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.
अपने छात्र जीवन की “एक” कारस्तानी का बयान कर रहे हैं। यह कहानी नहीं, सत्य घटना है।
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”.
This is a photograph clicked by Meera Singh my granddaughter. She took this photo was taken on 9 January 2021. The credit for ensuring that the book “Utterly Butterly Milkman” is published on time for release at the 100th birth anniversary of Dr Verghese Kurien goes to Nirmala Kurien. Some of us “ancient former NDDB employees” did our best to help and support her.
Incidentally many memoirs written by my former colleagues and friends about the founder Chairman of NDDB Dr. V Kurien and published on Vrikshamandir.com have been included in the book Utterly Butterly Milkman”.
I thought of sharing on Vrikshamandir a memoir that I wrote for “Utterly Butterly Milkman”.
This is from back in those days when attacks by vested interests, private operators and politicians on the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) projects and programmes and against Dr Kurien as a person were common.
We had a couple of officers in the Chairman’s office dedicated to handling questions raised by the hundreds in every parliament session. We were going through difficult times, but there was plenty of action and the excitement of dealing with the situations that arose was rewarding. A case, in particular, was a notice for a meeting to be held on July 26, 1983, to review the NDDB Oilseeds and Vegetable Oil project.
The meeting was to be chaired by Union Minister of Agriculture, Rao Birendra Singh. The Secretaries of Agriculture and Civil Supplies and a host of senior bureaucrats and technical officers were to participate.
The agenda notes we received a month before the meeting were full of errors. The officers in the Oilseeds and Vegetable Oil Wing of the NDDB, which I headed at that time, were aghast at the false accusations and factual errors that had found a place in these notes. The notes had been circulated to all the invitees.
A brief for Dr Kurien was prepared to provide the actual facts on each agenda point, seeking his approval to send an interim reply to the Ministry of Agriculture so that the errors could be corrected.
But Dr Kurien forbade us to send any reply. He said, “We will look at these papers on our return from North America.” We were very surprised.
Dr Kurien advised me to forget about the meeting called by the ministry and instead focus on getting briefs from the concerned departments of the NDDB for the meetings scheduled during our visit to the US and Canada later that month. Back in India from our visit, July 26, 1983, the day of the meeting at New Delhi’s Krishi Bhavan, was finally upon us. As advised by Dr Amrita Patel,
I reached the room of Mr Rajagopal, Joint Secretary, Dairy Development at Krishi Bhavan, to meet her and Dr Kurien. When it was time for the meeting, I followed Dr Kurien, Dr Patel and Mr Rajagopal. As we entered the room, we noticed that there were already some fifteen to twenty people waiting for the minister.
They got up and the first one among them to greet Dr Kurien was Mr Sood, then Additional Secretary (Agriculture). Dr Kurien shook his hand. “Good morning, Mr Sood, what are you doing these days?” “Sir, I am Additional Secretary (A).” “You people have very interesting designations… Additional Secretary ‘A’, Additional Secretary ‘B’, ‘C’.” There was silence and some muted laughter. Dr Kurien moved around in the room and greeted others. Among them were the agriculture secretary and the civil supplies secretary.
Suddenly, addressing no one in particular, Dr Kurien asked, “Tell me who has prepared the agenda notes for this meeting.” “Why, Dr Kurien?” someone in the room asked in return. “It has been prepared to create differences between me and the minister,” he replied.
There was silence. The minister had not yet arrived. There was small talk in some corners of the room but no one responded to Dr Kurien. This was when the minister Rao Birendra Singh arrived for the meeting. All of us stood up.
Mr Singh responded to the greetings, removed his cap, took a seat and looked at the Chairman.
“So, Dr Kurien, what is your problem?” he asked.
“Sir, I have no problems.”
“Then why are we having this meeting? Let us go through the agenda. It has the details.”
“Sir, the agenda notes seem to have been prepared by someone to create differences between you and me. I would like to share with you the brief that my office has prepared for me for this meeting.”
Dr Kurien then handed over to Mr Singh a copy of the brief that had been prepared by us. The minister took the brief and flipped through a few pages. The first item on the agenda was that the NDDB had not provided information on the progress of the Oilseeds and Vegetable Oil project to the agriculture ministry. Dr Kurien said,
“Sir, we provide fortnightly, monthly, quarterly, six-monthly progress reports to the ministry. My brief for this meeting, a copy of which is with you, has in the appendix details with dates and reference numbers of the letters from NDDB under which such reports have been sent to the ministry. “And, if I may say so, sir, of the seven organisations that are attached to your ministry, NDDB and IDC, both of which I serve as chairman, are the only two organisations who submit annual reports and audited statements of accounts each year, on time, to be tabled in Parliament.”
