Dr. Mukund Naware writes; Lessons in Austerity

During my tenure in NDDB I learnt a lot of lessons in austerity.

If I say that the first phase of Operation Flood (OF) had an outlay of around 100 crores Crores many in the present generation would not believe. But in that outlay there were Action Items targeted at Expansion of existing Metro Dairies, Establishment of 4 Mother Dairies, 16 Feeder Balancing Dairies (FBD) and Milk Chilling Centers for rural milk collection, Railway and Road Milk Tankers for long distance movement of milk, Resettlement of city-kept cattle, Technical Inputs for Milk Production Enhancement ( Artificial Insemination Service,Cattle Feed Plants etc), Establishing Farmers’ Organizations in areas of 16 FBDs and so on.

All efforts were made to control expenses in ways that would be unimaginable today.

I would like to share five first hand experiences where I “learnt” the value of austerity and put in practice.

It happened some time in March-April 73. The Indian Dairy Corporation (IDC) under Operation Flood arranged import of 744 animals ( young bulls and pregnant heifers) for establishment of Bull Mother Farms (BMF) across the country;. These animals were to be brought by Trans International Airlines (TIA) in a large aircraft which was scheduled to make four trips and bring the animals at Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta and Madras. I along with my senior colleague Dr SP Mittal was deputed to Delhi airport to receive these animals and to make necessary arrangements for their in land movement.

I stayed in Delhi for about 3 weeks and did our job well is another matter.

Shri A. K.Roy Chowdhury the then Managing Director (MD) of Indian Dairy Corporation (IDC) and Dr. MPG Kurup the then Dy. Director (AH) in NDDB both had come to Delhi on the day when operation had just begun to personally supervise the event. Next day they had a meeting in NDDB/IDC office in Greater Kailash.

I was just sitting idle outside as I had no work till the aircraft makes its second trip.

After the meeting MD IDC decided to leave for Baroda the same evening.

As they came out of meeting room, Dr. Kurup called me and told me to go to New Delhi Railway station and book a rail ticket for MD IDC for his travel to Baroda. MD IDC gave me the cash to purchase the ticket. I went to railway station and purchased a New Delhi – Bombay Central ticket under the impression that on Rajdhani a rail ticket is issued only for journey from Delhi to the destination and that the alighting at a station namely Baroda in between is the choice of the traveller.

Within one hour I returned to the office and jubilantly handed over the ticket to MD IDC. He looked at the ticket and immediately asked me as to why it was purchased for journey up to Bombay. I told him about my understanding that the Rajdhani tickets were issued like that. He told me that there was a notification just two days earlier and a Chair Car ticket was available now up to Baroda. On hearing that I became nonplussed and realized my mistake. Dr. Kurup came to my rescue. He suggested to MD IDC that since he was entitled for Air Travel and the cost of that Delhi-Bombay ticket by train was much lower and within his entitlement.

I almost thought that the problem was over. But MD IDC just did not agree with Dr. Kurup.

He said, still it would be wasteful expenditure and if he spends money like that then he would not be able to object to others when they overspend.

Dr Kurup then enquired as to what would he do? The MD IDC replied that he would reach New Delhi Railway Station early and get the ticket changed with refund!

I learnt from this example that discipline starts from the top and not otherwise

The second instance !

During 1974-76, I was Spear Head Team (SHT) Leader in Jalgaon engaged in formation of Dairy Cooperative Societies under Operation Flood ( OF).

It was in summer of 1975 when we received a message that Shri A. K. Roychowdhury, MD IDC would come to Jalgaon on a very brief visit. He was to visit Union’s office for a courtesy meeting with the Chairman of the Union to be followed by a visit to the site where the Feeder Balancing Dairy (FBD) was under construction. He was being escorted by the Regional Dairy Development Officer of Govt. of Maharashtra who appeared to me quite friendly with the MD IDC. (His name was Shri Kamlakant Ghurye who Incidentally was a good friend of Dr. Kurien for long time which I came to know later.)

During the meeting in Union’s Office the Chairman put up a demand that even now the IDC could think about providing funds for residential quarters for the essential staff of the the Dairy. Afterwards as we went to the dairy site Shri Ghurye supported that view and asked as to how IDC has forgotten to provide funds for such an important item like housing of essential staff.

