Goodbye Erode Milk Union
Manthan, a feature film, produced by the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation depicted the saga of the NDDB Spearhead Team replicating “Anand Pattern” milk cooperative in a remote village.
This film directed by Shyam Benegal focuses on formation of a village level Milk Producers Cooperative. The Spearhead Team and it Leader are successful in forming the society and helping the milk producers run it on their own amidst a lot of opposition, the film ends with the sudden withdrawal of the Team Leader, at the instance of the President of the newly formed cooperative.
The idea of the story or a series of stories based on which the film script was written came largely from Dr Kurien, The ending of the film is interesting and somewhat controversial too. Many persons felt that the Team Leader should not have been withdrawn.
The Erode District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union, right from its inception in 1974, had been functioning under a nominated Board of Directors, appointed by the Milk Commissioner. At that time, Tamil Nadu didn’t have an elected government and the State was under President Rule. This facilitated nomination of the Board, as proposed by the NDDB Team.
By mid-1978, an elected government had taken over in the State. The growing popularity and success of the Erode Milk Union had caught the attention of the politicians, and the elected government decided to replace the existing Board of Directors (none of them belonged to the party in power) with a new Board of Directors, all from the ruling party. It was imminent that the change would happen any time. The Board of the Erode Milk Union was unhappy on the government’s move, but was helpless. The NDDB Team could do little as it was a political move by the ruling party. Mr Paramasivan, Chairman of the Milk Union convened an emergency meeting of the Board. In the meeting, the Board decided to hike the salary of the staff of the Union. There was no other item on the agenda. My opinion was not sought and therefore, I kept mum. This was the first meeting that was convened without my knowledge and involvement. There was tension on the entire Board.
After the Board meeting, the staff of the Milk union staged a “Dharna” in my office, demanding implementation of the Board decision to hike the staff salary. I told them that, as per the Union’s byelaws, the minutes of the meetings were to be confirmed in the next Board meeting, before the decisions can be implemented. The staff was not satisfied with my explanation and continued the Dharna. After some time, they left the office.
It was obvious that I had lost the confidence of the Board of the Union and therefore, I didn’t want to continue with the Union, as its General Manager, any longer. I decided to put in my papers and leave Erode.
To my luck, Dr Kurien was in Madras to attend the Lesley Foundation meeting. I proceeded to Madras and met Dr Kurien and briefed him on the developments. I told him that my biggest achievement in Erode was the love and affection and most importantly, the confidence and trust that I enjoyed with the Chairman and the Board of Directors of the Erode Milk Union and since I had lost that I didn’t wish to continue in Erode. I recalled his philosophy of Manthan when, at the end, the NDDB Team Leader was withdrawn, at the instance of the President of the cooperative. I had written a letter describing the happenings at Erode and handed it over to Dr Kurien. A copy of this letter was also given to Mr Paramasivan, subsequently. Dr Kurien with a sarcastic smile said “The Union staff has started creating problems”.
In the meantime, the Govt (Milk Commissioner) dissolved the Board of the Union and appointed the Collector of the newly formed Erode District, as the Chairman of the Union. The new Chairman, the District Collector, immediately convened the Board meeting of the Union. After going through the minutes of the previous meeting of the Board, the Chairman decided to keep all the decisions taken by the previous Board, under abeyance.
I put up my resignation to the Chairman (the District Collector) and requested to be relieved immediately. He was reluctant, but on my insistence relieved me. In the meantime, I had received my transfer order from NDDB. I packed up my things and left Erode.
Before leaving Erode, I, along with my family, met Mr Paramasivan to bid goodbye. It was a very emotional scene as neither of us could speak anything. Mrs Paramasivan told Mrs Madhavan that the problems were due to official matters and that it shouldn’t come in the way our friendship. Mr and Mrs Paramasivan blessed our children and we bid them goodbye.
Our friendship continued, may be even stronger. It was a friendship which can never be forgotten!
Dr Kurien Award
The Indian Dairy Association honoured Mr SK Paramasivan for his outstanding contribution to the farmers of Erode by conferring upon him the prestigious “Dr Kurien Award”. Mr Paramasivan received the Award from Dr Amrita Patel, Chairman, NDDB at the XXXVIII Dairy Industry Conference held on February 17, 2010 in Bangalore.
When Mr Paramasivan came to Bangalore to receive the award, he had stayed with me and I had the privilege and honour of accompanying him to the Award Ceremony and witnessing it. This was the happiest moment in my life!