The minister was quiet for a moment and then said, “Let us move to the next item on the agenda.” This agenda item was about the sale of donated vegetable oil by the NDDB to raise funds for the project. The agenda notes circulated by the ministry stated that the NDDB sold donated vegetable oil to private parties at rates lower than at which it sold them to cooperatives.
Dr Kurien responded, “Sir, do you believe this Kurien will sell edible oil to the private sector at rates lower than what he sellsto cooperatives?”
One of the officers sitting behind the minister said, “This is as per the teleprinter message dated so and so received from Shailendra Kumar of NDDB.”
I was stunned. I did not have a copy of the message that the gentleman from the ministry had referred to. I looked at Dr Patel and there was stoic silence. I thought maybe we had made some mistake and that I was in for even greater trouble. But that was not to be. Dr Kurien looked at me and then at Mr Singh, and pointed me out to him saying, “This is Shailendra.”
Then he took complete control of the situation. He said something that I should have said but, at the time, my confused mind was preoccupied with the consequences than with coming up with a suitable reply. “Sir, a typed and signed confirmatory message of each teleprinter message from NDDB is also sent to the recipient.
Was the teleprinter message sent by Shailendra cross-checked with the confirmatory copy of the message? If the matter was so urgent, why didn’t the concerned officer in your ministry lift the phone and check with Dr Patel who is posted right here in Delhi?”
There was silence. Mr Rao Birender Singh did not know what to say. Finally, he replied, “Why are we meeting then? Why don’t you all review this project before bringing it up to me?”
Dr Kurien had an answer to that as well. Pointing to a page in the brief which was already in the hands of the minister, Dr Kurien said, “Sir, when the Cabinet of India approved this project, it also provided for a review committee comprising the agriculture secretary, the civil supplies secretary and the NDDB’s chairman. However, this committee has never met in the last three and a half years since the project started.”
Mr Singh said, “Then why don’t you all meet and sort things out.” With this, he closed the meeting and left the room.
As I reflect on life at Dr Kurien’s NDDB, I am filled with memories of the many struggles and achievements of the institution under his leadership. I recall, in particular, something he said at a seminar in 1967, which was a precursor to the formation of the Protein Foods Association of India. “We must have a calculated sense of recklessness.”
This particular incident was showed this very mantra of his in action. An episode filled with lessons in leadership. “WE MUST HAVE A CALCULATED SENSE OF RECKLESSNESS.” (Shailendra Kumar is former Senior General Manager, Human Resources, NDDB.)
This anecdote was first published in “Utterly Butterly Milkman”
Post NDDB he worked at CFTRI and retired in 2013 as Professor, Deputy Director & Senior Principal Scientist
All along we have subscribed to the notion, and Dr Kurien was very firm on this, that the job of the Government is governance and not business. We at the NDDB, promoted the cooperative sector as a form of managing business, where the ownership of the enterprise, vested with the major stakeholders (farmer producers). Although, we came under the purview of the Government of India, we never thought that we were Government.
The NDDB Act 37 of 1987, was designed for and by the NDDB to work in such a way that NDDB had the freedom to implement programs and projects, without major Government involvement or influence. The proposed modifications in the 1987 Act are in favour of the private sector, such that it can exercise strong influence on the operation of the NDDB, by having a Director from the private sector. When we look at the form of management and ownership of the cooperative, private and public sectors, we can visualise and distinguish the philosophy of doing business. While business profitability is the bottom-line, who benefits from the profits earned is the crux of the matter. Surely, we understand that clearly.
This has major implications on prices of the products and services offered, with the market equations of demand and supply playing a major role. 69 years after Air India was taken over by the Government of India, it has been handed back to its rightful owners, the Tatas at a price of Rs 18,000 crores. In this period the GOI sustained losses many times this value, but it used it to provide subsidized services to the citizens and mostly the employees of the Government of India. But it learnt that the business of the Government is not business but governance, the view that Dr Aneja subscribed to and spoke about it in 1989, and Dr Kurien and all of us at the NDDB firmly believed and practiced, but with a difference.
