Journey with Shri Manibhai Desai

- Dr. Mukund Naware 

It is to be noted that on that day in October 1969 in entire India at only one place under the auspices of Indo Swiss Project at Mattupatty Artificial Insemination Programme with Frozen Semen in the Project Area had been started in project area by 1965 , and in the entire Kerala state by 1969 !

However, there was not a single Milk Packing Machine in any Dairy in any sector.

“It was on 15th October 1969 that I received a message from Nagpur Veterinary College, where I had studied as a student, informing me that Shri Manibhai Desai from Uruli Kanchan was visiting the college for selecting fresh graduates for Bhartiya Agro Industries Foundation (BAIF).

By that time I had only heard the name of Shri Manibhai Desai but was not aware about BAIF and it’s activities. However, since I received a separate message from the Professor of Gynecology recommending that I must avail the opportunity, in about a week I attended the interview held in Principal’s Chamber.

The interview panel comprised Shri Manibhai Desai and his two colleagues. They had travelled all the way from Pune to Nagpur by ambassador car. During my interview he hardly asked any questions. He, however, shared with me a lot of information about BAIF and it’s future programs. He said that the ICAR had recognized BAIF as a Research Foundation and it would be possible for employees to take up field problems and pursue studies leading to award of MVSc.

After the Interview he announced that I have been selected as a Trainee Officer for 6 months. He said arrangements for training of those selected had been made in Bombay Veterinary College and then at Aarey Milk Colony after which we were finally to be trained at IVRI, Izzatnagar. On completion of raining the post of Veterinary Officer was to be offered with salary at par with Govt. Since the job had come almost to my doorstep I showed my willingness to join the BAIF on those terms. ” You will not be our employee, but you will be a member of our team.” He said. I was very much impressed and encouraged by his statement. He asked me to to reach Mumbai and meet him at Adarsh Dugdhalaya, Malad on the date just falling four days after the date of interview and a formal Appointment Letter would be given there. I agreed to those terms and thus my journey with BAIF began.

On the third day I left for Mumbai by train and stayed overnight with my relatives.

Next day by 10 am, I went to Malad by local train and then took a Bus to reach Adarsh Dugdhalaya. I found that a group of persons was already there waiting for Shri Manibhai Desai to arrive. Among the trustees of Adarsh Dugdhalaya one was called Keshavbhai alias Keso Kaka. Dr. C.R. Sane, Prof. of Gynecology, Bombay Veterinary College was also there along with a group of six Trainee Officers selected from amongst the fresh graduates of Bombay Veterinary College. I was the only graduate having come all the way from Nagpur.

Shri Manibhai Desai arrived there by 11 am as we were getting introduced to each other and engaging in small talk. Two persons who had to accompany him on the tour, Dattoba Kanchan and Dr. Arun Phatak were also there. When he came out of his car Shri Manibhai was happy to see me. Immediately we proceeded to a hall where sitting arrangement was made in Indian style.

In a very informal way the meeting began. After his welcome by the trustees Shri Manibhai Desai introduced his entire team to the trustees. He said few sentences about his visit to Nagpur and my selection.

Then he said about the necessity of increasing productivity of cows and the support he was getting from institutes keeping cows (Panjarpol) and other agencies like Cooperative Sugar Factories.

The discussion that followed was mostly in Gujarati but surprisingly I was able to follow it. Prof. Sane was also supporting Manibhai’s view point that the cross breeding of cows with Jersey and Holstein breeds was better option to achieve progress in a short duration rather than going by method of selective breeding. Shri Manibhai Desai told about the donor agencies who had come forward to provide frozen semen for this program. However, Prof Sane said that it was necessary for the field staff to identify problems of infertility in cows so that frozen semen was used only after addressing to that problem. Shri Manibhai then explained his arithmetic that a farmer in sugarcane dominated area can grow leguminous fodder like lucerne and maintain four crossbred cows per acre of land and this way he can earn more profit than he would get from one acre of sugarcane. He said that the Sugar Factories also supported his view point since that would give a steady income to their farmers members.

