Feast of Memories -5

Dr. Madhavan shares his reminiscences in a series of articles. He has named these memoirs as “Feast of Memories”. Spearhead Team was an innovative intervention for replication of a successful organisational system of cooperative dairying in Anand to other parts of India. Dr Madhavan talks about pricing system of milk and interaction between the Spearhead Team and local farmers.

Introduction of Kg Fat Pricing System

As the activities of the Spearhead Team gained momentum, my visits to Madras became more frequent. Mr Menezes was very cooperative and supportive of the programme. I found him very helpful, at all times. Nevertheless, it was a difficult task to convince him, more so his senior officers, on the necessity for introducing the kg fat system for buying milk in the buffalo dominated districts. Out of seven districts covered under OF in Tamilnadu, five were totally buffalo-based, Erode being one among them. The existing pricing system, based on cow milk, had encouraged rampant adulteration (of buffalo milk) to the extent that the fat and SNF levels had come down to about 4 % and less than 8 %, respectively. TNDDC had to add skim milk powder to make up the low SNF in the milk it marketed in Madras. Thus, TNDDC was losingheavily on milk powder consumption. The farmers were also dissatisfied because of the low prices received.

After several rounds of discussions, Mr Menezes agreed to introduce the kg fat system, but purely on trial basis for one month, in Erode. Further, he said that the system will be discontinued if it failed. The order which TNDD issued on kg fat system, had specifically mentioned this condition! For me, it was a challenge and I welcomed it. I tried hard to get the price fixed at a higher level, considering the prevailing market price, competition from private trade and above all, the high cost of production. Mr Menezes found me a tough negotiator. At one point, he cautioned me not to force him to agree for a price on which TNDDC had to go back later. Finally, I agreed for the price that was offered. After the discussion, I took Mr Menezes out of his room and asked him to look at a picture which was hung on top of the entrance door to his room. The picture showed a mongrel trying hard to drive away a wasp sitting on its tail and stinging. But, the dog was unable to reach the wasp and it continued to sting. The picture had a caption at the bottom which read “When you find something good, stick to it”. I told Mr Menezes the wasp was me and asked him to guess who the mongrel was….. Mr Menezes laughed and laughed until his face (very fair) became red!

Guzarathukar or Gujaratwalas

As the Spearhead Team had come from Gujarat (Anand), we were known as “Guzarathukar” (Gujaratwalas) and “Palkars” (Dudhwalas) in Erode. Whenever the Team members travelled in the local buses, they were addressed as Palkars. They thought we represented some private dairy in Gujarat!

My day, while at Erode, used to start at 5 am and end at 11 pm. My elder daughter, Seema, was two years old when we moved from Anand to Erode. At Anand, she was used to the thick, creamy Amul milk. At Erode, the milk that an old woman used to supply (at about 5 am) was watery, what the locals called “Aracha Pal” (Separate milk). It contained about 3 % fat and 7 % SNF. In the beginning, Seema refused to drink it, but later got used to it but with the addition of malted food. The lady charged Rs 1.00 per Padi (approximately one litre). After a few months, she suddenly raised the price to Rs 1.25. When my wife asked the lady the reason for raising the price suddenly, she said that some Guzaratukar had come to Erode and started buying milk at higher prices. Therefore, the price of milk had gone up in the market. I overheard the conversation, came out and told the lady that I was that Guzarathukar and that the higher prices paid was only for better quality milk. I then explained to her about our activities in the villages and the reason for raising the price. She felt embarrassed and walked away!

District Collectors

I was keen to meet the Collector of Coimbatore District, Mr Sivakumar, to enlist his support for our programme. The District Collector was an important person in the district with lot of authority and can be of immense help in our work. On my request, Mr Menezes introduced me to Mr Sivakumar. 

I met Mr Sivakumar in his office at Coimbatore and explained to him about Operation Flood programme and its implementation in Tamil Nadu, more so in Erode. He evinced great interest in the programme and assured me all support and help. Later, whenever he visited Erode, he had made it a point to visit an Anand Pattern Milk Cooperative organised by our Team. He studied in detail the working of the cooperative, particularly testing of milk. He keenly listened to the problems faced in organising cooperatives and assured his full support. His visits to the village drew lot of attention from the villagers as the Collector visiting villages was considered to be a great thing by them. These visits had great impact on the local officials of the different government departments. More importantly, the Team’s work got lot of attention and publicity as a result of the Collector’s visit. In the coming years, Mr Sivakumar and the successive Collectors’ involvement in our programme had made significant contribution to the success of the Operation Flood Programme in Erode.

To be continued

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