We showed to the world, that even though we were monitored by the Government, we had the freedom to perform without its interference. If Dr Aneja and Dr Kurien could standup and speak for the NDDB, it was on the strength that we provided to the organisation in terms of our commitment to the cause, our ability to deliver and the thoroughness of our knowledge. I am aware that many of us had to leave the NDDB under somewhat tragic circumstances, created by difference of thinking, but when we look back we realize that whatever happened was the best.
We are happy that we worked for an institution where Dr Kurien and Dr Aneja provided leadership, and the institution performed to establish an industry were milk and oil flow, fruits and vegetables travel thousands of miles to reach us, and where trees and bushes grow to green India sustainably. All of this with the current line of thinking that development should be based on a sustainable environment.NDDB was our pride when we worked and will always remain our pride.
Let’s pray that our institution lives forever, and always remain the cynosure of our eyes and the beat of our hearts, for we have given it breath and breadth.
The year 1991. I was still nine years away from leaving the National Dairy Development Board.
I had always thought that God willing I will retire and live in Anand till I breathe my last and be taken to Kailash Bhoomi for cremation. I had my former colleagues and friends in the great City, the Milk Capital of India, Anand.
I am still in touch with some of them. Though Corona and old age has taken a heavy toll and many dear ones left us.
Anand is the city where I got my first regular job. A place that not only gave me a job but a sense of purpose and a way of life to live attempting to do good for others.
I had moved out of the campus where I had lived from 1970 in the Chummery, now Guest House, Trainees Hostel as the first warden, D -12, C-10 and B-4.
I had moved out to my own house behind NDDB Campus near the Institute of Rural Management Main Gate. These twin houses with a common wall were built by my dear friend Behla and me. There were no buildings in that area of Mangalpura when we moved. That’s a separate story.
Those days I had dual responsibilities heading the Human Resources function in the Dairy Board and also looking after the Chairman’s Office.
It was Sunday and the office was closed. I received a call early morning around 6 AM from Dr Verghese Kurien our founder Chairman. It was rather unusual. He would normally come to office on Saturdays for an hour or two or when he had an appointment. But on a Sunday it was rare.
“Good Morning Sir”
“I am going to meet Devilalji our former deputy prime minister”
I would receive such calls from Saheb wherein he would not ask me to do anything but just inform me. I was supposed to understand and respond.
I said “Sir do you want me to come with you ?”
He said said “ Okay, but bring latest copies of NDDB and GCMMF Annual reports. I will send the car to pick you up from home. I said “No sir ask the driver to pick me up from office as I will go there to pick up the reports”
As planned the car arrived and I went to Dr Kuriens home and we both were driven to that village. I don’t remember the name of the village but it was off Borsad road.
When we arraigned at the farmers home where Chaudhry Devilal was staying I noticed the Chetna Rath; a bus. I went inside and announced that Dr Kurien is here to call on Devilal ji.
We were welcomed and taken inside the Rath. It was an air conditioned bus with the washroom towards the end. A large bed and couple of chairs plus the usual paraphernalia for storage of luggage e etc.
After a wait of about five minutes or so Chaudhry Saheb arrived. We got up and greeted him. By that time we had already been offered a glass of Lassi each. The Utterly Butterly Milkman wasn’t fond of milk or milk products and only used milk to whiten coffee. I had finished my glass of lassi.
Devilal ji requested the hosts to arrange for some coffee for Dr Kurien.
Now only we three were in the Rath. They both started talking. It was clear that my job was to be an interpreter.
Dr Kurien thanked Chaudhry Saheb for the help and support that NDDB, GCMMF and he received from Chaudhry Saheb while Devilal Ji held the Agriculture Ministry portfolio and Deputy Prime Ministership. Dr Kurien also explained how strong both the NDDB and GCCMMF have become over years serving the cause of farmers. Dr Kurien handed over to Chaudhry Saheb the NDDB and GCMMF Annual reports that I was carrying.
Now it was the turn of Devilal Ji to share the purpose of his undertaking Rath Yatra to awaken farmers. He shared reminiscences of his visit to China where he had been to villages and found the villages to be fully developed having all modern facilities. Devi Lal ji was carrying long sheets of papers in bundles which he showed us. These were lists of Class One Officers, Secretaries, Joint Secretaries, Ambassadors etc. Devilal ji pointed out that there are hardly any one among them who come from a rural background.