“दूध प्लास्टिकनी कोथळीमां भरवामां आवे छे .. डेलिव्हरी करनार छोकरो एने दूरथी फेके ते छतां कशुना थाय”

– केशो काका

The trustees of Adarsh Dugdhalaya were following that discussion very well. Their dairy farm in Mumbai was famous for buffalo milk but they had also realized that keeping crossbred cows was a good option and can cater to certain segment of consumers. They had a small herd of cows and they were willing to go for cross breeding. Shri Keso Kaka then spoke about his views on milk marketing and shared the observations he had made during his recent visit to Denmark. He mentioned about packaging of milk. ” I saw milk in plastic pouches.. there is machine that packs milk in plastic pouches… and it is so tough .. a delivery boy even if he throws… it does not burst…. ( दूध प्लास्टिकनी कोथळीमां भरवामां आवे छे .. डेलिव्हरी करनार छोकरो एने दूरथी फेके ते छतां कशुना थाय. ) He said that in India there should be such machines and Adarsh Dugdhalaya would be interested if Manibhai could bring this technology under his project.

However, Shri Manibhai did not comment on this because milk marketing was not a priority item for him. For fresh graduates like us this discussion was very academic in nature as it related to Milk Production and Marketing at the same time.

It is to be noted  that on that day in October 1969 in entire India  at only one place under the auspices of Indo Swiss Project at Mattupatty Artificial Insemination Programme with Frozen Semen in the Project Area had been started in project area by 1965 , and in the entire Kerala state by 1969 !

However, there was not a single Milk Packing Machine in any Dairy in any sector.

After that meeting we had a sumptuous Gujarati lunch arranged in somebody’s house there. The household women were serving delicious food while caring for each and everyone of us. It was my first experience of Gujarati hospitality that was remarkable. After lunch somebody gave me my formal Appointment Letter. How it had come there I didn’t know but in response I gave my joining report.
Late in afternoon Shri Manibhai Desai left for Uruli Kanchan and our group of Trainee Officers was left behind under the guidance of Prof. Sane. We continued to be with him and under his instructions for several days. That was followed by our training in Aarey Milk Colony till the end of December 69. We were thereafter sent to IVRI for further training.

On completion of training at IVRI we returned to Uruli Kanchan in April 1970. By that time the group strength had become twelve hence we were calling ourselves as Dirty Dozen. On arrival we underwent orientation program for about ten days. In May 1970 we received appointment letters as Veterinary Officer. Afterwards many of us were posted either in Cooperative Sugar Factories or Panjarpol Sanstha. Those left behind either awaited the posting orders or assigned some duties at HQ. I was retained at HQ to arrange supplies to field centres.

The month of May started and one day unexpectedly Shri Manibhai Desai called me and my colleague Sudhir Sane to his room and told that we were to accompany him and Dr. MR Marathe ( Senior most Director) on a tour to Gujarat and Sourashtra for ten days. That was to be a real journey with him ! He asked us get ready to leave on the very next day. A driver by name Dashrath was to drive the ambassador car. We all were to meet Shri Manibhai Desai at h, Pune by 4 pm and journey was to begin from there. As a Member of the Senate of Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth (MPKV) he had one meeting to attend and then we were to proceed on journey.

Next day in the afternoon we reached College of Agriculture in time but Shri Manibhai was still busy in the meeting. By the time he came out we were late by one hour. As we started our journey he said that the main subject had taken lot of time but fortunately it was decided that the MPKV would establish a Farm to produce Triple Crossbred Bulls for judging their merit by way of recording milk production of their daughters. In other words it was aimed at producing Proven Bulls but they were to have blood origin from two exotic breeds and one Indian breed. The MPKV was to establish Bull Mother Farm of Gir cows and they were to be crossed with Holstein and Jersey breeds to produce triple cross bulls in third generation and the project was to be funded by ICAR. Shri Manibhai and Dr. Marathe went on discussing that issue which was a good learning for me and Sudhir. That night we made a halt in Mumbai. I stayed with Sudhir since his parents lived in Sion.

Next day as we as began our journey things became clearer. We were actually going to Sourashtra to select Gir cows and heifers for that ICAR sponsored project for which Shri Manibhai Desai was to help MPKV in selecting right type of animals.

In that exercise we were to cover number of places like charitable Panjarpols as well as few commercial farms where Gir herds were maintained for a number of years. It was clear that Shri Manibhai knew exactly where to go and which place to visit. Accordingly he had informed the dates and timings of our visit to all the places.

As we were passing through Surat district Shri Manibhai opened a topic for debate with me and Sudhir. He asked us to prove how crossbred cows were better than buffaloes. I was surprised and I narrated usual advantages in favor of crossbred cows like better growth rate, early maturity and lesser age at first calving, regular estrous cycle etc. but Shri Manibhai counter questioned each time saying that all these are related to the management and could be true in case of buffaloes too.

