In August 2022, Dr. Mukund Naware sent me a message informing me that Rajeev Deshmukh, who had worked with the Farmers Organization and Animal Husbandry (FO and AH) Division of the National Dairy Development Board would be visiting Toronto and would like to meet me.
Dr Naware and I had a telephone call after that. When Dr. Naware, who was in the USA at the time, mentioned “Rajeev Deshmukh,” the name didn’t ring a bell. I couldn’t recall anything about Rajeev.
However, I readily agreed to meet Rajeev when I heard that he was a former NDDB employee. I am an old man now with a fading memory, so it doesn’t matter if I remember a “Rajeev Deshmukh” or not. The fact that someone wanted to meet me was a good enough reason to agree to meet!
In fact, Rajeev was visiting his son and daughter-in-law in Toronto. Once phone numbers were exchanged, Rajeev and I started exchanging messages.
I received the following message from Rajeev introducing himself:
“Good Afternoon, Sir. I am Rajeev Deshmukh, ex-NDDB. I was in Anand from 1981 to 1983 in the FO&AH Division. I tried my best in those days to come to the OVOW wing, but Dr. AAC did not allow it to happen.
In this connection, I had met you many times. Currently, I am in Toronto on a 3-month holiday. My son and daughter-in-law work here. They are PR holders of Canada. I am in regular touch with Dr. Naware, and he shared your number with me.
If it’s not inconvenient for you, I would like to talk to you one of these days at your convenience. Kindly let me know. Regards, Rajeev Deshmukh.”
I invited Rajeev and his wife Sharmeeli to visit our daughter’s home and have a meal with us. It worked out very well.
He visited our Toronto home in early August 2022. My friend Behla and his wife Rita were also with us since June 2022.
I had finished my radiation therapy sessions in July 2022, and the after-effects were slowly fading away. I was on a path to recovery, although the three-monthly hormone therapy was not yet complete. I needed a change, and meeting former NDDBians, especially in Toronto, was a bonus. Rajeev and his wife came, and we had a great time.
Rajeev, a postgraduate in Agriculture, worked with the Farmers Organisation and Animal Husbandry (FO & AH ) Division of National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) from 1981 to 1988,. He had a deep interest to work with the Oilseeds and Vegetable Oil Wing (OVOW) at NDDB.
Despite his intended role, Rajeev was never posted in OVOW or any Oilseeds Growers Union. After working with the FO & AH Division in Anand from 1981 to 1983, he was assigned to work with Milk Unions in various milk sheds of Maharashtra. He left NDDB in 1988 and went on to hold senior positions with cooperative and private sector organizations that provided products and services to the rural sector. He finally retired in 2018 and is currently based in Hyderabad.
During his posting in Anand, Rajeev didn’t stay at the NDDB campus for long as no sooner that he got a flat in the NDDB campus and got married he was transferred to Aurangabad.
During our conversations, Rajeev reminisced about his time at NDDB, sharing stories about incidents and life at work, as well as his friends and life in general during his days in Anand.
He also revealed his love for Ghazals and Urdu poetry, particularly those sung by late Shri Jagjit Singh.
Rajeev has acted in a short role in a film “Kagaz ki Kashti,” a biopic on the life of the renowned Ghazal singer, Jagjit Singh. I am sharing some short clips from the film Kagaj ki Kishti wherein Rajeev can be seen.
Similarly over time, Rajeev not only became a fan but also developed a friendship with the late Rishi Kapoor, who shared the same passion. Even after Rishi Ji’s passing, Rajeev and his wife Sharmeeli remain in touch with the family. He has shared some pictures with late Shri Rishi Kapoor and Smt. Neetu Kapoor.
Thanks to his knowledge and interest in poetry, literature, and cinema, we had a wonderful evening discussing these topics. Since then, Rajeev has been sharing YouTube links of songs and Ghazals, which my wife Kiran thoroughly enjoys.
I, on the other hand, appreciate the words and meanings more than the accompanying music and lyrical rendition, making me somewhat of an “Aurangzeb” when it comes to music preferences.
After dinner, my daughter drove us to drop Rajeev and his wife at Rajeev’s son’s home. We have remained in touch since then.
I had plans to visit him in Hyderabad in February 2023, but unfortunately, I fell ill with a bout of pneumonia followed by a urinary tract infection (UTI). As a result, I was mostly immobile and bedridden for the majority of February 2023.
After more than a year I found this half ready draft of a blog I started writing sone time in November 2022. I find that I have nearly 100 draft blogs on my website most of which one or two paragraphs. I start writing then give up and forget.
I wish I was more focused and complete tasks that I undertake on time.
My apologies to Rajeev as I think I had promised him that I will write a blog on our meeting.
It has taken a year .. but I am happy that I finally completed this blog.
A developing story unfolds through correspondence between two individuals who have yet to meet face to face and live over 12,480 kilometers apart.
Like any story, this one also has a beginning. However, both the writers and the story itself are still searching for closure and longing for an end.
Dear reader, could you lend a helping hand?
Namaste SK Sir!
Kaise hain aap? I just read your blog about Dr. Kurien’s speech at IIMA. Brings back memories of wonderful times at IRMA and NDDB.
If you remember there is an installation of a Bull in NDDB Mumbai campus. What I remember about it is that it was designed and made by engineers of IDMC. Using food grade steel scrap.
The bull travelled as an art installation to Bharat Mahotsav in 1984 till 1988 across Europe and America, along the cultural troupes.
It was then installed in NDDB Mumbai, upon return from the Mahotsav.
The original colour was grey but someone got it painted green a few years back.
They are now wanting to restore its glory. I could find an old picture if it to establish the colour. Which they will be using to restore it.
I request you to tell me if there is any story you remember about the installation. NDDB Mumbai is planning to errect a plaque next to it, giving its story.
Your inputs will be invaluable.
Warm regards, Dushyant
That is the bull installation I am referring to. This was the gray color it had in 1999. Now it has been painted grass green and can’t really be seen in the green background.
Thanks 🙏 I will revert on this as I need consult some old timers who spent time at Mumbai.
Thank you so much !
I contacted several persons to get some information. Behla, Gore, Muralidharan. But no luck. Finally through Murali connected with Mahesh Chandra former MD, IDMC.
Murali sent has me following message after talking to Mahesh Chandra;
“I spoke to Mahesh Chandra. Understand the Bull was made as per the request of late Shri GM Jala. One sculptor from Badoda guided and under his supervision IDMC made it. Dr.Kurien saw this in IDMC work shop and decided to install at NDDB Bombay Campus.”
I have requested Murali to find the name of the Sculptor and year the statue was made.
This is very helpful. Thank you so much. Can someone verify the bull travelling to Europe with Bharat Mahotsav.I heard it from more than one person during my days at NDDB Mumbai. One of them was late Mr JP Majumdar, can’t remember the others who told this story
Spoke to Dr MPG Kurup. He too doesn’t remember much except that the sculptor who made the bull which was given to Mike and Dr Aneja at their farewell function could have been the one who guided IDMC to create the bull currently in NDDB Mumbai office. Dr Kurup doesn’t remember the name of the sculptor but according to him Mr Jhala got in touch with the sculptor through Vadodara based Architect Suryakant Patel. The Sculptor was a teacher at MS University.
The last person to be contacted is Shri DK Sen I have his number and will get in touch. He was longest serving Director Engineering and regional office campus construction was under engineers who reported to him on technical matters through regional head of engineering.
You can do a blog on this for Vrikshamandir basis our conversations / messages.
May be a reader of the blog recollects some missing links.
Personally I very much doubt the story of the bull being shown in exhibitions in Europe but I may be wrong.
PS: I tried to connect with Shri DK Sen several times but with no luck. I haven’t had a response from him.
Therefore, I thought of posting it on Vrikshamandir. May be some one remembers something.
We were in Vancouver from July 7th to 16th, 2023. The occasion was a sort of reunion of three families: the Anejas, Behlas, and mine.
The three of us first met at Anand in the late sixties where we worked for many years with the then nascent National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) of India. Virindra Singh Behla joined in November 1967, I joined in May 1968, and Dr. RP Aneja in July 1968. At one time, Behla was the Director (Engineering), I was the Director (Human Resource Development), and Dr. Aneja was the Managing Director.
Dr. Aneja was earlier the Secretary of the NDDB before it became a body corporate under an act of Parliament in 1987. Dr. Aneja’s predecessors were Dr. SC Ray, Mr. AK RayChaudhry, and Mr. GM Jhala. I have had the privilege of having worked for NDDB during the period when the above four and Dr ( Miss ) Amrita Patel were at the helm of affairs of NDDB as Secretary / Managing Director under the Chairmanship of Dr V Kurien.
Behla was the first to leave NDDB in 1988 as he took over as MD, Hindpack (A joint venture of NDDB and Tetra Pak in India) followed by Dr Aneja in 1990. I left NDDB in 2000.
Dr Aneja was married some months before he joined NDDB in 1968, while Behla and I were bachelors. I had met my would-be wife Kiran a year earlier and our marriage was already fixed by our parents in 1960. Behla knew Rita his would-be wife but their marriage was not fixed. Behla and Rita completed 50 and Kiran and I completed 52 years of married life in 2023. For our children and us, it was also an occasion to celebrate our golden jubilee marriage anniversaries having completed 50 or more years of married life.