I was translating where necessary and found that they both were liking each other and conversing freely appreciating each other’s view point.
Dr Kurien said, “Sir, NDDB now has an asset base of Rs 3000 crores.” Devilal said “Balram Jakhar Teri Madad Karta hai? ( बलराम झाखड तेरी मदद करता है? Dr Kurien said “Yes Sir” and again started talking about the financial strengths of the organisations he headed. Devilal Ji was listening aptly but all of a sudden his voice boomed “ Yeh Paisa Teri Maut ka Karan Banega.” “यह पैसा तेरी मौत का कारण बनेगा).
I was stunned at the raw, straightforward statement coming from a farmer politician. I had the onerous talk of translating this. Dr Kurien was looking at me. Not that Dr Kurien did not understand Hindi at all. But this statement of Devilal Ji came so suddenly that like me he too was taken aback. I composed myself and translated it as “ Sir, Sir is saying that the asset base of NDDB will create problems for you.”
They continued to talk and after a some time DrKurien and I bid farewell to Devilal ji and headed back home.
I was thinking as to how NDDB assets will create problems for Dr Kurien. He did not take any salary from NDDB from 1965 till he left in 1998 and also stopped getting any remuneration except sitting fees and travel reimbursement etc. from GCMMF as he was then an honorary Chairman of both bodies.
Devilal Ji’s words reverberate in my minds ears … Yeh Paisa Teri Maut ka Karan Banega. यह पैसा तेरी मौत का कारण बनेगा ।
Dr Kurien lived all his life in Anand. Tirelessly worked against exploitation of farmers by private traders. Stalwarts like Sarvashi TK Patel, Morarji Bhai Desai, Babubhai Jasbhai Patel, Jaswant Lal Shah, Motibhai Chaudhry, Thiru Paramshivam and many many others were his mentors and supporters. I don’t recall all the names.
All the Prime Ministers right from Jawahar Lal Nehru , Lal Bahadur Shashtri, India Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Devegowda Ji, all supported the work that he was doing. Manmohan Singh hi, Bajpai Ji and Modi Ji have all supported the policy of cooperatives owned and commanded by producers of agricultural commodities.
True many at times in the past there were periods of opposition from bureaucrats, private operators and even “academics”. But NDDB stood United and if required there was intervention from highest level as it happened in 1983 when all the officers of NDDB resigned and the Govt set up a Committee under Shri LK Jha to suggest ways to strengthen NDDB and IDC. That report paved the way for the passage of the NDDB Act 37 of 1987.
Why, therefore, there is a hurry to bring about a change and put private sector representative on NDDB Board and all its subsidiaries. Why can’t a high powered committee look at the issues? If there has been some internal assessment why don’t they make the report public so that the rationale for doing what they propose to do is clear.
Very difficult to understand. There has been a petition going round in response to the Government’s offer asking for public comments. It has been started by BM Vyas and his former associate at GCMMF, Manu Kaushik. I have signed on it. The document can be accessed by clicking on this link.
Dr Kurien is no longer among us but his work, his teachings, his philosophy that was, is and will remain with us as long as farmers do not find their rightful place in nations economy. We all celebrated his birth centenary on 26 November. Glowing tributes were paid by his institutions and by the State and Central Government Ministers in public functions organised in Delhi Anand and several other cities in November 2021. Tinkering with an act in this casual manner is not a good sign.
Or as Devilal Ji said Yeh Paisa Teri Maut ka Karan Banega and the idea is to kill his philosophy too!
A better alternative could be, as a friend of mine wrote “ It would appear that NDDB has now become irrelevant, just as the Milk Marketing Board of UK, and must either be restructured to cover all agricultural commodities or simply dissolved.”
Rajesh Nair was a member of the faculty at IRMA in Marketing and PQM areas from 1999 for over five years. He left academics in 2004 to move full-time to the corporate world, where, over the years, he has held leadership roles in a few reputed companies.
Rajesh Nair started teaching at IRMA in 1999 and I left NDDB in 2000. We never met. Thanks to Facebook we connected. I have great pleasure in posting, with his permission, three reminiscences that he wrote about Dr V Kurien.
26 November 2020
The board room of IRMA’s ETDC was cram-full that morning. Two management development programs were on. Both groups of trainees had assembled for a joint session. When some colleagues and I went in at the invitation of the program directors, there was no place to sit. The housekeeping staff helped tow chairs from next door.