According to him if buffaloes were managed as well as crossbred cows they would perform better than the latter. He argued that buffalo milk having higher fat content and more solids has to be compared applying correction factor and then compared with cow milk and on that basis a buffalo producing 1800 liters per lactation would win over a cow even if she produces 2500 liters. His arguments were baffling for us since we could never imagine him talking in favor of buffaloes. Finally I told him in plain words that it was not possible for us to imagine him as champion of buffaloes and therefore we could not argue with him. On that sentence he had a hearty laugh and our debate ended. That night we had a halt in Baroda and we all stayed in the house of Shri Gulab bhai, the brother of Shri Manibhai. We all had dinner there and enjoyed their hospitality.

Next day we started our journey towards north and made up to Rajkot. While on move Shri Manibhai opened a new topic. He asked us what we thought about Indian goats and their potential as dairy animals. Myself and Sudhir, we gave bookish replies. He wanted us to say something from the body conformation of the goat that we never imagined. He said that just as in case of European cow breeds three body triangles from top, bottom and sideway are described as dairy character; in the case of Indian breeds of goats we find them prominently and even in case of milch purpose Indian cows these triangles are not prominent. To impress up on his point he asked us to imagine the carcass of a Jersey cow and compare it with carcass of a Indian goat to find that the goat carcass would appear like a small version of carcass of a Jersey cow. But it would no be so in case of Indian cow. It was a big revelation as I thought about it.

Then he said about one more body point regarding the males of the species. The penis, in case of males of all breeds of goats, is tucked up to the belly and this feature is common with bulls of European breeds like Holstein, Jersey. Whereas, penis is not tucked up to the belly in case of bulls belonging to the breeds we call as milch breeds like Gir, Sahiwal and so on. In fact it is found to be hanging in folded skin towards ground. Therefore, he was of the opinion that both males and females of the Indian goat breeds having anatomical similarities with European cow breeds perhaps Indian goats had dairy potential just like Jersey cattle but it is not tapped yet.

On our way we had lunch and tea times. Shri Manibhai gave directions to our driver and took us to good restaurants. In Rajkot we entered one hotel for night halts. We were to stay there for two three days.

From next day morning we started going to various institutes to select the Gir animals. Each day we went in different direction covering parts of Jamnagar, Bhavnagar and Junagadh. I remember names of few places like Sawakundala and Sanosara. We went to Morvi and also a coastal place named Sharadagram at Mangrol where we had night halt. In all we must have visited around eight or ten institutes, mostly Panjarpols. Surprisingly at all places, people knew our timing of visit very well and they arranged to show us the animals available for sale. That time there were no mobile phones, no public telephone booths, no GPS on our car; still how Shri Manibhai planned and implemented the schedule is a mystery. He never asked me or Sudhir to get down of car to enquire for direction from anybody. We had good breakfast, lunch and dinner on all days and Shri Manibhai took care of all of us offering good food and Ice Cream varieties of his choice in the end. Our stay at Sharadagram was memorable due to their extremely well house keeping and even for arrangements like playing music while milking cows.

While selecting animals at all the places Shri Manibhai was asking host of questions regarding pedigree of each animal. He would then ask us to write down those details. He wanted to select animals belonging to different families of cows where different bulls were used and inbreeding had not happened. Dr. Marathe was also asking questions related to reproductive behavior. Whenever in doubt he would ask me or Sudhir to examine the reproductive system. This way we shortlisted a number of animals at various farms and recorded their details with identification number and description.

In the last leg of our journey we attended a conference of representatives of Panjarpol Sansthas held at Jetpur. Over hundred persons must have been present there to discuss the issues and problems they faced. Shri Manibhai Desai was there almost like a chief guest and Dr. Marathe was also offered a chair on the stage. The proceedings were in Gujarati but we were able to follow. All the speeches and discussion was centered around a demand that the Government should increase the rate of subsidy on maintenance of cows.

They were finding it difficult to feed the cows in the subsidy amount they were getting on per day basis. Dr. Marathe spoke in Gujarati to say that that the Panjarpol Sansthas ought to follow scientific approach rather than dwelling on sentiments. A cross between Science and Sentiments would be Hybrid and therefore a Sterile, he said. That was followed by a speech by Shri Manibhai. He said in no uncertain terms that the Panjarpol Sansthas must make efforts to increase the overall productivity of cows and go for cross breeding. He said that they should not expect the Government to compensate their losses indefinitely which amounted to wasting of public money. In stead, they must follow scientific practices and become self- reliant, he said. It was rather unwelcome statement for that conference but Shri Manibhai had said it !

With these accomplishments we started our return journey thereafter. Almost fifty years have passed since then but I still recall the memorable journey I had with Shri Manibhai Desai.


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