a previous article, I mentioned “Operation Flood” as world’s largest development program that empowered millions of small and marginal milk producers in India. The program itself was based on a successful and time tested model, globally well known as AMUL.
When we talk of empowerment in the context of sustainable development in agriculture and allied sectors, we are essentially talking of, what the father of the “White Revolution” in India Dr. V Kurien echoed as “placing the instruments of development in the hands of the producers themselves”, and these instruments included not only the technologies but also the institutions through which the technologies were to be accessed by the farmers.
In other words, the farmers not only have the ownership of the produce, but also of the very infrastructure that adds value to their produce, so that the benefit of value addition accrues to them, rather than to some investor who has invested in the processing infrastructure that provides only a marketing outlet for the farm produce.
Value chain has often been used as a term to mean supply chain. In a normal supply chain, the farmer supplies the produce to a ‘collector’ or ‘procurer’, often an agent of the processor. The collector delivers the produce to the processor and earns a commission. The Famer does not have a direct contact/ relationship with the processor and therefore the benefit of value addition through processing never reaches him. Simply put, farmer is just a supplier of raw material to the processor.
Many improvements tried to bolster the relationship between the farmer and the processor include ‘contract farming’, which at best only provides an assured (not guaranteed) market so long as the supply does not exceed the processing capacity. In many cases, unsold inventory also causes the processor to refuse the farmer’s produce. Over supply therefore causes the farm gate prices to crash. Very often, over supply or inventory is used to manipulate farmers to beat down farm gate prices. Therefore from the farmer’s angle, even though contract farming is better than total uncertainty, it does not insulate him from price manipulations, leave alone any share in value addition.
All agricultural commodities suffer from these imperfections in the value chains that in fact are only ‘supply chains’. Price support mechanism only protects farmers to a limited extent by ensuring that they at least cover their cost of production, but again it ends up only as a ‘supply chain’, except that the players have changed.
The benefits of value addition in such models always invariably elude the farmers.
And here comes the importance of the “VALUE CHAIN THAT EMPOWERS”, as successfully implemented under “Operation Flood”. Dr. Kurien always maintained that “true development is development of men”. He demonstrated it by creating such institutions that made the farmers active participants in their own development process.
And this was done by putting into practice the underlying principles of democracy. I am inclined to quote here Abraham Lincoln who, when referring to democracy said, “Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people”. Under ‘Operation Flood’, the institutions created are “Of the milk producers, by the milk producers, for the milk producers”.
Let me elucidate it further:
Here a basic brief of the pre Operation Flood dairy production scenario will help better understand the concept I am about to elaborate. In India, most milk producers were incidental milk producers. They were in fact trying to make the best use of crop residues and surplus family labor- both of whom had zero opportunity cost, by keeping 1-3 bovines- cows/buffaloes or a mix thereof, primarily to get in bargain some milk for family consumption and bullock power for farming.
This scenario has considerably changed over the last 50 years. Bullock power has been almost entirely replaced by mechanical power and farmers now have access to increased crop residues due to multiple increase in production of food crops. Better transportation facilities have made access to distant urban markets a lot easier and faster. Operation Flood therefore turned out to be a well-timed intervention to optimize on the limited resources of the individual small milk producers.
1. Of the milk producers:
Small milk producers, over 85% of whom own 1-3 bovines individually cannot have access to a distant lucrative urban market since the quantity of milk to be sold is too small. Highly perishable nature of the produce adds to the problem. That leaves only one option with them, either consume all that they produce or sell it to a middlemen at distress prices.
A village dairy cooperative provides them an opportunity to bulk the milk and transfer it to a chilling center/dairy plant owned collectively by all the village dairy cooperatives in a given collection area referred to as “MILKSHED”. Every milk producer residing in the operational ambit of the cooperative has an equal opportunity to become a member. Since non milk producers and traders cannot become members of the coop, in real terms, it becomes an institution only of the milk producers.
2. By the milk producers:
What makes the cooperatives an institution BY the milk producers? It is simply the pattern of shareholding and the way capital formation takes place to give them the ownership of the infrastructure.
At the level of village society, every member holds equal number of ordinary shares as decided by the members themselves. Shareholding therefore only denotes membership and not an individual’s investment in the venture.
At the next level, commonly referred to as the MILKSHED UNION (wherein all the village dairy cooperatives pool their resources to collectively own the infrastructure to collect, process and market the milk and products made from it; as well as infrastructure that provides inputs and services to increase milk production), the pattern of shareholding is identical, i.e. each society has the same number of shares in the union. The Union and the infrastructure is therefore build by the milk producers themselves for the benefit of all the members. The financial resources pooled under the union, enabled the farmers to obtain funding for investment in the infrastructure.
3. For the milk producers:
The purpose of these institutions is three fold. One, to provide them access to a market and in the process give them the ownership of the entire value chain so that they retain the ownership of the finished product. This approach enables transfer of a larger share of consumers’ spending on milk and milk products reach back to the producer.
Second, larger share means higher returns than what they could ever get by selling raw milk to the collection agent. Higher returns in turn cause an attitudinal change and milk producers begin to see their bovine holding as a more powerful economic asset rather than just a means to use surplus crop residues and family labor. They then begin to demand inputs and services that help in increasing milk production at the farm level. The union’s ownership of the infrastructure to provide these services- nutritionally balanced feed, insemination and veterinary health care services, fodder seeds and cultivation package etc. comes in handy to provide this vital input.
Third and equally important is the democratic management of the institutions. The bye laws of the cooperatives are so designed that, through a democratic election process, the leadership of the institutions is vested in the hands of those who have genuine interest in furthering the business and economic benefit to its members. Eligibility criteria based on a system of internal checks and balances supported by timely audit of the business at each level ensures transparency.
Thus, the whole system is designed FOR the members benefit through sustainable growth. Since the cooperatives have to depend on the urban markets for their growth, they cannot indulge in exploitative pricing. Consumer prices are therefore moderated by the producers themselves and set an example of social responsibility. It also creates a win-win situation for both the milk producers and the consumers.
Milk producers’ cooperatives created under Operation Flood, thus present the finest example of “Democracy in action for the development of members”.
Role of facilitator:
The National Dairy Development Board of India (NDDB) that planned and implemented the entire project addressed an important livelihood issue by facilitating creation of democratically managed institutions and empowered them through judicious application of principles and practices to create a sustainable development model in dairy sector.
The milk producers’ cooperatives did not come overnight. The key aspect of project was meticulous planning, farmers education and training, funding and building of the infrastructure and above all the message given to milk producers that NDDB as the facilitator has full confidence in their ability to not only manage the business enterprises build for them but also service the funds loaned to them.
A question often asked is “Is the experience replicable in other agricultural commodities and other countries”? My un-wavered answer is YES, simply because it is based on very sound ‘principles and practices’. Whereas the practices will vary with the nature of the commodity, the guiding principle of giving the ownership of the entire value chain to the producers themselves remains unaltered. So long as this principle forms the fundamental basis of institution building, the model will be fully replicable for all agricultural commodities and all situations.