Our children grew up on the NDDB campus. They are now spread over three continents with homes in Canberra, Dubai, Toronto and Vancouver besides our India home base(s) in Gurgaon, Bengaluru, Chandigarh and my village in Gorakhpur.
Thanks to the reunion some of the children and grandchildren met after 8-10 years. It was a great occasion for all of us. On the last day there was an impromptu Garba.
In the picture gallery below, I share some pictures of our families gathering for a ten-day reunion.
How times change; it now feels like a ‘once upon a time’ when we lived in the NDDB Anand Campus. We are old now. I used to be proud of my memory, but it is no longer the case. However, both Dr. Aneja and Behla are very good at recalling old incidents. It is such a pleasure to be with them.
I was in Vancouver, Canada. I remembered my first that visit to Canada was in 1980 when I accompanied Shri GM Jhala. In 1983, I accompanied Dr. V Kurien. In 1987, NDDB sponsored my dear colleague (Late) Dr. SP Mittal and me for a three-month-long Training Programme in Canada and the USA. We attended workshops and seminars on Human Resource Development, staying in various cities and traveling from the east to the west coast multiple times. However, we spent a larger part of our time in Victoria, BC.
It was a lengthy trip, and we greatly missed Indian food. Dr. Mittal and I both enjoyed cooking. Rob and Carol Nelson, who were our hosts in Victoria, graciously allowed us to use their kitchen. However, getting groceries was a challenging task. Nevertheless, we tried our hands at cooking and our efforts were highly appreciated.
During the 1987 trip, I recall visiting Indian restaurants in Toronto, Victoria, and even Vancouver. However, I found them to be quite expensive. As a result, we opted for Chinese food instead. Not only was it served in generous portions, but it was also more affordable compared to the Indian restaurants.
That was in the past. Now, more than thirty years later, I spend 5-6 months or even more each year in Canada. Thankfully, there are numerous stores that sell groceries from India, and they have everything we could possibly think of. It’s wonderful to have access to such a wide variety of Indian products.
While I was in Vancouver, I fondly remembered Rob and Carol Nelson, who were the NDDB’s first International HR consultants, among others. Sadly, both Rob and Carol have passed away. If they were still with us, I would have taken a ferry to Victoria Island to meet them. Cancer took away two kind souls from us. Rob embarked on his final journey approximately seven years ago, while Carol left us six years later in 2022. They will always be remembered and missed.
I remembered Dr. A.H. Somjee, who is a Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Simon Fraser University. Unfortunately, I did not have his phone number or email address. However, I was able to find a lot of information about the books and papers he has written through a Google search. In 1987, Dr. Mittal and I had the opportunity to visit Dr. Somjee’s home, accompanied by Rob. The Somjees graciously hosted us, and we had engaging conversations while sitting on the balcony of their house in North Vancouver. The location, situated at a higher elevation on the hills, provided us with a mesmerizing view of the Vancouver port that evening.
I continued my search on the internet and came across an article from Simon Fraser University. It saddened me to learn that Dr. Somjee’s wife, Geeta Somjee, passed away in 2013. Considering that Dr. Somjee was born in 1925, I thought he must be 98 years old. It is worth noting that Dr. Somjee has generously donated 3 million dollars to Simon Fraser University. One can access the story I am referring to by clicking on this link.
I had no idea about Dr. Somjee’s health condition or whether I would be able to meet him, but for old times’ sake, I thought I should try. I wrote an email to the Department of Political Science at Simon Fraser University, where Dr. Somjee has taught since 1965.
After a week, upon my return to Toronto, I received an email from Dr. Somjee. I was excited to open it. After reading it, I experienced mixed feelings. I was glad that I had connected with him, but also saddened by the realization that I would not have the opportunity to meet him in person. Nonetheless, I was pleased that I would be able to communicate with him through email. The reply I received from Dr. Somjee is as follows
One day, a thought came over me, and I started recollecting the names of colleagues in NDDB who joined the organization before it moved to the fourth floor of the Amul Administrative building in 1969. I remembered Dr Aneja, Behla, PG Gore, BN Bhat, Arvind Patel, Mathew, George Kurien (GK), Fatteji, Martin, Sarju Ram, Talati, Manubhai Shah, Jashbhai Patel…I am sure I am missing many names. As I mentioned earlier my memory is no longer as it used to be.
I remembered my salary of Rs 421.20 per month. Entries in my 1968 diary of money that I lend and borrowed from friends. The amounts were so small Rs 5 or 10 or maximum 15. About 10 Canada cents at current exchange rate but may be a dollar in 1968/1969.
The other day I found this interesting passage in a book I am reading;
“One day, you and everyone you love will die. And beyond a small group of people for an extremely brief period of time, little of what you say or do will ever matter. This is the Uncomfortable Truth of life. And everything you think or do is elaborate Avoidance of it. We are inconsequential cosmic dust, bumping and milling about on a tiny blue speck. We imagine our own importance. We invent our purpose – we are nothing. Enjoy your fucking coffee.”
EVERYTHING IS F@CKED by Mark Manson
The above lines, I thought, describe the impermanence of human life beautifully. But be it a curse or boon as long as we live thoughts, feelings and memories don’t leave us. I think that even the ideal meditative thoughtless state of Samadhi is for a limited time.
Let me end by a couplet by Firaq Gorakhpuri;
ये माना ज़िंदगी है चार दिन की, बहुत होते हैं यारों चार दिन भी !
These lines literally translate into English as;
Agree that life is just “four” days, even “four” days can be a lot, my friends!
I wonder what are qualities the “four days” in which the poet has imagined encapsulating entire human life.
Are those days the days that we keep remembering and then keep forgetting; days that remind us of our struggles and achievements; successes and failures; days that are filled with love that we get and empathetic conversations that we have had; days when humanity in us touches the humanity of those with whom we come into contact with …?
On 1st June, 2023, Shailendra shared a video with me in which a scientist Dr. Satyaprakash Varma is showing (in some agricultural fair held in Rajkot during 24-28th May) how an income of ₹ 8000 to ₹85000 can be earned from one kilogram of Cattle /Buffalo dung. Yes, ₹ 8000- 85000 from one kilo of dung! Don’t believe it, then ask Shailendra for the video link. Incidentally, Dr. Varma himself has become an entrepreneur to make ‘products’ from dung and many dung producers have already joined him as suppliers (gobarwala.com). In short Dr. Varma has created unlimited possibilities to eradicate rural poverty through establishment of ‘Dung’ based industries and has opened new avenues for (rural) development.
These two products are:
1. Nano Cellulose
These two base products can be used in nearly a thousand ways in both agriculture and industry.
My head began to spin as I saw the video. So much income from just one kilogram of Dung! And we have been after Milk for the last 50-60 years! God alone knows how many disputes milk has caused over the years- the latest being the one triggered by Amul’s entry in Karnataka that soon drew-in other southern Indian states- just ‘Cold’ milk generated so much of political heat.
Then there was an altogether different scene during the Corona period. As the cost of milk production rose above average, the market price too rose sharply drawing the ire of urban consumers. They, to begin with accusingly pointed fingers at the milk producers for shortages and consequent price increases, and much more happened. The demand for dairy products rose sharply with the ‘departure’ of Corona; thus the ‘Butter of India’ -Amul too disappeared from market. Angry consumers began to accuse Amul of creating artificial shortage and black marketing. Result- suddenly news of probable imports of dairy products started doing rounds and a new political war began between dairy cooperatives and urban consumers.
Fortunately, at this time, the ‘Gourakshaks’ were not very active otherwise they too would have hogged their share of news headlines. Every small incident would have been twisted (out of context context), overplayed, repeatedly shown on tv channels creating communal tension and offering politicians another opportunity to play their own(dirty) game. We know that whereas on the one hand over the last sixty odd years, there have been innumerable disputes and unresolved court cases over the vexed issue of cow slaughter, on the other hand milk has continued to gain national importance. (On this serious issue, readers are invited to read my article titled; “Cows, Grass and Beef” on Vrikshamandir.com).
So much importance has been given to Milk in our diet (being the only source of essential animal protein in vegetarian diets) that in 1965, National Dairy Development Board was established primarily to increase domestic milk production and provide nutritional security to Indian population. Thanks to this development- establishment of NDDB, unemployed qualified dairy science degree holders like me found employment.
Once my head began to spin (after seeing the video) imagination took wings and the first thing that stuck my mind was, “what if Dr. Varma’s amazing discovery had happened in the 1960s? And now that he himself has established a Dung based business, what new opportunities does this innovation offer in the near future?
I tried to make some guesses. Some of these are listed here under.
1. There would have been greater emphasis on Dung production than on Milk production. That means, Dung would have been the ‘Main’ product and ‘Milk’ a by-product of cattle keeping. (In that case, would I have chosen ‘Dairy Science’ for my masters degree? (On this issue, I have reserved my decision for now. I also doubt if any university would have offered specialisation in ‘Dung production and Processing.)
The full form of NDDB established in 1965 would have been “National Dung Development Board” and its Hindi translation “Rastriy Gobar Vikas Board”? Had that been the case, how many of us would have liked to work for it? For some with specific qualifications in animal husbandry, however, there would hardly have been any other option.
2. Just think, if a farmer gets ₹ 2000/ per kg of Dung as against ₹ 35-40 per litre of milk (my provisional estimate is based on the assumption that the raw material should command at least 25% of the minimum price the processed end product would command), then who would bother to sell milk that ends up as a low value by-product? It’s disposal would have been simple too- if it remains good, sell it; if it turns sour, drain it! Handling Dung would be a breeze since there is no worry of it’s turning sour and it doesn’t require any cold chain either!