Everyone sat in utter silence.
The clock struck 10:00. Outside, off the auditorium, the Amul-Carillon chimes played a jingle announcing the time. That very moment, as though robotically programmed, the enormous door of the board room opened. Dr. V. Kurien, Chairman of IRMA and GCMMF, walked in. His executive assistant trailed him.
The trainees appeared awestruck by their maiden meeting with the Father of the White Revolution, the architect of Operation Flood.
Kurien took his seat. He adjusted the microphone, and commanded in his hallmark husky, magisterial voice: “Please be seated.”
He surveyed his audience. He caught a glance of us, the faculty. For a millionth of a second, a hint of smile flashed across his face.
He then turned to the program directors. Taking cue, one of them gave a crisp description of the programs and the participants. Wasting no time, the professor requested: “Sir, everyone has been eagerly waiting for this session. Could you please share a few inspiring words?”
Kurien gladly obliged. He had a predictable stock of storyline for such occasions. People in the Institute had listened to it countless times – how he was thrown into the dusty town of Anand by an accident of fate; how Tribhuvandas Patel discovered him; how that became his breakthrough moment; how that changed the lives of the dairy farmers of Gujarat; how Amul was born. How he founded NDDB. How he built IRMA. “Brick by brick.”
And on. And on.
Yet, even to those who were sampling the same narrative the umpteenth time, there was a tinge of freshness, a new twist, an unexpected detail, an amusing embellishment. Always. That made Kurien a consummate raconteur.
He told the trainees: “So ladies and gentlemen, you should appreciate you’re at an institution with a difference. This is a school with a soul. My graduates are not only rigorously trained professionals, they have dedicated themselves to the cause of the deprived and the marginalized. They possess a rare gift. Of empathy and integrity. Of goodness.”
He paused. And rounded up: “I wish you a productive week. I hope the faculty will exceed your expectations. I’m sure ETDC housekeeping and catering are making your stay comfortable.”
One of the program directors suggested: “Sir, some of them may have questions. In case you have time, Sir.”
“A couple of questions.”
A man, seemingly in his early fifties, seized the opportunity: “Dr. Kurien, is it true that IRMA graduates are committed to the deprived? I know graduates who …”
Kurien snipped him: “Introduce yourself first.”
“I am an officer of the Indian Forest Service. I am presently …”
“STATE. YOUR. NAME.”
Grabbed by the throat and yoked, the officer obeyed. He meekly uttered his name.
Kurien demanded: “What do you do?”
“Sir … uh … I am the Managing Director of … uh … XX State Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation, Sir.”
“What business do you, a Forest Service man, have in an apex dairy co-operative?”
The forester turned anemic. He attempted nevertheless: “Sir … I am …”
A colleague whispered in my ear: “He’s ruined. Hadn’t anybody briefed him?”
Kurien turned ballistic: “The apex co-operative, which you claim you’re running, is an underperforming organization. And I’m not surprised. With people like you at the helm, how will it ever perform?”
The officer appeared as though he was run over by an asphalt roller.
Not in a mood to be kind, Kurien nuked him: “Your home state lost substantial green cover in the past decade. There was a time when your state had rich biodiversity. Not any longer. Under the watch of people like you, most of the trees got felled. Animals got poached. You’ve managed to ruin the pristine forests. Now you’re sitting in a farmers’ organization, all set to destroy it. Why should people like you, who lack vision, who have no managerial skills, who know no Marketing, hold a key position in an apex co-operative federation? Such roles should go to graduates of an institute like this. My boys and girls don’t get paid proportionate to their talent, to their good work. But they have dedicated themselves to the needy. Most of them. And you … you must go to the forests.”
Annihilated, the officer slumped in his chair.
India was yet to test Agni-III missile back then. Kurien’s weaponry was two generations more advanced than DRDO’s. He had already possessed Agni-V.
Kurien, who nobly secured the livelihood of millions of farmers, who built institutions of eminence, who masterminded the Taste of India, was lethal. At times.
In his centenary year that commences today, I join the fraternity to celebrate the phenomenon Kurien was.
