Erode MLA visits Anand Pattern Cooperatives
After several requests, Ma Subramaniam, Erode MLA agreed to visit one Anand Pattern Cooperative: Semboothampalayam. It was agreed that I will pick him from his Erode residence at 6 am. I reported at Mr Subramanian’s residence exactly at 6 am. I was asked to wait as the MLA was getting ready. Sitting in the visitor’s room, I could hear his wife yelling at him “Dr Madhavan came exactly at 6 am and he has been waiting. Please get ready soon and go with him”. Mr Subramaniam was fast asleep when I came and by the time he got ready, it was 8 am! He was apologetic for the delay…
We immediately left for Semboothampalayam. Fortunately, Semboothampalayam being the last society in the milk route, the milk collection started a little late. So, when we arrived, milk collection was going on and there were many farmers at the society who had come to deliver milk.
I explained to Mr Subramaniam how milk was collected, samples drawn, testing carried out and payments made. I also told him about the profits made by the cooperative and the bonus disbursed.
Mr Subramaniam talked to the farmers and enquired how they felt about the cooperative. He was greatly impressed with the functioning of the cooperative and the changes that had taken place in the village as a result of the cooperative. The President of the cooperative took Mr Subramaniam around the village. He was happy to see the unity that had been brought about among the farmers as a sequel to formation of the cooperative.
Seeing the entire development in the village, Mr Subramaniam said that he was not aware of such excellent work happening in a village of his constituency. He regretted that he didn’t visit the cooperative earlier.
Mr Subramaniam thanked me for taking him to Semboothampalayam.
He felt that regular contact with the farmers, their involvement in the cooperative and assistance rendered by the NDDB team went a long way in building a strong relationship and that was what had happened in Semboothampalayam.
He profusely complimented the NDDB Spearhead Team for the transformation that was being brought about in the Erode villages. Thereafter, he was a great supporter of the programme.
Quota System for Milk
Milk production, particularly in buffaloes, has two seasons: lean and flush. The lean season is the summer months: March – May and the flush, the monsoon/winter months: June-February. Buffaloes produce almost three times more milk in flush as compared to the lean production. Therefore, while deciding the capacity of the dairy plant, this factor is taken into account so that the dairy could accept all the milk offered by the farmers, particularly the flush season surpluses.
TNDDC had introduced a “quota system”, whereby flush season milk will be accepted only in a ratio decided by the Corporation. As per this, a farmer should have delivered a certain quantity of milk to the cooperative in lean, to accept a certain quantity in flush. The ratio decided by TNDDC was 1: 2 (lean: flush), whereas, the actual lean: flush was 1:3. In 1970s, TNDDC used to consume a lot of “gifted commodities” (skim milk powder and butter oil) for recombination to make up the short falls in milk supplies. While this may be justified in lean, when milk availability was low, resorting to heavy recombination in flush, when milk was available in plenty, was not in the interest of the farmers. The net result was refusal of farmers’ milk.
The Anand Pattern cooperatives organised in Erode faced this problem during flush: farmers’ milk was being refused while at the same time, large quantities of skim milk powder and butter oil were being used for recombination. Farmers were put to great economic loss as a result of milk refusal as they were not able to find market for the rejected milk. They were forced into a “distress sale” situation.
I took up the matter with MD, TNDDC. Despite my explaining to him the problems the farmers were facing as a result of milk refusal by TNDDC, consequent to the “quota system”, Mr Menezes was not prepared to drop the quota system and accept all the milk offered by the farmers. I told Mr Menezes that there was no justification for TNDDC to resort to recombination when milk was available in plenty and that what was being done was against the farmers’ interest. TNDDC was more concerned about its balance sheet, as recombination worked out cheaper than buying farmers milk. My repeated plea to accept all milk offered by the farmers didn’t yield any positive response from Mr Menezes.