3. Another great advantage with Dung production- the animal becomes a productive asset from the day of birth and remains so till death. So, No dry period; animal’s being male or female makes no difference and therefore no farmer would ever sell off an asset that remains productive throughout life!
4. Another interesting outcome of this shift in focus would be – disappearance of the agenda “Save Cow and its progeny” making so called “Gourakshaks” irrelevant and freeing our courts of never ending legal battles on cow slaughter related issues.
5. The impact on industry would have been tremendous too. In fact new possibilities have emerged only now. With both banks and venture capitalists eager to support start-ups, just imagine how much investment dung based enterprises would attract as the investors begin to see ‘gold’ in dung!
6. Ancillary industries (to the main dung based industry) too would attract investments and the most attractive of these would perhaps be the ‘diapers for cattle’ so that pure, admixture free dung can be supplied for processing.
Now let us talk about procurement.
In villages formation of ‘Dung producer’s cooperative societies’ would have gained priority over dairy cooperatives. No village of India would have remained untouched from this immense developmental possibility (as every village has dung producing animals) giving private investors, including the foreigners ample investment opportunities. Who would like to miss an opportunity to make ‘gold’ out of dung in the economy with the world’s largest cattle population that ensures uninterrupted supply of raw material every single day of the year?
There could be three options for Dung processing?
1. A mini processing unit at the village level.
2. A medium unit at the block/ Taluka/Tehsil level.
3. A large unit at the district level.
Meaning thereby that the institutional infrastructure could either be a 3 tier cooperative or even ‘Dung producer’s Company’ with its ownprocessing facility at any of these three levels depending upon capital availability.
These (procurement and processing) options would have naturally created demand for equipment appropriate for the purpose. And therefore attracting investments in new equipment manufacturing enterprises, creating new job opportunities for engineering degree holders (good news for them) and perhaps a diversification opportunity for IDMC ( Indian Dairy Machinery Company) ?
I feel that the sector which would have been affected most by this amazing step towards rural development is the education sector. How? Let me explain.
1. If a person sitting at home in his village can make with least efforts almost ₹20000 per day (by selling just 10 kg of dung), then who would like to break his head with studies? School education (not being very taxing) is ok, but why university education that adds no value to the simple task of dung collection? Therefore adverse impact on university enrolment would be a strong possibility. Moreover, with this kind of income, who would want to seek employment that requires you to put in eight hours of hard work daily? This would make employment exchanges totally irrelevant. The number of students going abroad for higher education too will drop significantly adversely affecting the business of foreign universities. That would mean that whereas on one hand we will save foreign exchange, on the other our banks will see asubstantial drop in demand for educational loans. Few, who still choose to pursue higher education will now be known as ‘scatter brained’.
2. On the research side, there will be extensive research on new topics. For example, which breed produces dung with higher nano cellulose and lignin content? Is Nano cellulose and lignin content in dung directly related to the feeds and fodder fed to cattle? Which feed ingredients increase/ decrease Nano cellulose and lignin content in dung?
3. We will also emerge as the world’s largest producer/ exporter of dung and dung based products. Until now, we are number one in milk production. Now we will be number one in dung business too!
What would that mean? “Gold n Gold from Dung”!
And then, the lines of a new (patriotic) song may be something like:
“Mere desh ki gaayen gobar uglen, gobar ugale sona” ( cows of my country give dung and the dung gives gold!)
……………, Mere desh ki gaayen”.
(These lines have my Copyright-all rights reserved)
For me this is a serious topic. You may either take it as a light hearted entertaining essay or draw inspiration from it to become a ‘Gobar’entrepreneur. The choice is entirely yours.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading this article.
Former General Manager, National Dairy Development Board
Father’s Day is a new celebration for most Indians. We in India do not earmark a specific day to remember our parents- be it Mother’s Day or the Father’s Day.
Shri Hem Shankar Nagar
For us every day is the ‘parents day’ or it used to be so for my generation until the western influence separated it and assigned a day of the year for each parent.
Be it as it may, being old school, I continue to cherish the memories of my parents day after day, especially their teachings that shaped my life, my thinking and the way I have conducted myself so far.
My father was a man of modest means but a generous giver, generous at heart as his meanswere limited. He never said ‘No’ to anyone who came seeking help. As a teacher-educator, he helped his subordinates, many of whom just peons educate themselves while in government service and saw to it that they make a career in teaching. He provided them books out of his own earnings and didn’t expect even a word of gratitude from the beneficiaries. He willingly and happily transferred our ancestral home to children of his deceased brother while his own family lived in rented accommodation. All this while also supporting children of a number of near and distant relatives pursue higher education. And he was not ashamed of himself living under tremendous financial pressure. He happily dressed in worn out shirts that had clumsily mended collars. His contagious smile and cool manners were enough to carry him anywhere with confidence and a commanding attitude.
He never interfered with our choice of a career. He gave us total freedom to choose a career path that made us comfortable and happy. The only time he ever directly advised me was on 22nd July 1969, a day before I was to leave for Anand to join NDDB. He gave me three important tips. Although he left this mortal world 47 years ago- on 13th May 1975, his words are so fresh in my memory as though they were spoken only a day before.
He told me, “Rashmi, in a couple of days you will enter a new phase of your life away from home. You will be in a new environment with new people. The new phase will require adjustments but in the work environment what I am telling you may prove very useful.
1. Learning never ends. It is a continuous process. So be open to learning and the best way to do it is ‘observe and learn’. If you keep an open mind, you can learn from anyone, anywhere, anytime.
2. Treat all your colleagues with respect irrespective of their status in the official hierarchy. Everyone is a human first.
3. For every Rupee that you are paid, put in Rs. 1.25 worth of effort. This way you will end your day with a feeling of utmost satisfaction, you will sleep well and that will always keep you healthy. A good night’s sleep is worth more than a million applauses.
Over my working life, I tried my best to stick to these fundamental teachings of my Dad and I hope that I lived to his expectations. If I have, then no tribute to him can be greater than my following his “5 minutes of 22nd July 1969”, and ‘Father’s Day’ has nothing to do with it.
This funny incident also happened in 1982 in Pakistan. The scene- Hilton, Lahore.
This was our second week in Pakistan. After first week in Islamabad, which was mostly meetings with policy makers and senior bureaucrats in the government of Pakistan, we were now to undertake field visits to the proposed project areas in the Punjab province.
Dr. Kurien left for India after the first week. So, when we reached Lahore, Mike and I were to ourselves, while the rest of the mission members from the world bank had their own way of socialising between themselves in the evenings.
After we checked in the hotel, Mike asked the hotel manager, if alcohol is served in the hotel. The manager replied that as foreigners, we could get a permit that would entitled us to a ‘unit’ of alcohol during our stay of one week in the hotel. He added that the hotel issues the permit and we will be required to do a bit of paper work.
The paper work was simple. We had to just fill out an application form with our passport and visa details. The person responsible for issuing the liquor permit verified the details and issued us the permits. One permit entitled a person to either a one litre bottle of ‘finest’ whiskey made in Pakistan or 16 bottles of beer. So, between Mike and me we had two permit with a choice of picking two bottles of whiskey, 32 bottles of beer or one bottle of whiskey and 16 bottles of beer.
We chose the last option and decided to use Mike’s permit first and picked a bottle of Pakistani whiskey from the hotel’s wine shop.
I don’t know how strict the current prohibition laws in Pakistan are, but we were there during the rule of General Zia Ul Haq. During his time, drinking by Pakistanis and especially Muslims was strictly forbidden. The law breakers were awarded severe punishment and there was an atmosphere of fear among the citizens lest someone is caught breaking the prohibition law that included not only the person found drinking, in illegal possession of alcohol and the one who served alcohol.
The ‘finest’ Pakistani whiskey was a disappointment. And that was Mike’s opinion as he understood the qualities of whiskey way better than I did. And if I couldn’t relish the taste of it, imagine what Mike’s reaction must have been. So, we decided to opt for beer on my permit after we were somehow done with the Pakistani whiskey.
This was the middle of the week and after the day long field visits, we were relaxing in Mike’s room. We decided that we will ask for just four bottles of beer- each was 650 ml for the evening.
I called the hotel’s wine shop and placed the order. I gave Mike’s room number where the beer bottles were to be delivered.
There was knock on the door after about 5 minutes. I opened the door and found a handsome young waiter, in his twenties holding four bottles of chilled beer in a tray. He very politely asked, ‘May I come in sir’? I said, ‘yes, please do come in’.
He then came in and placed the tray on the table. He then passed the bill to Mike for him to sign.
Since, the permit was in my name, I asked him to hand the bill to me to sign. The young man was horrified that a local person was hosting a white man and is going to sign the bill and that too under General Zia’s regime.
We understood his dilemma, exchanged glances and decided to have some fun at the poor waiters expense.
Mike, without uttering a word, pointed towards me indicating to the waiter that he will sign the bill. This young fellow, I guess knew some English but was intimidated in Mike’s presence and fumbles in Urdu, ‘wo sahab sign nahin karsakte’.
As he said this, I realised that he is confused about my nationality and if I used my limited urdu-punjabi, it will confused him more. Why not have some lighter moments, I thought and told him, ‘order hamne kiya hai, to sign bhi ham hi karenge. Ye angrej kaise karenge’?