9 September 2018
Rarely did one spot Dr. Kurien unescorted. His executive assistant almost always trailed him. Or another aide or a guard. So, when Suresh (Prof. M R Suresh – Suresh Maruthi) and I saw Kurien all by himself on the walkway that stretched from ETDC to the library via the faculty building, we were surprised. We had just stepped out of our offices for Ramsingh’s chai. Seeing the Chairman walk toward us, we paused. It was a quiet October afternoon. There were intermittent eruptions of loud laughter from the basement hall of the library, where the GCMMF executives were holding their biannual Hoshin Kanri.
As Kurien came close, Suresh and I greeted, in near perfect sync, “Good afternoon, Sir.”
He liked the coordinated, schoolboyish greeting he got. He warmly responded, “Good afternoon.”
Unable yet to veil my surprise seeing him unaccompanied on the walkway, I asked, “Sir, is there anything we should help you with?”
The Chairman replied, “No, thank you.” He pointed to the library basement and said, “The Federation boys are running Hoshin Kanri. Let me check if they’re discussing their business plan or gossiping. Time for a dose of surprise.”
He smiled. That signature, mischievous grin!
It was now Suresh’s turn to ask, “Sir, may we escort you to the basement?”
“No, I’m good. Thank you for asking. You carry on for your tea.”
Ah, he had rightly guessed we were going for tea.
We stood watching Kurien walk westward toward the library. His gait was measured yet stately.
He slowly descended the steps and went near the black granite plaque, which bore the name “RAVI J. MATTHAI LIBRARY” in chrome finish. He looked at it for a few seconds. He was probably examining if the plaque was cleaned and polished well. He then pushed open the doors of the basement hall and went in. The laughter and commotion that had occasionally emerged from there now totally ceased.
Kurien was a leader of numerous dimensions. He deeply influenced the character and unrelentingly honed the competence of the people who worked for him. His leadership style was an intriguing bricolage of foresight, tenacity, autocracy, and compassion. He was volatile at times, with nasty ways. My former colleague the late Prof. Shiladitya Roy used to quip, “Dr. Kurien is the perfect human version of a stochastic process.” Throwing a surprise at the “boys” in the middle of their business planning workshop was a ploy only he could perfectly play. Kurien was larger than life to the people around him. They worked for him or served him as though he owed them no explanation. They believed in him. To quote the man himself, “For those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not, no explanation is possible.”
My tribute to the Milkman of India on his sixth anniversary.
26 November 2017
One of my prized professional milestones was that I got to work in an institution Dr. V. Kurien founded, during a period when he was not just alive, but active and at the helm.
Kurien, the Milkman of India, the creator of Amul, the genius behind Operation Flood, was also the founder of IRMA.
When I was at IRMA as a member of the faculty, Kurien was the Chairman. Yes, he was “my Chairman.” Even today, I proudly boast in my circles that “Dr. Kurien was my Chairman.” Of the many virtues Kurien radiated, Passion, Rigor, Integrity, Drive, and Empathy stood out. Not all these are hardwired, and collectively, in every leader. If Kurien was inspiring, larger than life, and peerless, that was because of this PRIDE factor. And that made Kurien the Lion King in his domain. That also made him tough and ruthless. Mostly. He appeared to run his institutions autocratically, like a tyrant. But then he was immensely compassionate too. He had his subtle humor to boot, his lighter vein, that infectious discreet warmth. If you tuned well, matched the frequency, you felt it, enjoyed it. Here is a sample from July 1999.
A new cohort of students had just joined IRMA and completed their induction program. The induction, which also comprised a phase of village stay, was allegedly IRMA’s approximation of concentration camps. The induction ended with the Chairman addressing the newcomer students. He and Mrs. Kurien then hosted them a high tea.
The venue for High Tea that year was Students’ Activity Center. Kurien and Molly Kurien arrived and took their seats in the comfortable sofas IRMA Estate had meticulously laid for them. The faculty, staff, senior students, and assorted other invitees had gathered for tea.
The new students were excited to be in the company of the Father of White Revolution, recipient of the World Food Prize and the Magsaysay, the founder of their graduate school. That made them forget (and forgive) the acclimatization program the Institute had just put them through, which some of them felt was no short of “institutionalized torture.”
Kurien had class – looks, gait, word. When he hosted tea, it had to be a class apart. Tea, coffee, and a fine spread of savories and nibbles arrived from the ETDC kitchen, with men in impeccable white serving. The new students were visibly impressed, and relished the snacks.
Seeing that Kurien was sitting with no tea or snacks, Ajith Somarajan, a member of the new batch of students, walked up to him. He cleared his throat and attempted, “Sir, may I get you a cup of tea or coffee?”