I was left with no option other than seeking the help of Mr C Subramaniam. I explained to the Minister the plight of the farmers as a result of rejection of milk by TNDDC. It was flush season when milk was available in plenty, but still TNDDC continued to use skim milk powder and butter oil for recombination and rejected farmers’ milk. Farmers not only in Erode, but the entire state were affected as a result of milk refusal by TNDDC. Mr Subramaniam immediately called for a meeting with MD, TNDDC. In the meeting, Mr Menezes tried to justify the stand of TNDDC for resorting to recombination and rejection of farmers’ milk. Mr Subramaniam told Mr Menezes that the WFP commodities (skim milk powder and butter oil) were to be used only when there was shortage of milk and that using these commodities when milk was available in plenty amounted to anti-farmer policies. Further, it was against the principles of Operation Flood Programme. He categorically stated that the conserved commodities should not be used when milk was available in plenty and that TNDDC should accept every drop of milk offered by the farmers not only in the lean season, but in the flush as well.
Mr Menezes accepted the suggestion and lifted the “quota system”. He realised, though late, that the quota system was impractical and against the interest of the farmer. The only way to encourage the farmer to produce more milk was to offer him an assured and remunerative market for all the milk produced. TNDDC followed this dictum and never had to resort to quota system again!
Feeder Balancing Dairy for Erode District Milk Producers Union
The area of operation of the Erode Milk Producers’ Union comprised Erode, Bhavani, Sathyamangalam and Dharapuram talukas of the then Coimbatore district. By 1975, more than hundred Anand Pattern cooperatives were formed collecting about 20,000 litres of milk per day. Considering the total milk production in the Unions’ area (around one lakh litres) and the potential for increasing the production as a result of the assured and remunerative market created, it was proposed to set up a feeder balancing dairy of 100,000 litres capacity with a ten tone powder plant, two milk chilling centres (at Sathyamangalam and Dharapuram) and a 100 tone cattle feed plant, under the aegis of the Erode Milk Producers’ Union.
MD, TNDDC didn’t agree with the proposal on the plea that there wasn’t adequate milk in the Unions’ area to support a feeder balancing dairy. Further, he was not in favour of the Union getting into processing activities as it was already being carried out by TNDDC. The Corporation had plans to set up a feeder balancing dairy at Jwalarpet in North Arcot district. They even started looking for a site at Pallipalayam, near Seshayee Paper Mills (Salem district) for the dairy. When I said the place was in Salem district and not in Erode, Mr Menezes remarked how it mattered as the dairy will be owned by TNDDC only. TNDDC advocated a feasibility study to decide on the matter. Clearly, these were tactics to delay the matter.
We had extensively toured the Unions’ area of operation, carried out field studies and were convinced that the Union needed a one lakh feeder balancing dairy, as proposed. Such a dairy would be owned and managed by the Union, as had been advocated under the Operation Flood Programme. Collection of milk, processing and manufacture of products and provision of production enhancement activities (Feeds & Fodder, Animal Health Care, and Breeding) would all come under the purview of the Producers’ Union. TNDDC’s role would be limited to that of marketing of milk and milk products supplied by the District Milk Unions. TNDDC would essentially function like a “Marketing Federation” – the apex body of all the District Milk Unions which will be formed later – similar to the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation. These were recommendations stipulated under the Operation Flood Programme by NDDB/IDC and accepted by the Tamil Nadu Government.
NDDB’s effort was to create one Anand in Tamil Nadu (Erode) and we were confident that Anands in other districts in the state will be created by the farmers themselves. NDDB/IDC supported the proposal of setting up a feeder balancing dairy at Erode. Unfortunately, TNDDC didn’t agree with the proposal and continued to be adamant and unsupportive. Obviously, TNDDC didn’t want to support any proposal which would destabilise it. The matter had almost reached a dead lock.
Once again, I had to seek the intervention of Mr Subramaniam, the Union Finance Minister. I had the occasion to meet the Minister on one of his visits to Erode and I explained to him the need for a feeder balancing dairy for the Erode Milk Union. As he had seen the AMUL set up at Anand, he got convinced and understood the importance of setting up the feeder balancing dairy under the aegis of the Erode Milk Union. He called for a meeting with the senior officials of the Government of Tamil Nadu (the Adviser to the Governor, the Chief Secretary, the MD, TNDDC), the Chairman, NDDB and the Secretary, NDDB. The meeting took place on November 5, 1976 at Madurai. Mr Sivakumar, Private Secretary to the Finance Minister was also present. I had met Mr Sivakumar when he was the Collector of Coimbatore district. He had visited the cooperatives in Erode and was well aware of the entire programme. All these helped in facilitating a favourable decision. Seeing me tensed, he assured that a favourable decision will be taken at the meeting.