‘Nahin sahab, aap sign nahin kar sakte. Aap to order bhi nahin de sakte. Aapko pata hai na ki musalmaano ke liye sharaab peena mana hai aur kanooni jurm hai. Aap ko to saza hogi aur aap mujh garib ko bhi jail bhijava denge. Meri to nayee nayee naukari lagi hai’.
This knowledge was more fun. I decided to carry on the tussle for a while as Mike continued to enjoy it. Mike, although didn’t speak Hindi, could understand what was going on between me and the waiter and signalled me to carry on for a little longer.
I then changed my expression- pseudo anger and told the waiter firmly, ‘Hum na sirf bill sign karaenge, balki poori do bottle beer bhi piyenge. Chupchap bill hamare hawale karo’.
Poor fellow was terrified. The fear of losing the job had taken him over. I saw his frightened expression. Then he acted fast, hurriedly picked the tray and held it close to his chest.
‘Sahab,aap ko bataya na ki Pakistani log aur khas kar musalmaan sharab nahi pi sakte. Ye kanooni gunah hai. Aap musalmaan hokar bhi ye baat nahi samajh rahe ho’. He fired the last salvo and turned towards the door.
I then stopped him, asked him to keep the tray on the table, pulled out my passport and showed it to him.
I said, Main Hindustani hoon. Jara mera naam padho, kya ye Muslim naam hai’?
As he read my name, he turned pale. With tears about to flow from his eyes, he profusely apologised and requested me to not to complain to the hotel management about his rude behaviour.
I smiled and told him that He doesn’t have to fear as we were just having a little fun at your expense. We have no intention to harm you in any way. I then signed the bill and tipped him double the normal amount. He was hesitant to take the tip but we insisted saying, ‘this is just a token reward for your sincerity towards your job’.
He left reassured with a smile and we had the most courteous room service for the rest of the three days in the hotel.
Dr TP Benjamin MVSc, Fellow IIMA , Bengaluru, a former colleague at NDDB and IRMA and a dear friend sent a whatsapp forward about a speech that Dr Kurien delivered as Chief Guest at IIM Ahmedabad at 23 Convocation of the institute in 1988. Text of the WhatsApp forward is given at the end of this blog.
Dr Benjamin’s message reminded me of an incident that happened the day before Dr Kurien spoke at IIMA.
That day in 1988, as soon as Dr Kurien came walked his office, he called me.
The conversation that we had went on somewhat like this.
Dr Kurien: “I will be going to Ahmedabad tomorrow to deliver a convocation speech at IIM A.”
Dr Kurien: “Do as I say. Call Dr Narain Sheth, Director IIMA from my direct line. Make make sure you don’t speak to anyone in his office but only to him. But first put the phone on speaker so that I can also listen to the conversation. Tell Dr Sheth that you are Shailendra Kumar, Executive Assistant to Chairman NDDB, calling from Dr Kuriens’s office. After that, repeat to him what I tell you.”
Dr Kurien asked me to remove the phone from his table and take it a few feet away near the sofa. He continued to sit on his chair and kept prompting me.
I called Director IIMA’s office and asked for direct number of Dr Sheth.I said I had to convey a confidential message from Dr Kurien. Once I got the direct number, I dialled and Dr Sheth picked up the phone.
“Good morning, Sir; this is Shailendra Kumar, Executive Assistant to Dr Kurien. Am I speaking to Dr Sheth on his direct line?”
Dr Sheth: “Yes, Narayan Sheth here. You are on my direct line.”
Shailendra: “Sir, I have a message for you from Dr Kurien. Sir, Dr Kurien has information that the IIMA employees are on strike, and they will try to disturb the convocation proceedings by blocking the entrance.”
Dr Sheth: Yes, but how does he know?
Shailendra: “I don’t know, Sir.”
Dr Sheth: “We are aware of this and are taking extra precautions. We have made arrangements for the entry of guests and the Chief Guest Dr Kurien from the back door. Please tell Dr Kurien that we will ensure safety and everything will go on smoothly.”
Shailendra “Sir, Dr Kurien enters public functions from the front door only. We will have a couple of hundred milk producers from Ahmedabad and Mehsana milk unions who will ensure that when Dr Kurien arrives, he can enter the venue from the front door.”
Dr Sheth: “That may not be necessary. Please assure Dr Kurien that we have taken the necessary steps.”
Shailendra:”Thank you, Sir, but some milk producer members from district unions of Ahmedabad and Mehsana will also be there in case a situation arises.”
Dr Sheth: “No no it may not be necessary.
After that, I thanked him and kept the phone down.
The next day Dr Kurien went and delivered the convocation address. And the programme went as planned. And he did enter the convocation hall from the front door.
Those interested in reading the full text of his IIMA 1988 convocation speech it is pasted below.
Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad convocation Address By Dr. V. Kurien Chairman National Dairy Development Board April 4, 1988 INDIAN INSTITUTE OF MANAGEMENT CONVOCATION ADDRESS
Chairman and Members of the Board of Governors, Director and Members of the Faculty of the Institute, distinguished guests and Members of the Graduating Class. You have done me a great honour in inviting me to speak on this solemn occassion. I however feel somewhat out of place, in this distinguished assemblage of management experts, learned in the most advanced theories of how to achieve results. In the four decades of working, I have unfortunately not had the opportunity to undergo any management training at any institution, leave alone one so eminent as IEMA. I have been busy merely managing, as best as i could, the business of my employers, some 1.2 million farmers, most of whom do not earn as much as the lowest paid employee of this or any other Institute. Collectively, though, their business is worth Rs 400 crore a year now, while 40 years ago, their original co-operative was hard put to envisage a business of a lakh of rupees a year.
Most of you doubtless expect me to advise you on how to manage your careers and how to seek opportunities. I find myself singularly ill-equipped to talk to you on this subject. The great success stories you have before you of your predecessors from the Institute and veterans of professional management in India and abroad are probably studded with examples of quick career changes; correctly timed lateral movements, rapid promotions and advancements and stewardships of corporate giants located in the great metropolitan centres of the world. I have had but one paid job in my career, never received a promotion, have lived in a small town called Anand, which even now does not have an automatic telephone exchange, and my employers, my Board members, wear not the Seville Row suits but simple dhotis and smoke beedies, not cigars. They do not understand dynamic programming and the cost-effectiveness of various media in promotion campaigns. What they do understand is that their travails in the farms can have meaning and dignity only if they get a fair share out of the system and they will get a fair share only when it is realised. that if not given, they will take their share. To enable them to obtain their share, therefore, they should organise themselves into Unions, even as the Labour Unions have. They can best do so around an economic activity, like the procurement, processing and marketing of their agricultural produce. To do so effectively, they should engage professional managers in their service. This will bring about a combination of the biggest asset of India, the farmer power, over 70% of India’s population, with professional management, to give this power direction and thrust.
What then is Operation Flood and the Anand Pattern? It is basically a dairy development programme. It is the organisation of 8 million farmers, giving them a platform to articulate their needs, to demand a better place under the Indian sun. The basis of Operation Flood is giving power to the producer of milk by combining their energies and resources with the talent and commitment of professional management. More than 75% of the milk producers are small and marginal farmers and landless labourers. It is therefore appropriate that some have dubbed Operation Flood the “White Revolution”, for it is a revolution — not only in productiOn, but in creating a constituency of farmers who, serVed by professional managers, can exert pressures in their own interest thereby participating effectively in our democratic process. It is no accident that-the incomes of dairy farmers have increased. They are organised and they have a voice. We Can also take some pride in the- fact that because their organisations are managed professionally, and because they are efficient, price increases to the consumer have been moderate.
This revolution has not taken place without opposition. It has been opposed by some politicians, by many bureaucrats, by all middlemen merchants and traders. It has been opposed by advanced dairying countries and by multi-national food companies. It has been opposed by a few who have made their life easy by calling themselves Scientists concerned with metaphysical, social and economic questions. Lacking the courage or conviction to be a participant they have chosen to watch the game as a spectator. But my Colleagues and I, having chosen a cause, had to struggle for it. Yet this coalition of vested interests who wanted fame by criticising, who don’t want the poor to emerge, who feel threatened when the poor gain access to the stage of. democratic decision-making, has failed. They have failed because of the very fact that the farmers have organised. And they have failed because the salvation of India is that in high places, in all. spheres, even among social scientists, there are people of good intentions, of good will and of ability. Such people have not only welcomed the poor to the arena of democratic decision-making, but have actively supported and encouraged this process. The Government of India, beginning with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, has encouraged what we call the Anand Pattern of cooperative development. It was Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri who was instrumental in creating the National Dairy Development Board so that the Anand Pattern could be extended to every part of the country. It was Smt. Indira Gandhi whose encouragement and support was vital to Operation Flood and, very recently, to creating an alternative structure for vegetable and fruit marketing on the Anand Pattern. And it was Shri Morarji Desai and Shri HM Patel who saw the Anand Pattern as the way to replicate the success of Operation Flood with oilseeds and edible oil. It is our own Chief Minister, Shri Amarsinh Chaudhary, who now wants the Anand Pattern to be tried out on power generation and distribution by decentralising its functions.
