Dr Kurien played hard games with high stakes. When he presented NDDB’s Market Intervention Operation to make India self-sufficient in edible oils in five years, Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, questioned his targets by saying that you took 20 years in milk, how can you do this in five years.
Dr Kurien’s reply was, “This time we are asking for a complete package of policy and powers to implement it”.
“But what are the guarantees?” quipped the Prime Minister.
“Our heads”, replied Dr Kurien. He got what he asked for and made the country self sufficient in edible oils in three years instead of five.
The dairy sector in India has had some great people contribute to its growth. Some are very well known names like Dr P Bhattacharya, D N Khurody, Dr S C Ray, H M Dalaya, V H Shah, A K Ray Chaudhuri, G M Jhala, Dr Amrita Patel, etc. All of them have contributed very significantly. However the contributions of many more have largely gone unnoticed. Some, that come to my mind are the contributions made by N Rajagopal, the then Joint Secretary (Dairy Development), Government of India; G V K Rao the then Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Agriculture; and, T N Seshan who was later the Cabinet Secretary and the Election Commissioner of India.
Rajagopal was a great human being. When I sought an appointment with him to sort out many problems that we had at the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), he gave me a date to meet him at Krishi Bhavan. On reaching his office I was told that he was not feeling well and was on leave. Since I had spoken to him the previous evening and everything seemed to be fine, I decided to go to his home. He greeted me at the door and explained his sick leave. It was to ensure that we had all the time needed to sort out the many issues. His explanation was that how could you get much done at the office!
Rajagopal would take a bus to Krishi Bhavan as he had just enough money for petrol to take him for his morning game of tennis. When Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, visited Anand for the first Convocation of IRMA in 1982, we had to tell her as to how poorly our policy makers were paid. That discussion raised the salaries of officers and a car was then provided to take them to the office and back. Eventually Rajagopal resigned from the IAS as he could not take the heavy bias the then Minister of Agriculture had against the NDDB.
G V K Rao should get full credit for the milk and silk revolution in Karnataka.
When I first met him he was the Development Commissioner of Karnataka.
The Government of Karnataka had prepared a usual project for dairy development at the behest of the Government of India for funding by the World Bank. Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh had also prepared similar projects, as these states were not covered by OF. The World Bank then asked these three States to rework these projects on the lines of OF. I had assisted these states in reformulating these projects.
T N Seshan was the Agriculture Secretary of Tamil Nadu in the ‘seventies. On the recommendation of his staff, he termed the Perspective Plan prepared for Tamil Nadu under OFas unacceptable. When we asked him the basis of his rejection of the Plan, his officers produced figures of current milk production in Tamil Nadu that equaled the targets the Perspective Plan had projected at the end of the plan.
We sought a day more to have a relook at the figures. The next day we produced another set of figures (provided earlier by the same officers) to say that the current milk production was already 50 per cent more than the figure quoted by Seshan the previous day. We then congratulated Seshan on having already achieved the targets under the programme and suggested that perhaps Tamil Nadu did not need any more milk production.
We then explained that the Perspective Plan had already raised the issue of non-reliability of the milk production data and a component of the Plan was to collect the required data on a scientific basis and then aim at increasing milk production by 50 per cent over the period of implementation of the Plan. TN Seshan is a big man and saw the folly of the arguments put up by his staff and promptly approved the Plan and everything that was required to implement it.
In later years Seshan was very supportive of the Market Intervention Operation (MIO) in oilseeds and vegetable oils as the Cabinet Secretary and Chairman of the Empowered Committee on the Technology Mission on Oilseeds. He was a great motivator in getting tough when things got rough.
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