The MD IDC heard that argument fully and said that the particular topic was discussed at great length when various Action Items under OF were identified. However, when fund requirement for housing for the essential staff for all FBDs was added together, it was realized that in that total sum a full fledged FBD could be set up.

Therefore, it was felt that covering one additional district was far more important socially than providing for housing at all places. He further said that the Milk Union should be investing money on this item after earning profits by running the dairy well and the officials should work towards that goal.

From that dialogue I learnt how austerity is built in project planning stage itself , whatever be the size of the project.

Now this incidence could be called a masterpiece

It happened in Jalgaon in mid 1975. I was SHT Leader to implement Action Item number 9 which was hundred percent subsidized by the IDC. Entire expenditure on salary & allowances of SHT, capital cost of two jeeps and their propulsion charges, supply of Sets of registers and Milk Testing Equipment to DCSs, expenditure on Farmers’ Induction Program to Anand; everything was booked under this activity. For each State under OF there was outlay of Rs 18 lakhs for two districts which meant that for Jalgaon the total provision was Rs 9 lakhs. ( Appears little now.)

While deputing me there Dr. A. A. Chothani, Dy. Director (FO) had told that I could spend up to Rs. 500 at a time and only when that limit exceeds I should take his prior approval. (Later on I had realized that under NDDB Rules that was the power delegated to Dy. Director.) I was comfortable with that as the expenses never crossed that limit. However, once it so happened that one of our Jeeps had to be taken off the road as it needed replacement of a battery that would cost more than Rs.600. I, therefore, sent an “ordinary” telegram to Anand requesting for approval.

Here I must say that the ‘ordinary’ telegram was drafted with minimum possible words since for each word there was an expenditure of 25 paisa. (In schools they used to ask us question on drafting telegrams). In response to my telegram on third day I received postal envelope with small letter communicating Secretary’s approval but …

But the letter also said like this.. ” Your proposal is approved but instead of telegram you could have obtained this approval by sending a 50 paisa envelope. It has been observed that on quite few occasions you are spending Board’s funds lavishly and it should be avoided .”
On getting that approval I replaced the battery and the matter was over.

This incidence has stayed with me till date, Often I wonder whether I had lavishly spent on sending that ‘ordinary’ telegram and deserved that response.

The fourth instance is pertaining to my first air journey in life.

The NDDB had sponsored my visit to Israel and it was scheduled in November, 1977. However, due to some problem the program was postponed and I did not know when the revised schedule would be communicated to me.

Since the dates of my visit to Israel became uncertain and my transfer to RO Bangalore was in the pipeline NDDB decided to post me to Bangalore.

” You can always go to Israel from Bangalore”, Dr. Chothani told me. Accordingly I went to Bangalore and started working under Shri A.Banerjee,Director (SR).

The office had recently been opened and all of us were in the process of establishing ourselves in Southern region.

The new year started . As our activities were going on suddenly around 15th April 78 I received intimation from Anand with a letter from Indo-Israel Cultural Association, asking me to report at Bombay by 25th April or so where I would get air ticket, visa etc and also can seek foreign exchange if necessary. Immediately I went to Director to discuss the matter. Since I was new to those formalities I requested that I may be allowed to reach Bombay at least a day in advance. He agreed to that proposal and then the question came as to how I would reach Bombay, by train or by air. Then I prepared a proposal for Head Office saying that .. as the Dairy Board is sponsoring my air journey from Bombay to Tel Aviv and back, I may be allowed to undertake air travel from Bangalore to Bombay as a special case. I should say here that as per NDDB Rules at that time I was not in the category allowed for air travel but needed special approval. That proposal was sent by Fax and with some hope I went ahead and booked my air ticket to Bombay by Airbus.

On the next day we received FAX reply saying that ‘the proposal for Bangalore-Bombay air journey is not repeat not accepted and Dr. Naware should travel by the mode and class he is entitled. On receiving that FAX Director (SR) called me in his cabin and handed over the message. ” What will you do now ? ” he asked.

I told him that I had already booked my air ticket and accordingly I would go. ” let NDDB pay for my first class ticket by train and the balance expenditure I will bear.” I said.