Whether with milk, with vegetable and fruit, with oil, or with power, organisation of farmers into cooperative enterprises is the first step towards releasing our rural population from the bonds of poverty. By their command over procurement, processing and marketing , the farmers ensure that their share of the consumer’s rupee increases, providing them with a remunerative and reliable return on their investment. Increased and stable income creates the conditions for further investment in production and productivity, an effort supported by the cooperatives which provide the services and inputs the farmers require. When the cooperatives.achieve an influential share of the market — this forces the trade to conform, to compete with fair prices to the farmer and to the consumer. Most important, the cooperative enterprise, linking farmers locally, regionally and nationally, empowers the rural poor and can give them a strong voice in our democratic process.
O This is important because decision making of a Government is often not based on the merits of the case, but as a response to the pressures exerted on them. In our democratic form of Government, our & decision makers weave their path between conflicting pressures, opposing a few, surrendering to many, and compromising with all. In our last forty years of free existence most of these pressures have come from our industrialists, Our organised labour and from those who reside in cities. Hardly any pressure has been applied by our farmers who reside in our villages. That is why we have fly-overs in our cities but no approach roads to many of our villages. We have fountains with coloured lights in cities, but no safe drinking water.in many of our villages. Fancy five star hospitals in cities, but no health system to put two drops of a disinfectant in a new born child’s eye in a Village to prevent the child from going blind. That is why we have Colleges and Universities in cities but no black— boards in many village schools. Our urban elite have shamelessly usurped the scarce resources of our land leaving very little to the 75% of our people who live in our villages. Our organised. labour who work in our factories and offices have helped themselves to more and more for working less and less. They have assured pay scales which are revised every three years, Dearness Allowance related to cost of living index, House Rent Allowance, Bonus. Gratuity, Provident Fund, Leave Travel Concession, Overtime, Privilege Leave, Sick Leave, Maternity Leave, paid holidays and what not. As against this, those who work in on? farms get no assured income, are exposed to the vagaries of the monsoon and have no assured jobs. Our constitution assures equality of treatment to all Indians and yet how is it that laws are passed to pay retrenchment compensation to those who lose their jobs but no jobs are assured to those who have none. Is it not time we converted the Labour Minister and his department who continue to Specialise in giving more to those who already have so much into an Employment Ministry which will ensure that those who have no jobs will get one. Is it not time we stopped emptying our treasury for paying more and more to Government employees who keep proliferating. Should our factories continue to provide us bad quality products at high costs because we have to surrender more and more to the unreasonable demands and suffer the increasing indiscipline of organised labour. At what point of time do we call a halt to this looting of India by a powerful minority and begin to look into the legitimate demands of 75% of our population who live in our villages?.
It is perhaps tempting to try to achieve the changes we want to bring about by rasta rokos, revolution and violenCe. It is unfortunately true that those in authority often tend to ignore reasonable requests for redress, but surrender to a display of force. But the gains achieved by violence is often illusory and are always accompanied by losses which are more permanent. It is always better to organise the weak and the poor into institutional structures that are viable’ and strong and to combine their collective power with professional management, and to ensure that such structures will endure. For this, we need professional managers not professional politicians; we need servants of the farmers, not farmer leaders.
All this is not to say that a bureaucracy is not needed. Nor is it to say that systems of Government can easily avoid an urban orientation. The nature of Government and bureaucracies is such that their apex and focus is almost bound to be the big cities. Probably that can’t be helped — but it does mean that, when it comes to rural development, the Government structure can best confine itself to identifying national and State goals and priorities and that the bureaucratic structure can best confine itself to guiding, monitoring and, if necessary, correcting the implementation of the policies and goals established by the Government. It is only when the bureaucratic structure tries also to do the implementing itself that inevitable difficulties arise; a bureaucratic structure is not suited to the practical tasks of getting things done in our villages, or to working with farmers.
For effective rural transformation that India so badly needs we need to deploy productive manpower to tackle rural production and agro business. It is here that the graduates of this institute can play a decisive role and in the bargain obtain for themselves the satisfaction of having left this country’s little better than they found it.
Your education has been made possible with an enormous commitment of scarce national resources. You must not forget that while the country spends over a lakh of rupees to train a professional manager at an IIM, with the same amount of money. 5% or more children could complete their entire primary education and perhaps be somewhat more productive farmers and artisans. I am not grudging the use of national resources to train managers; indeed, we need them in large numbers. Our enterprises and creation of income-generating opportunities would slow down even more if we did not have professional managers to.run them“ I do wish to impress upon you, though, the fact that since there is a trade-off in the use of the resources, there will be questions about their effective use.
For example, one could very well ask: “What happens to the managers who are trained at such an enormous cost to the country?” The answer, I am afraid, would not necessarily bring unalloyed credit to those associated with the training of professional managers in India.
The reservations about professional training of managers nursed by people including myself arise largely from the employment records of professional managers. I can speak without fear of contradiction that a very large proportion of the alumni of this Institute and others like it are either out of India, or serving Indian affiliates of multi-nationals or are engaged in selling of consumer products. I have myself often referred to the management institutes as training schools for shampoo salesmen. I trust that I will be forgiven an element of levity in this statement; I trust equally that the discomfiture underlying it will be taken seriously enough.
I notice that for your silver.jubilee, you have espoused the theme of excellence. Thanks to the work done once again in the Mecca of professional management, the United States, the phrase excellence has gained much currency, But have we stopped to think What it means in our context? I submit to you that it does not mean creating a few islands of what the researchers might call excellence, but bringing about an all-round change in our decision-making abilities, in our abilities to tackle our most immediate problems. In the 40 years of independence, we have gained much, achieved much. Still we face awesome problems. Three out of four Indians are still in villages; every second Indian is below the poverty line – and our definition of the poverty line is merely keeping the body and soul together. Two out of three Indians are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood, but they earn only one rupee. out of every three of the national income. Our achievements in increasing our feed, fibre and commodity production are laudable, but as the just concluded year has shown, they are still precariously dependent upon the vagaries of nature. These are all challenges for those fortunate few who have had the opportunity to imbibe the principles of excellence in management.
The students graduating today will also graduate from a world of learning and analysis to one of action and achievement. While learning never stops, we must remember what Aristotle said: honour and rewards always fall on those Who show their knowledge and good qualities in action. Action, especially effective action, invites opposition and anger from established structure. You must learn to withstand such opposition and if possible, to turn it into sources of internal strength.
The tasks before us require that the poor and the weak must be organised into institutional structures that are strong. The collective power of these organisations. these new structures if you will, must be wielded so as to confer the legitimate and democratic rights upon the members of such structures. The structures must themselves survive and gain in strength, This is not a task for politicians, but I submit, the ultimate challenge for excellence in professional management in India.
You, the graduating class, are equipped with tools of modern management and. I hope, a practical understanding of how to use them in the management of the country’s organisations. you must add to this knowledge a more important ingredient: a commitment to the society and all its members. This combination will make your professionalisation complete and bring honour to you and your Institute.
Every time I come to this Institute, I remember your first full-time Director, Professor Ravi Matthai and I cannot help recalling the personal example he set. Even.as he excelled in all his tasks – studying, managing affairs of a multi-national, teaching, building this great institution — he was restless; he felt a sense of non-fulfilment. I would like to believe that he found that fulfilment in the last phase of his life, when even as his physical strength declined, he committed himself and all his considerable abilities to the service of the poorest. The process of professionalisation of Ravi Matthai was completed only then and it, would he as much for this as for this fine institution that he would be remembered.
It is said that there used to be a speculation as to how Ravi would conclude his convocation address, quoting either from Shakespeare or from the Bible. On this Easter Monday, I would like to turn to the Bible. The parable of the Sewer says: “Behold, a sewer went forth to sow; and when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way-side, and the fowls came and devoured them up. Some fell upon stony places where they had not much earth; and forthwith they sprung up. Because they had no deepness of earth, and when the sun was up they were scorched; and because they had no roots, they Withered away. And some fell among thorns and thorns sprung up and choked them. –But others fell into good ground and brought forth fruit some hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold,”
As you leave the groves of academe, I commend to you a life of hardship, of care, of integrity and of.service. It is possible that a few of you may fall by the wayside and be devoured, a few may wither away because there is no deepness of root; but I sincerely hope and pray that most of you, like the seeds of the sewer of the parable, will fall on good earth and bear fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, and some thirtyfold.
I wish you well.
Whatsapp forward from Dr Benjamin
A random thought on convocation speeches.
We want a convocation speech that is slick. One that is delivered by a speaker in polished sophisticated English. With the right accent using the right words.
The convocation speaker in my graduating class at IIMA was V Krishnamurthy. Chairman of SAIL. He said all the right things but guess what - thirty four years out I don’t remember a word of what he said and I don’t think what he said made any difference to the lives of any of my classmates. That speech did not change anyone’s behaviour or influence any of the choices we made in our lives.
However I vividly remember remember the speech made by the chief guest at IIMA in the previous year. Being in the junior batch I was not invited to the event so along with several others from my class I watched the function from the first floor of the building on the side.
The chief guest was Dr Verghese Kurien Chairman NDDB.
He was not polite. He was downright rude. He was condescending. He was sarcastic. He was caustic. He was insulting. He spoke a few home truths to the graduating class. He taunted us.
