Feast of Memories – 8

Dr. Madhavan shares his reminiscences in a series of articles. He has named these memoirs as “Feast of Memories”. He shares some interesting incidents that happened during the time cooperatives were being organised in the villages of Erode.

Aramugam did not have to shave off his moustaches

Aramugam belonged to a village called Chavadipalayampudur. He was one of the milk contractors of Nilgiri Dairy. His job was to purchase milk from the farmers and supply it to Nilgiri Dairy. He had been carrying on this flourishing business for several years. He had set up a small shop in his village where he was selling most of the essentials needed by the farmers for day to day requirements. The shop was the meeting place for the farmers, particularly in the evenings when business will be at its peak.

Aramugam was collecting about 12,000 litres of milk every day and supplying it to Nilgiri Dairy. Indeed, a sizable quantity those days! We were looking for a day when the entire milk will get diverted to our cooperatives and Aramugam will close shop. A tall order indeed, but not impossible, the Team felt.

Our Team members used to have informal discussions with Aramugam on the working of our cooperatives vis-a-vis his method of milk collection. We told him that the farmers were happy with our cooperatives because they were getting higher prices, regular payments and that milk collection in the cooperatives had started going up. But, Aramugam didn’t feel any threat to his business. He was confident that the cooperatives will not last long, as was the case so far, and that the Team will pack up and return to where they had come from very soon. He went to the extent of challenging the Team that should the cooperatives succeed and takes away all the milk from his suppliers, he will shave off his moustache and go round the village! The Team laughed it off and continued its work more vigorously.

With the addition of more cooperatives in all villages surrounding Chavadipalayampudur from where Aramugam was collecting milk, his milk collection came down drastically.

In about a month’s time, the collection came down to a point that Aramugam found his business un-viable and a losing proposition. Most of the farmers who were supplying milk to Aramugam had switched over to the cooperatives.

His business was on the verge of closing down.

Finally, one a fine day, he closed his business: milk as well as the shop. He started sending feelers to the Team to organise a cooperative in his village (Chavadipalayampudur). Our Team members wanted to teach Aramugam a lesson and were not in favour of organising a cooperative in his village. I convinced the Team members that the best way to teach Aramugam a lesson was to start a cooperative society in his village. And we did exactly that and finally, Aramugam became our friend!

He didn’t have to shave off his moustache!

You Wouldn’t Reach Home Safe

One of our societies, at a remote place, had organised a function to celebrate the opening of the cooperative in their village. The function was in the evening. There were about 100 farmers which included some ladies also. The venue of the function, an open ground, was well lit with public address system.

When I started addressing the farmers, the power went off suddenly. (Later, I was told that it was the handiwork of the local milk contractor). The farmers remained calm and I continued my talk, but loudly. The farmers listened with great interest when I told them about all good things that will happen under the Operation Flood which will have great bearing on the uplift of their village.

They were very happy with the cooperative started in their village which saved them from the exploitation of the private milk contractors and the private money lenders. After the function, I drove back home. On my way, at an isolated place, I was suddenly stopped by two persons.

They shouted at me and said that because of the cooperatives organised by our team, their business had been very badly hit. Most of the farmers who were supplying milk to them had discontinued the supply and were now supplying to the cooperatives. They threatened me saying that if I didn’t stop our activities, I will be risking my life.

I told them that I was not doing any private business and that we were organising the cooperatives for the benefit of the farmers. If they did any harm to my life, our work will only get more publicity and they will be in further trouble. I looked at them and said that I didn’t mind risking my life for a noble cause! Without waiting even for a minute, they vanished!

Husband and Wife Dispute settled

Our experience had been that in about a month’s time, we were able to persuade most of the farmers to shift their alliance from the private traders to the cooperatives. What made them to shift were the higher milk prices and regular payments in the cooperative.

We had a very interesting experience in one village. After organising the cooperative in that village, we succeeded in persuading most of the farmers to supply milk to the cooperative. But, we found one farmer persistently supplying milk to a creamery, despite our persuasion.

We tested the milk of this farmer and found it to be of good quality and told the farmer how much he would get if it is supplied to the cooperative: it was much higher. Fully convinced, the farmer asked his wife to stop supplying milk to the creamery and give it to the cooperative.

Surprisingly, the lady continued to give the milk to the creamery. We probed into the matter with the creamery fellowdiscreetly. It revealed a very interesting observation: the price recorded was low but to attract the lady to continue the milk supply, the creamery fellow was paying a small tip to the lady in her hand every day.

The lady was accountable to her husband only for the amount recorded in a small note book and not for the tip which she kept as a secret. After noticing that, we met the lady and explained to her the implication of what was happening: by accepting a tip from the creamery fellow, she was in fact getting a low price for the milk and incurring heavy loss.

She understood her mistake, but was afraid to tell it to her husband. We then spoke to her husband and explained the whole story. He too understood the mistake and realised that the problem was on account of his not trusting his wife and not allowing her to retain some pocket money to meet petty expenses. In the process, the creamery took advantage of the situation. The incidence brought the husband and the wife together and they started supplying milk to the cooperative!

Mobile Veterinary Service

In Tamil Nadu, like all other states, veterinary services were provided by the State Department through veterinary hospitals and dispensaries. These services were not popular as it was stationary and the animals had to be brought to the hospitals and dispensaries for treatment. Further, these services were available only on working days during specific timings and not round the clock. House visits were expensive as the farmers were required to pay for the visit and the medicines. 

Under the Operation Flood programme, animal health care and AI facilities will be delivered at the door steps of the farmers. At the time of organising Anand Pattern cooperatives, we had assured the farmers that these facilities will be provided through their cooperatives, right in their villages.

Accordingly, the spearhead team started the first mobile veterinary service after formation of some fifty cooperatives. We started with routine visits, once a week, and emergency service at all times. The farmers were very happy with the service and it further boosted farmers’ confidence in the Anand Pattern.

Contributed by Dr. E. Madhavan, Former Regional Director NDDB , Mumbai

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