That was my first air travel in life. Afterwards when promoted I went by air a number of times but the very first air travel in my life was partly sponsored by me and it is a fond memory.

Now this last instance that happened around 1983. At Regional Office we were informed that one Danish Expert would visit all the three Bull Mother Farms ( BMF) in Southern region and I (Dr. Naware) should participate in that program as representative of IDC. It was to begin from Hyderabad by visiting the BMF run by IDL Chemicals, followed by a visit to Madras and then to BMF at Ooty run by Tamil Nadu Milk Federation and then to BMF at Coonoor run by United Planters’ Association.

However just a day before, we got intimation that since the Danish Expert was not coming the Danish Consulate would depute one Official ( a south Indian) to follow the same program. I was to follow the same itinerary as that of the Danish Expert and accordingly I had booked my tickets for journey by air for which I was entitled now. As for stay in hotel I had known from previous experience where to stay and it was easy now since an Indian was coming. My tour program began accordingly.

I went to Hyderabad and stayed in Hotel Sarovar. Then I went to IDL Chemicals and spent few hours. Since the Official from Danish Consulate was to come by Delhi flight in the afternoon myself and one Dr. SP Rao (who was Adviser to IDL Chemicals) went to airport to receive him.

The flight came but we did not find him in spite of announcement etc. Wondering, we returned to the office and were discussing what to do next. And lo and behold in about twenty minutes the Danish Expert arrived from blue and introduced himself as Dr. Bo Hemmingsen. He said that he had overcome all the difficulties to reach Delhi and now Hyderabad and would now complete the assignment which was very important. That changed the whole exercise although it was original. Our visit to BMF and meeting at IDL Chemicals was over on the same day and next day we were ready to proceed to Tamil Nadu.

Now fast forward. As we left for Madras Dr. Hemmingsen told me that in the entire program I should be with him. We had similar air tickets and for road journey they had hired a vehicle. He said that he would like to record the observations on same day and therefore we both should stay in same hotel everyday. Whether there was any difficulty he asked. I said that there was no difficulty.

Accordingly I stayed in Ooty in a cottage adjacent to his cottage and while in Madras we entered in a very luxurious hotel for overnight stay. Next day in the morning I realized that I had exhausted the cash I had obtained as advance from RO and would need money to clear hotel bill in Madras. Therefore, I went to IDC’s Office in Madras and sent a Telex requesting Director (SR) to permit me to draw some cash from Madras Office. He immediately approved my proposal but said .. I hope you are following Rules applicable to you….

Our program went on well and I returned to Bangalore. On the very next day I met Director and reported about my tour. He enquired about my stay in hotel which was exceeding the limits. I told him that as per my knowledge NDDB officer irrespective of his grade accompanying a foreign delegate is allowed to stay in the same hotel where that delegate stays, and it needs approval by Chairman.

Accordingly I made a proposal and approached him for recommendation. The Director read the proposal but said that…. although he is signing he is not sure about its approval and if it does not get approval… better I should be prepared.

We sent that proposal and within a week it came back. The Secretary, NDDB had countersigned it and the Chairman had put his ‘VK’ initials as approval !

From all these instances I learnt that austerity is not only about spending less but also spending where it is necessary.

Contributed by Dr Mukund Naware NDDB 1972 – 1986. He spent five years in field and was in RO Bangalore, for more than eight years. He was also Manager (Procurement) for F& V Project, Mother Dairy, Delhi during 1985-1986.

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  1. Dipankar Chattopadhyay Avatar
    Dipankar Chattopadhyay

    Many such wonderful memories are there in the minds of each and every veterans of NDDB. Hats up S.K for your initiative.

    1. Vrikshamandir Avatar

      Thank you 🙏🏼 Dipankar

    2. Vrikshamandir Avatar

      Please send stories and anecdotes based on your experiences

  2. Suresh Avatar

    Interestingly read the story uninterruptedly. We are having whatsapp group of IDC.

    1. Vrikshamandir Avatar

      Thank you Suresh 🙏🏼. Do please share a link of posts on Vrikshamandir with your friends in the IDC Whatsapp Group

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