He opened by congratulating the graduating class. He then said that this is not the Indian Institute of Management. This is the Indian Institute of Management for Shampoo Salesmen. And that the entire graduating class could now look forward to a life where they spend their time selling soap and shampoo. For that is the limit of our aspiration and ambition he said. We just wanted to work for Multinational Corporations peddling their wares to Indian consumers. Such a collosal waste of talent he called it. And throughout his speech he repeatedly used the term “shampoo salesmen” derisively to describe the graduates of IIMA.
He challenged us to do something more meaningful with our lives and try and make a difference.
But then he lamented that his words were going to fall on deaf ears and that we would take the safer option.
Now it requires some guts to go as a chief guest to a function and then make a 30 minute speech berating and insulting your hosts. But that was Dr. Verghese Kurien. In your face. Blunt. Calling a spade a spade.
By the end of it our ears were burning.
But guess which speech we remembered.
And Some of us did do something different.
The class of 1989 has produced the most number of entrepreneurs in the history of IIMA.
Sometimes warm fuzzy convocation speeches don’t make lasting impact.
- Sanjeev Bikhchandani
In order to check the veracity of the above quoted Whatsapp forward I did a Google search and found this link.
“I decided to launch this website and post blogs documenting life experiences, incidents, and insights observed and reflected upon from time to time by me as well as by those whom I came in contact with, who profoundly impacted the course of my life journey. I am deeply indebted to each them. There will be pages on this website and blogs dedicated to their life stories written by me or contributed by others.”
If we describe a vriksha (tree) in the real sense, it is the lifeline of all living beings on earth; human beings derive oxygen for sustaining life, and in turn, vriksha takes in carbon dioxide, so it is natural symbiosis! At the same time, vriksha provides shelter to birds generously giving space for their nest that In turn make the vriksha vibrant with activities. Travellers get a canopy, protection from the scorching sun and even an umbrella while raining; thus, in a real sense, vriksha is a temple, a throne of God which sustains life over the earth! There are multiple benefits of a vriksha, but in this context, these are enough to count!
Navigating through the beautiful blogs on Vrikhsamandir, lovingly nurtured by Shri Shailendraji, benefits all of the NDDBians who are retired and are away from active life. It serves as a beautiful platform for sharing their thoughts!
You would agree with me when a person gets superannuated suddenly, he becomes inactive, and that transition is challenging to bear. Some of us continue to work even after retirement but more often than not their to ability to perform gets restricted due to old age and slowing down of reflexes!
Without active life, there are all possibilities of setting devious depression as there is no vent to let the steam off!
In this context, vrikshamandir plays a pivotal role in linking retired people with each other and maintaining communication. It happens many times retired person gets frequent moods off due to lower endocrine levels!
I feel Vrikshamamdir provides the perfect and sure-shot remedy! The modus of operandi is to recollect all your past constructive and creative experiences, which are nowhere recorded and could be treasured in the Vrikshamandir wonderfully in story forms and serve as an energy booster when one’s mood is off. It provides an opportunity to recall one’s creative contributions to the organisation and society. It also helps depict objective lessons that one can learn from one’s own experiences and contributions.
Vrikshamandir is a beautiful instrument for exchanging experiences and learnings through anecdotes and parables. It helps develop skills for storytelling and writing, which in turn ignites the habit of reading and continuously updating knowledge and being aware of the world around us.
The present generation who have not seen Dr Kurien saheb and his leadership could become enlightened by going through all the practical lessons he preached to the people who came into his contacts while working! This could help in building up morale, and thus Vrikhshamandir is entirely instrumental in teaching the values and principles for achieving success by being a proactive person!
Everyone likes the past reminiscences when they see either pictures, photographs or listening audio outputs, which are undoubtedly excellent reference material preserved in Vrikshamandir and definitely when one looks at it, they slip back into past glory, certainly raising their oxytocin level and get a ‘feel good factor ‘out of it!
Vrikshamandir provides a social e-venue where all members can flock together, and some people who knew each other but have not met for long due to a change of location or other reasons could pick the thread together and enjoy life!
In my life, I have just come across the first time such an arrangement when a blog is actively linked with the retired members of the organisation, and even after retirement, they could share their experiences!
Last but not the least, I must mention the creative endeavour of our senior and mentor, Shri Shailendraji, to keep all the “birds” in a jovial mood by compiling and editing “contributed” material – reshaping only where required- and put them on the open and accessible to all treasure trove of vrikshamandir so that they chirp for ever in good air!
There has been rather a long gap in posting blogs on Vrikshamandir. The monotony was broken as Nagar sent this blog. While forwarding this Nagar wrote, “Shailu, I guess this is, as of now the last write up that I have. I seem to have lost the rhythm to write more. It seems you too have lost on uploading more stuff on Vrikshamandir. Perhaps that is the way to take a break . Best, Nagar
I am yet to reply to Nagar. But this is what I propose to write to my friend. “ It is true, of late, I have not posted on Vrikshamandir. Not because I don’t have material from friends or written by me. I am also not taking a break. But something inside me is making me lazy. I am working on it. I have loads of material to upload. The latest is a blog from Ramanujam, sharing details of the cycle journey from Manali to Leh, at the age of 64, that he just completed and wrote his first ever blog on Medium with lots of pictures. I have his permission to post it here too. Please take a break, rejuvenate and return with some more memoirs and anecdotes. Love Shailendra “
This is the latest contributor from Nagar.
Soon after leaving NDDB in January 1999, I joined Dr. Tushaar Shah for an action research project on water. I was doing fieldwork in a village called ‘Haldimohan’ in the district of Cooch Behar. I used to travel to the village with my team of investigators early in the morning from Cooch Behar town and leave the survey village soon after sunset since, the road network in the district was very poor and the driving conditions tough even for experienced drivers. Imagine driving on a narrow single lane road after dark and with some adventurous speeding driver coming straight into your vehicle from front.
Haldimohan was just the stop. The actual sample households were distributed over helmets 3-5 kms from the center of Haldimohan. The link roads between Haldimohan and these helmets were even narrower, barely 6-7 feet wide, raised by another 7-8 feet from either side. That meant that if your vehicle slipped, you would be straight in a ditch ending up with broken bones.
Since I invariably left Haldimohan just at the sunset, I had no idea that this remote place would give me a surreal experience- just because a tragedy will strike in form of the breakdown of the vehicle.
It happened. I was that day with a lady investigator in one of the helmets.
As we prepared to leave, the vehicle broke down. And the nearest garage was about 3 kms. My driver who spoke little broken Hindi, told me that he will arrange a cycle rickshaw for me and the investigator who will drop us at the nearest bus stand about 2 kms in opposite direction. We would be there in good time to take the last bus going towards Cooch Behar. In the meantime, he will walk down to the garage, get the mechanic and after the vehicle is repaired come to Haldimohan to pick the rest of the team.
That proposal looked good only in one sense- I could put the lady on the bus for her to reach home safely. But I had to travel back to Haldimohan to pick the rest of my team as I couldn’t think of leaving them alone to fend for themselves. What if the vehicle can not be repaired during the night? How will I and my team travel back to Cooch Behar? How about worrying families of these investigators? There are no PCOs anywhere here. A thousand questions crossed my mind.
I decided to put the lady on the bus and then take the same rickshaw to Haldimohan. It worked, the lady was safely in the bus, even though it was overcrowded. Next day she informed me that she had safely reached home in good time.
I then headed to Haldimohan with the autorickshaw puller, who didn’t understand a word of Hindi, let alone English, on a raised 7 feet wide road in pitch darkness where even the rickshaw puller could hardly see the road. On the way, we came across couple of rickshaws coming from opposite direction but could see them only when they came too close- almost hitting us. Every time they had to get down and carefully cross each other to thwart any chance of the rickshaw rolling down the slopes.
It was a ride to remember, not because it was scary pitch dark night, but because it provided me with a view that one can only dream of. On either side of the raised road, the empty fields were filled with millions of fireflies brilliantly glowing and twinkling like stars in the no moon night sky. The sight was breathtaking, and it continued till I reached the outskirts of Haldimohan. Wow, what a view. I felt as though the sky had turned upside down all the way.
I suddenly remembered this experience and thought of sharing it with you all. I would not mind having a repeat of this experience again.
Shri MM Patel had worked as a member of NDDB spearhead team Bhatinda (Panjab) for dairy development project for short period of about four months from November 1976 to February 1977. In this blog Shri MM Patel describes his experiences while he was posted at Bhatinda as a spearhead team member. His stint at Bhatinda was short, four months only, but the memory and remembrances live even after some 45 years!
Vrikshamandir had earlier posted a series of audio posts by Dr SC Malhotra wherein he also talked about his posting in Bhatinda as Spearhead Team Leader in late nineteen seventies. Episode fourteen of Dr Malhotra Uwach has this audio story. You can hear his story in his own words by clicking on this link and choosing episode 14 ( मलहोत्रा की कहानी उनकी ही जुबानी).
Our team leader was Dr SC Malhotra, a thorough gentleman, jolly and full of enthusiasm. Whenever we had breakfast, tea, lunch, dinner with him and went to see a movie with him, he always paid for all of us.
Since the living and working conditions in Bhatinda were different from Gujarat, Dr Malhotra helped us in settling down and guided us in our work.
His attitude towards us helped inculcate enthusiasm among us as we were working at a new place far away from our native home and family.
I used to attend the meeting of farmers in a village with him for organising the milk society on the Amul pattern. I enjoyed working under his leadership.
