Operation Flood II project was an expansion on the work done during Operation Flood I and include more milksheds under the project.
Operation Flood I established 18 Anands from among 52 milksheds . Operation Flood II had to look at 136 districts to identify potential Anands of which 25 milksheds were from Maharashtra. It was also decided to send a one or two member team from NDDB instead of a full fledged Spearhead team as was done during Operation Flood -I. This was because adequate number of trained and experienced field staff were available at the time Operation Flood -II was to be launched.
In order to expand the reach of project it was also decided to send NDDB’s officers to secondement basis.
I was asked to shift from Kolhapur to Solapur project in the year 1983 for about two years.
My first project was Jalgaon (1974) where there were senior officers such as Dr. M. L. Naware (now working as a consultant), Shri. N. B. Washi (Still working as Managing Director in Vasudhara Dairy, Valsad), Shri. V.G. Patil (Working at Vasudhara Dairy, Dhule as Incharge).
The Kolhapur Milk shed was rich in milk potential whereas, the Solapur milk shed where I was seconded in 1983, had a different story altogether. The area was drought prone and had a history of a number of droughts that had scouraged the area for nearly 100 years.
Therefore, development of dairying under Anand pattern was a real challenging task. Initially, I was the only person who was posted in Solapur and later on Shri. B. R. Karad, and Shri. Rajiv Deshmukh, Shri. K. C. Supekar joined the project for some time. Later they all were transferred and only I remained with the project till 1987.
My secondement was for two years till 1985. By that time, we had started the union from almost zero milk collection to about 50,000 lit. per day. We had employed local staff and there was a nominated board headed by Shri. Bhagawanrao Chavan, who was a very “down to the earth” kind of person. He was non-political and had history of being a workers leader in Solapur Municipal Corporation. Shri Bhagwan Rao was close to Shri. Sushilkumar Shinde and Shri. Sharad Pawar both very senior political leaders from Maharashtra
In the year 1985, NDDB indicated to Solapur milk union that it was time that Shri. D.V. Ghanekar be withdrawn. In the opinion of Shri. Bhagawanrao Chavan, the Sholapur Union had just started the journey of making the union viable under the guidance of NDDB, and therefore, he wanted me to continue as the Managing Director of Solapur Milk Union.
In fact, although I was on secondement, I was in fact working as Managing Director of the Union. NDDB indicated that it will not be able to spare the services of Shri. D. V. Ghanekar of Sholapur Union any further. Therefore, Ghanekar will be transferred soon. Shri. Bhagawanrao Chavan wrote a letter to Dr. Kurien, Chairman, NDDB directly explaining why he would like Ghanekar to continue as a Managing Director of the Solapur Milk Union. He also requested for a meeting with Dr. Kurien to discuss the matter.
I was pretty sure that now my career was in danger. Dr. Kurien was known to be averse to the idea of NDDB’s officer working as Managing Director in a union while drawing salary from NDDB. There were instances in the past, when in some milk shed such as Selam and Bhatinda, where farmers had agitated for continuance of seconded NDDB officers, requesting them not to transfer them. Dr. Kurien was very particular about transferring such officers.
Dr. Kurien thought that officers were manipulating their relationship with local leaders in order to avoid transfer from project. Not only I was sure that I will be transferred from Solapur, but I was expecting good banging either from my immediate boss or Dr. Kurien himself.
A meeting was set in a small restaurant near Amul’s office at V.T., Mumbai. Shri. A. K. Banerjee, Resident Director, Shri. Bhagawanrao Chavan, myself and Dr. Kurien were sitting around a small table in the restaurant.
Shri. Bhagawanrao Chavan explained to Dr. Kurien how Solapur Milk Union was struggling to succeed under very difficult circumstances in Solapur district. Shri Bhagwan Rao further explained that the area had tremendous potential but guidance and funds from NDDB are needed for some time more. Two yea secondment period for any project to develop was very short and therefore, he was asking for the extension of services of Ghanekar.
Shri. Bhagawanrao Chavan being a Labour Leader in Solapur Municipal Corporation, was fearless and put forward his views very frankly before Dr. Kurien.
Shri. Bhagawanrao Chavan was very simple and non corrupt person. He had imbibed NDDB’s philosophy thoroughly, and used to fight for NDDB’s cause at different forums in Mumbai and even in Delhi. He was one of the active Chairmen among Milk Unions and considered as asset of OF programme.
Dr. Kurien used to like Shri Bhagwanrao. After listening him for some time, Dr. Kurien asked Shri Bhagwanrao that if he liked working of Ghanekar so much, then why didn’t he take services of Ghanekar permanently?
Dr Kurien said “I would ask Ghanekar to resign NDDB and join Solapur Milk Union”. This was a crucial moment. Shri. Bhagawanrao Chavan though only 7th Std. pass, had a great timing and presence of mind.
He quickly responded to Dr. Kurien saying “Dr. Kurien, you know working in a co-operative is not easy. I would be in the Solapur Milk Union as a nominated Chairman for few year more. Later, after the elections, somebody else will take over as Chairman. Ghanekar is an honest and hard working person. I do not know whether the new Chairman would like Ghanekar to continue as Managing Director, and therefore, I would not like to spoil the career of Ghanekar. I am only requesting that Ghanekar be with me as Managing Director, till I am the Chairman of the nominated board.”
The clear understanding of the issues involved and the frankness displayed by Shri Bhagwanrao, appealed to Dr. Kurien. Dr Kurien appreciated the Chairman Solapur Milk Union.
Dr. Kurien turned towards Shri. A. K. Banerjee and told him that Ghanekar should continue as Managing Director of Solapur Milk Union as per request of Shri. Bhagawanrao Chavan.
Dr. Kurien had some important work so he left restaurant immediately.
This was a memorable meeting for me.
There were so many lessons to be learnt from the interactions between Shri. Bhagawanrao Chavan and Dr. Kurien.
Looking back to this event, after several years, I feel, had there been a person other than Shri. Bhagawanrao Chavan and not of the same character, calibre , vision and influence, Dr. Kurien would not have agreed to the demand made.
Dr. Kurien was a great admirer of local farmer’s leadership. He was very quick to understand and get connected with local farmer leaders and he was very sensitive and passionate about their feelings for the project.
He wanted milk union to make the project successful. Helping the project and milk producers was always top priority for him.
He probably immediately understood that this was the case where neither Ghanekar nor Shri. Bhagawanrao Chavan had come to meet him with any personal agenda. They were just soldiers fighting to make milk producers happy, and it was his duty to help them with ammunition of moral and funding support from NDDB.
Probably that was the reason why Dr. Kurien agreed to the demand of Shri. Bhagawanrao Chavan which otherwise, he would have turned down.