The meeting started and Mr Subramaniam asked for the views of MD, TNDDC on the proposal of setting up the feeder balancing dairy at Erode. Mr Menezes suggested a feasibility study as he was not sure about the availability of milk and the project viability. Chairman, NDDB supported the proposal of setting up a Feeder Balancing Dairy at Erode and said that milk availability and scope for increasing production were factors which were considered while including Erode milkshed under the Operation Food Programme. Therefore, he felt that a separate feasibility study was not necessary. The Adviser to the Governor and the Chief Secretary supported the need for a feasibility study to facilitate decision making based on the findings of the study. Responding to the various points made, Mr Subramaniam said that he knew the farmers of Erode very well and that they were enterprising and very hard working. Given an assured and remunerative market for milk, they were capable of increasing milk production through improved animal husbandry practices. He was convinced that the investment in the feeder balancing dairy would be worth and in the interest of the farmers. He felt there was no need for any feasibility study and desired that action be initiated to set up the dairy without any delay. It was agreed to set up the feeder balancing dairy and initiate necessary action to set up the dairy.
The project thus got the green signal to go ahead with the implementation. It was indeed a historic day for the Erode Milk Union.
Union Bought 65 acres for Feeder Balancing Dairy
Erode Milk Producers’ Union welcomed the decision to set up the Feeder Balancing Dairy under its management. The Board of the Union in its meeting held soon after the decision, recorded its appreciation and gratitude to the Govt of Tamil Nadu, the TNDDC and the NDDB/IDC and requested for expeditious action to set up the dairy.
Mr K Venkatesan, Commissioner, Department of Agriculture, Govt of Tamil Nadu extended full support and initiated action on finding a suitable site for the dairy. The Union and the spearhead team started searching for sites and located three sites. NDDB Engineers were also involved in site selection. Mr Venkatesan took keen interest and came down to Erode for the final selection. Finally, a site measuring 65 acres located on the NH 47 at Chithode was selected. The site was 13 km from Erode and close to Kaveri River (3 km). Over 25 people had owned this land and it was a Herculean task to convince all of them and take possession of their lands. Mr Paramasivan had played a crucial role in this regard. It took several days of continuous dialogue with the land owners who finally agreed to part with their precious land for a noble cause. The price fixed was Rs 5000/- per acre and the total cost for 65 acres worked to Rs 3.25 lakhs.
The Union had built sufficient funds by way of the commission it had retained from the milk payments to the affiliated cooperatives. A hefty sum of over Rs 20 lakhs had been generated by way of commission. The Union’s Board decided to purchase the land at Chithode out of this fund. The Union also decided to purchase five acres in the Industrial Estate at Erode for the cattle feed plant and ten acres, each at Sathyamangalam and Dharapuram, for the chilling plants. Mr Paramasivan’s contact with the farmer leaders greatly helped in buying the land at Sathyamangalam and Dharapuram. The entire purchase deal went off very smoothly. Mr Paramasivan’s contribution to this noble cause will be ever remembered.
It took almost a month to complete purchase of the entire 65 acres land. Mr OMR Venkatesan, Union’s Legal Adviser, had rendered great service by scrutinising the legal aspects of all the lands which expedited the purchase process. After acquiring the land, the Unions Board met and decided to entrust the job of setting up the feeder balancing dairy, the powder plant, the chilling plants and the cattle feed plant to the NDDB, on turnkey. The NDDB started work on these projects immediately thereafter.
The Union’s Board graciously consented to allot ten acres (out of 65 acres) to NDDB to set up its Regional Demonstration & Training Centre. This training centre was to impart training to the employees of the primary milk cooperatives and the district milk unions in the Southern States. Needless to say, all the Southern States welcomed this gesture of NDDB.