Even before I was transferred from Anand to Bhatinda, one of my senior colleagues asked me, “Would you like to come to Bhatinda? Dr Malhotra is going to Bhatinda as team leader. He is a gentleman and wants to take you for Bhatinda dairy project”. I had replied yes.
I was posted to Bhatinda with four colleagues. We travelled by Paschim express train in the evening from Baroda to Delhi and reached New Delhi the following day. We had to board another train at New Delhi for Bhatinda. The train for Bhatinda in the evening. So we had to wait at the New Delhi Railway station for about six hours. We had to pass the time till we board the train to Bhatinda. Connaught place is a famous area of Delhi located near to New Delhi railway station. We decided to visit Connaught Place in a group of two persons by turn so that the other two members could watch over our luggage at the railway platform. We enjoyed our short trip to Connaught Place.
The next day morning, we reached Bhatinda. The dairy plant was about four km away from the city. We met with Dr Malhotra, who was sent earlier as the team leader.
He had arranged one-room accommodation for us. We lived there for about five days. He warned us about cold weather in the coming days and advised us to purchase woollen clothes like sweaters, mufflers, caps and boots. We bought the same from Bhatinda market with his help.
After about five days, I moved to Rampura Phul town, which was 30 km away from Bhatinda, with one of my colleagues Shri Kuriakose (from Kerala), to organise the cooperative milk society in that area.
I stayed in villages and trained the newly recruited milk producers cooperative society staff, in the collection of milk, fat testing, calculation of amount etc.
Two procurement assistants from the Bhatinda milk union, Shri Sharma and Shri Yadav, were with us at Rampura phul. Once we completed training of newly recruited society staff, we used to visit at milk collection time other nearby milk producers cooperative societies for supervision of work.
At Rampura Phul, we used to frequent a hotel for food. However, we were not satisfied with the food they served. It was costly also. We had no choice and for some days, we continued to eat at the hotel.
After some days, one of our colleagues, Shri Sharma, said, “I can cook roti and bhaji.”
We were happy to learn that he knew how to cook. We purchased the required items and he cooked a Punjabi meal of roti and sabzi for us, which was very tasty.
We used to take food cooked by Sharma at noon. In the evenings, we grabbed dinner outside.
We had hired one-room independent accommodation, which had a compound wall. The room was small, and the owner had provided two beds. We were four. So we used to sleep in pairs. Shri Kuriakose and I shared a bed. We felt good as it protected us from cold.
After about three months in February, I was transferred from Bhatinda to Anand. I travelled from Bhatinda by train at night time. The train reached New Delhi the following day. The train from Delhi to Baroda was in the evening time. So I had about 10 hours to spare before boarding the next train. I visited Qutub Minar and the red fort area of Delhi. I enjoyed the visit.
Reproducing a slightly edited version of a blog I wrote in December 2019. Vrikshamandir first appeared online in November 2019. That was a time when I was going through a rough patch. I was healthy, yet there was something amiss. Vrikshamandir was an idea and with the help of friends and former colleagues, I was able to launch this website and have been able to sustain it. I am currently getting out of another spell of illness (this time real) and I find that Vrikshamandir is perhaps the tonic that will sustain me and help me get over the current phase.
I wrote this on the morning of Christmas Day of 2019 from Toronto. My 6 year old granddaughter gave me a beautiful card with a message that she wrote for me.
When I was her age, I wanted to write to my great grand father but since he didn’t know how to read or write I wrote to my grand father in Hindi. It had a lot of spelling mistakes. I still have that letter somewhere because my grandfather corrected my spelling errors and my letter was sent back to me by post. It was exciting to get a letter by post that too from my grand father.
How times have changed ! My first visit to Canada was in 1980. That was an official trip. I visited Canada several times thereafter but never had an idea of living here. I now spend 5-6 months each year in Canada.There is an exception though. Since July 2020 I have not been able to venture out of Canada. . Thanks to Corona and now the current health issues that I face. In 1987, NDDB sponsored my dear colleague ( Late) Dr SP Mittal and me for a three month long Training Programme to Canada and USA. We attended workshops and seminars on Human Resource Development staying in various cities and traveling from east to west coast a couple of times. However, we spent a larger part of our time in Victoria, BC with Rob and Carol Nelson. Rob is no more. Carol is not well. They became close friends. . This was a long trip and we greatly missed Indian Food. Dr. Mittal and I both liked to cook. Rob and Carol Nelson who were our hosts in Victoria, graciously allowed us to use their kitchen. But getting groceries was a difficult task. Toronto was different though. We went to restaurants serving Indian Food but it was costly. We liked Chinese food as it was always served in more than adequate quantities and also at prices much less than the food served in Indian restaurants.That was then.
One day I went to an Indian store, “Panchvati” some 15 kilometres from our place. What a store! Everything I could think of was available. The famous Parle G biscuit was on the shelf. Yes Pale G, how can we forget ..The Company was to lay off 10000 workers in August last. To dip Parle G in hot tea and eat and then sip tea… was a luxury to be indulged in when I was growing up.I am glad that Parle continues to survive and export too.
Shri Anirudh Singh after reading this post has the following to say in the comments column “Sir, it is really very pleasant, when someone brought us back towards our childhood and particularly by our dear one. The style and manner in which you expressed this was really great. One thing I also want to bring in your kind notice and humbly to correct you that the news propagating that ParleAgro layed off her 10,000 worker was baseless and there was no tinge of truth in this falsely painted story. Presently I am working with Parle Group.Regards”.So much for truthfulness of main stream media !
I also found Dhara the NDDB owned brand of edible oil on one shelf at Panchvati. I was Director Oilseeds and Vegetable Oil Wing in 1987 before NDDB became a body corporate under an act of Parliament. NDDB launched Dhara after I moved from Oilseeds and Vegetable Oil wing to the newly created Human Resource Development Group.
I continued to oversee Chairman’s office besides assuming charge as one man department of Human Resource Development. Dr. (Miss) Amrita Patel the then Managing Director thought that I would be the most suitable person to head the newly created HRD function in NDDB. It was initially kept separate from Personnel Administration and Legal function. But I had no back ground in HR. Although there was one thing that Dr SP Mittal and I had successfully done. Miss Patel had entrusted the two of us to negotiate with the NDDB Employees Union and settle labour cases. There were a large number of cases pending in labour court, Labour Tribunal and and High Court. Dr. Mittal’s patience, listening ability and gentle demeanour together with my ability to connect with the leadership of the Union and support we had from Miss Patel helped us settle most of the cases barring some critical ones. ? Dr V Kurien was consulted and Dr SP Mittal and I were sponsored for a training programme cum study tour of US of A and Canada for getting exposed to latest in HR theory and practices. Mr Rob Nelson and Carol Nelson who were Canadian International Development Agency appointed HR consultants to NDDB were he ones who organised our programme in North America. I went to Dr Kurien and said ”Sir I am would be going on tour to US and Canada for a training programe.”
Dr. Kurien said, “I know, Miss Patel told me. I don’t know whats this HR VehR. But Madam wants you to go so go and enjoy “ Later on return when Dr Mittal and I would reflect on our learning’s we found that most of the theories that we learnt in North America were already being practiced in the organisation that we were working with. We learnt to use new labels; Vision, Strategy, Structure, Key processes, Key roles, Rewards and Recognition, Culture etc.
The Government’s recent move to amend the NDDB act 37 of 1987 has drawn a lot of attention. In this article, I have attempted to analyse how the proposed amendments can be more effective by restructuring NDDB in the larger interest of the entire agricultural sector, including the dairy sector.
In the last few days, there have been numerous posts regarding the proposed amendments to the NDDB act 37 of 1987 on social media. The reactions have been mostly angry or emotional. Some see in it a covert attempt by the private sector to gain entry into the management of NDDB and thus a veiled attempt to tone down the body corporate’s principal mandate to promote dairying on cooperative lines based on the famous ‘Anand pattern’, wherein the entire value chain is owned by millions of small milk producers across the country and is successfully managed by professionals as the employees of the cooperatives.
I Before I go further, I want to remind the readers that, over the last fifty years, the dairy cooperatives spearheaded by ‘Amul’ have emerged as a force to recon with.
They have not only emerged as the ‘price-quality’ leaders, but have played a key role in disciplining the entire sub sector. Dairy cooperative are a trend setter in empowering the small farmers and an example to follow to empower farmers in other sub sectors of Indian agriculture. Dairy cooperatives have given the farmers- especially the resource poor small farmers, a sense of dignity that must not only be upheld on all counts but must also be extended to producers of other agricultural commodities.
Having said that, I would like to share my thoughts on why the amendments inthe act have been thought of? Are these amendments really necessary? Will they rob NDDB of its operational freedom? Will they position private sector against the cooperative sector? Is the government seeing in the proposed amendments an opportunity to strengthen NDDB and reposition it as an institution that can extend the application of the principles of ‘Anand pattern’ of value chains to other sub sectors of agriculture?
At this juncture it is necessary to recall some facts about NDDB’s operations during the “Kurien era”- the period during which the three phases of “Operation Flood” that made India the largest milk producer in the world, implemented.
1. Funding: The project was implemented without any direct budgetary provision from the consolidated funds of India. Whereas the first phase was implemented entirely out of monetisation of dairy commodities gifted by the European Union, second phase was implemented by a combination of gift commodities and funding by International Development Association (IDA), the soft landing affiliate of the World Bank. Funding for the third phase was with considerably reduced commodity aid and mainly from the World Bank’s main affiliate- IBRD which carried a burden of interest applicable on such loans to country governments.