Pat came the reply, “No, thank you. No tea or coffee for me now. I’ll have my whisky at 7:30 in the evening, which Mrs. Kurien will fix me.” He then flashed his rare smile.
From the cluster of students, a sudden voice arose, “Sir, when do you take milk?”
Kurien’s reply was supersonic, “I don’t take milk. I don’t like its taste.” Again, that rare flash of smile.
Today is the 96th birth anniversary of the legendary Father of White Revolution.
I served an esteemed institution National Dairy Development Board, during its formative years for two decades. My association with NDDB means a lot to me professionally and psychologically. I contributed to the programmes and projects of the organisation to further its objectives to the best of my abilities and in the process I “grew up”!
I want to share one of the many lessons that I learnt while working with NDDB. A beautiful lesson ‘Sadhu to chalta bhala’!.
Abrupt transfers were like a hanging Damocles sword for NDDB professional staff who had to work in the field.
In many instances, before one settled down at one place, a transfer order would come! Like a sage of the good old days one would soon learn to develop an attitude of अनासक्ति or no worldly attachment to a “place” of posting.
In 1989 I was posted at Galbabhai Dairy Co-operative Training Center at Banas Dairy , Palanpur. Soon we learnt that in the neighbouring district Mehshana District Milk Producers Cooperative Union ( Dudhsagar Dairy) was looking for a Gujarati Speaking Officer well acquainted with Cooperative Development as there was a two months field training module to be delivered for trainees in this area.
One fine morning Dr Punjarath phoned me up and talked about my placement on deputation at Dudhsagar Dairy Mehsana as he was a member of the Board of Dudhsagar Dairy as NDDB representative. He suggested that I meet Shri Motibhai Chaudhary, the then Chairman of Dudhsagar Dairy. Dr Punrath told me that he had recommended to the Mehsana Dairy that I be given the Manager’s post. This was very good opportunity and a change of 180 degrees, as I was looking after training in Artificial Insemination and Cooperative Development since joining NDDB in 1977!
But for me was fa very difficult decision to make. I had to take a call on the education of my children who were then in 7th and 9th standard respectively in a English Medium School at Palanpur.
But it was the need of the hour, so I agreed and met the Chairman of Dudhsagar Dairy, Motobhsi Chaudhry, along with Shri Parthibhai Bhatol and talked at length about my posting as referred by Dr Punjarath and decided to take up the new assignment at Mehsana.
I shifted my family to Dudhsagar Dairy for schooling etc. and frequently met with the MD and Chairman of Dudhsagar Dairy for finalisation of my posting while I continued to work at GDCTC, Palanpur as per the instructions received from Anand.
I did all this in consultation with Dr Punjarath whose support was rock solid.!
The Chairman, Dudhsagar Dairy, whom I had met before shifting my family to Mehsana, however, had a change of mind. He asked me to join as Deputy Manager. That was shocking, and naturally I was very upset with at this unexpected development! For the next three month I tried to persuade the Chairman, Shri Motibhai in consultation with Dr Punjarath. But Shri Motibhai was adamant and refused to budge and my future was in a limbo.
I was in a dilemma as to what to do next. By then it was the month of August. I wondered how to take my children back to Palanpur and get them admitted in a school. Mid season change of school from one district to another is a complex process.
I consulted Dr Punjarath and asked for his final advice !
How nicely he then supported me. I forgot the problems and all that I was facing. I do, however, still remember his consoling words; “Please do not worry, you are a sincere and honest officer with wonderful track record, I am the last person to force you to agree to the revised offer from Dudhsagar Dairy and join as Dy Manager. You may respectfully regret and continue to serve in your present position at Palanpur.”
It was still a grave situation for the schooling of my children, But I was very happy. How a senior boss from NDDB like Dr Punjarath valued his junior colleague. Such sensitivity and support to juniors gives them on the job inspiration and motivation !
Fortunately, both my kids got admission in a boarding school at Pillvai and I accepted the situation delightfully. Our family disintegrated as we had to live away from our kids. Fate takes such twists and turns. One has to learn and accept unpleasant situations as well.
More often than not things do turn out to be good.
“HE” gives us what is “Good” for us not necessarily what we “Like”.