This funding, especially during the first two phases gave NDDB immense flexibility to fund the action items related to the Institution building as grant to the cooperatives, and it could fund infrastructure building at interest rates substantially lower than normal landing rates of the commercial banks. NDDB could also offer its funding linked techno- professional support services to the cooperatives at nominal turn key fee rates thus considerably lowering the later’s loan repayment liabilities. By placing surplus funds in high interest paying deposits with banks and other institutions, NDDB generated adequate income to meet most of its staff costs and other overheads.
2. Subsidiaries:During this period, NDDB did create subsidiary companies like the Indian Immunologicals (IIL) and the Indian Dairy Machinery Company (IDMC) besides encouraging private investment in manufacture of equipment and machinery to meet the demand placed by a large and time bound project. The idea behind creating these subsidiaries was to make inputs available to the cooperatives at the most competitive price and thus save them from exploitative pricing by handful of established companies in the business. It must be noted here that none of the subsidiaries created by the NDDB were dealing with milk business to be in competition with the cooperatives. Even the Mother Dairies of Delhi and Kolkata managed by NDDB were sourcing their entire requirement of milk from the dairy cooperatives of other states.
3. Pilot Projects:NDDB also experimented by starting pilot projects in other sub sectors of agriculture namely, fruit and vegetables, inland fisheries, Tree growers cooperatives etc. out of its own resources. The idea was to test if the principles of the cooperative model that it is implementing for fairy sector can be applied to other sectors of agriculture and forestry.
4. Oilseeds and Edible Oil Project: On a larger scale, NDDB implemented the edible oils project by replication of the Anand pattern of cooperatives. This project too was funded entirely out of commodity aid and generated enough funds to provide liberal grants to the Oilseeds cooperatives for institutional build up.
NDDB thus was never in direct competition with the cooperatives. All its actions were fully geared to support creation of strong, commercially viable and fully farmers’ owned businesses.
But it all changed at the turn of the century. In 1998, the government of India allowed private sector entry in the dairy sector on the pretext that there are large areas not serviced by the cooperatives even in the milksheds demarcated for the cooperatives and the entry of private sector will boost milk production in these areas. Now the cooperatives had to face a private operator who could easily poach in the milkshed painstakingly developed by it over three decades.
What changed for the NDDB:
In early years of the century, following changes took place in the national economic scene. These developments may have led NDDB to rethink on its strategy to shore up its resources.
1. Following conclusion of Operation Flood III, it did not have a plan to move forward for the fourth phase. In any case, commodity aid and loans from soft landing affiliate of the World Bank were completely ruled out. Commodity aid for the edible oil project too dried out.
2. To continue with the fourth phase, NDDB needed to generate its own resources. It did not have enough funds to continue with loan-grant pattern of project funding.
3. As the interest rates of the commercial banks and companies fell, its income from fixed deposits declined.
4. By Virtually shelving the vegetable oil project and limiting ‘Dhara’- a brand that had emerged as the price- quality leader in packaged oil segment, NDDB not only limited itself to dairy sub sector but also irretrievably lost the highly potential net revenue generating opportunity.
5. Landing rates of commercial banks became more competitive than that of NDDB and required much less paper work. Thus even the cooperativesbegan to look towards banks for funding expansion plans.
6. NDDB’s subsidiaries did not generate profits as expected to meet NDDB’s growing overheads due to implementation of the recommendations of the pay commission.
7. NDDB lost a large pool of qualified and experienced techno-professionals with many opting for VRS and joining the competing private sector.
8. NDDB lost income tax exemption granted to it vide clause 44 of the NDDB act 37 of 1987, when the provision was omitted w.e.f 1st April 2003 notified vide the Finance act 20 of 2002.
To sum it up, the external environment completely changed for NDDB to continue with the well established pattern of funding and supporting the projectsin the dairy sector on grant-loan pattern.
It is my personal judgement that, faced with this challenge, NDDB was left with no option but to think of other ways to shore up its resources. It therefore opted to create two new subsidies: 1. The Mother Dairy Fruit and Vegetables Limited in direct competition with the very cooperatives it was primarily mandated to promote and establish pan India presence of the brand ‘Mother Dairy’, 2.NDDB Dairy Services to provide a complete array of support services to the dairy sector- primarily to ‘cooperative companies’ that it had begun to promote after conclusion of Operation Flood. It banked heavily upon its already depleted and relatively inexperienced pool of techno- professionals to compete in the market to earn a surplus after meeting the overheads.
It was a gamble that failed. As the media reports (Money control and Cobraposts) suggest, nearly 400 crores have been lost since creation of these two companies.
It is in light of these facts that we need to understand the move to amend the NDDB Act.
1. Until recently- till National Dairy Project NDP-I (A six year program staring 2012-13 as a centrally sponsored scheme) was approved with World Bank-IDA/GOI funding, the government, despite its representation on the board never questioned the management of NDDB, presumably because the act provided NDDB absolute operational freedom that included creating subsidiaries, deployment of funds, recruitment and deciding the terms of employment. Now that it is public knowledge that NDDB’s losses are massive, is there a realisation that NDDB funds are after all public funds and must be in safe hands? And, that the representatives of the government on the board of directors have failed in their duty by not bringing the losses to the notice of the government?
2. Did the losses reach this magnitude because, the operational freedom got interpreted as ‘freedom to be non-transparent’? Did the freedom from CAG audit mean freedom from being non accountable?
3. Having given the private enterprises entry in the dairy sector, should the NDDB continue to serve only the cooperatives and the producer companies? It is after all “National Dairy Development Board” and NOT “National Cooperative Dairy Development Board”.
A quick look at the proposed amendments may throw some light on the intend of the government.
Following sections of the principal act (37 of 1987) are proposed to be amended: 8,9,16,43 and 48.
Let us start in the reverse order. In section 48, the clause is amended to include ‘the manner of recruitment’. Given the fact that NDDB’s techno- professional competency must always be at a higher level so that the ‘NDDB Dairy Services’ can be a net revenue earning subsidiary, this amendment is fully justified. It will effectively shut personal preferences based recruitment, placement and promotions- an area where transparency was sadly lacking.
At this juncture I would like a serious consideration of the suggestion made by BM Vyas regarding creation of an all ‘India Dairy Service’ (on the lines of IAS, IPS, IRS ETC) so that the subsidiary- National Dairy Services is primarily manned by experienced professionals drawn from the ‘Indian Dairy Service’cadre.
Amendments to section 43 provide that the provisions of the ‘Right toinformation act 2005’ and the ‘Central vigilance commission act of 2003’. Thus amendment must, in fact be welcomed in the larger public interest of transparency.
Amendment to section 16 that seeks to make the working of subsidiaries created by NDDB and hold the management of these companies accountable must also be welcomed. I feel that this amendment shall send a warning signal if and when the subsidiaries make losses or indulge in questionable transactions. Having a common board for NDDB and it’s subsidiaries will ensure smooth coordination as was the case when NDDB and the Indian Dairy Corporation (IDC) coordinated prior to their merger as new body corporate in 1987. The CEOs of the subsidiaries must be held accountable for prudence in managing the finances of the company they head.
Coming to section 9, that seeks to limit the term of the directors of NDB and its subsidiaries, age beyond which they can not serve on the board etc. is also a well thought of amendment. The existing provision gives a sitting director / CEO virtually unlimited tenure and derive financial benefit beyond legitimate retirement age so long as he/she can ‘manage’ the political dispensation in the government.
Now, section 8, the proposed amendment to which has generated most heat and angry reactions. Prima facie, this amendment seeks to provide covert entry to private sector by providing for an additional director who would be a professional from the private sector.
I am of the view that this particular amendment should result in having a management team at the helm that can take the organisation forward, have a vision and the ability to deliver on the vision to serve the larger interest of farmers. The proposed amendment falls short on this expectation.
My reading is that this amendment is not well conceived. If the government’s real intend is to re-establish the credibility of NDDB as a dynamic professional body that it was during the ‘Kurien era’, then this amendment is grossly inadequate. I am of the view that the board should consist entirely of professionals. I therefore suggest that the two proposed directors representing government should be one each from the Ministry of AH&D and the other from the Ministry of Finance, preferably from the cadre of all India Accounts and Audit service. Other two directors representing the cooperatives must also be professional CEOs of dairy cooperatives and not the chairman of cooperatives who invariably are active politicians.
The government must also keep in mind that whereas the private sector can raise funds in more than one ways, for the cooperatives the options are limited, especially for those that are not strong enough to get funding from commercial banks. Diverting NDDB funds to finance private sector in the guise of ‘startups’ will be counter productive. If the government insists on having a professional from the private sector and divert NDDB’s resources to private sector, it must provide adequate justification for it. The person representing the private sector then must be someone who has a proven record in agricultural-business management. As of now, providing a professional representing private sector doesn’t seem to make any sense.
The focus of the government must,therefore, be on re-structuring NDDB as a truly service oriented professional body. A dynamic and transparent NDDB can then be entrusted with the task of applying the principles of ‘Anand pattern’ to other sub sectors of Indian agriculture to create value chains that are fully owned and operated by the farmers organisations. It is time to rebuild NDDB around a leadership that believes in expansion- the way Dr. Kurien did rather than confine itself to one sub sector-dairying, just because it is named “National Dairy Development Board”.