मेरे जैसै अनेक लोग जो डा कुरियन के सान्निध्य मे आए, मेरी समझ के अनुसार, उनका संबन्ध “विक्रमादित्त्य” और “बैताल” की तरह का है।
हर बार उस बैताल के चरित्र के एक पहलू को किसी एक पीपल के पेड़ पर टांग कर आते हैं । वही बैताल एक बिल्कुल नये चरित्र में हमारे कन्धे पर बैठ कर नये सवाल सामने रख देता है। आज करीब पचास साल के बाद भी !
मै अपने को भाग्यशाली समझता हू कि इस व्यक्तित्व के कुछ पहलू को जो मै देख पाया और जो शायद कुछ के ही नसीब मे आया हो, हो सकता है नही भी आया हो। वह था उनका बाल सुलभ निर्दोष व्यवहार और बाल हठ।
हालांकि, उनका यह पहलू मेरे एन डी डी बी छोड़ने और अमूल ज्वायन करने के बाद की हैं कुछ यादें ।
१. फरबरी,१९७०, बरौनी मेरा पहला साक्षात्कार !
डा कुरियन और डा एस सी रे। बरौनी मे एक घास होती है।नोनी। पूरे जमीन पर फैल जाती है। पीले फूलों से लदी हुई।सारी धरती हल्दी से प्रकृति ने पुताई कर दी हो। डा कुरियन ने डा रे से पूछा “कान्ट वी हैव दिस ईन एन डी बी कैम्पस? नो डाक्टर यू कान्ट हैव एव्री थिंग एव्री वेयर। दोनों ने एक दूसरे को देखा निर्दोष मुस्कुराहट और चल पड़े ।
२. दिसम्बर १९७५, क्रिसमस का दिन
तब एन डी डी बी कैंपस मे शायद तीस या बत्तीस परिवार ही रह रहे होंगे। दो क्रिकेट टीमें बनी। कुरियन इलेवन और वरियावा इलेवन। हम सब खेतीवाड़ी ग्राउन्ड मे इकट्ठे हुये । दोनो नौन प्लेइंग कैप्टेन अपनी अपनी टीम के साथ। एकाएक डा कुरियन ने मुझसे पूछा। कैन आइ गो एन्ड बैट? “आइ वान्ट टू शो निर्मला दैट आई ऐम स्टिल यंग एन्ड कैन बैट। बट आई मस्ट टेक परमिसन आफ द कैप्टेन” ! और वह गए। इन फुल पैड अप। और पूरे सम्मान से खेला। बालसुलभ !
३. १४ जनवरी १९७५, उत्तरायण
एन डी डी बी कैंपस में रहने वाले लोग सामने के मैदान में पतंग उड़ाने मे लीन। सब बच्चे समेत अपनी अपनी पतंग उड़ाने में मस्त। यकायक डा कुरियन अपने परिबार के साथ शामिल। उनकी पतंग किसी ने काट दिया। दूसरी पतंग उपर। एक बच्चे के पास आए। उसका नाम पूछा। उसके बाप का नाम पूछा। अपना पतंग दिया और कहा ” इफ यू लूज़ दिस काइट, योर फादर विल लूज़ हिज़ जौब “बह बच्चा दौड़ता हुआ मेरे पास आया और पूछा “पापा ये कौन आदमी है? मै क्या समझाऊ और किसे समझाऊँ?
४.औपरेशन फ्लड टू का शुरुआती समय
एफ ए ओ एडवाइजर्स के लिये लक्जरी गाडियों में से एक आस्ट्रेलियन होल्डन। निहायत खूबसूरत। देखा। मुझसे कहा “कौल मोली। आइ वान्ट टू ड्राइव हर ऐज माई फर्सट कोपैसेन्जर” । मौली आई। “मौली, यू सिट बाई माई साईड। आस्क दिस फेलो टू सिट बिहाइन्ड। आई विल टेक यू राउन्ड द कैम्पस” । ड्राइविंग सीट पर मानो एक निर्दोष बच्चा ट्वाय कार पर खेल रहा हो। “मौली, यू सी ईट हैज़ पावर स्टीयरिंग। यू प्रेस दिस बटन ऐन्ड ऐन एन्टिना पौप्स आउट” । मौली चुपचाप सब सुनती रही। बस, हूं, यस जौली। कैम्पस का चक्कर लगाया और औफिस के सामने ला कर रोक दिया। शायद रजनी ड्राइवर खड़ा था। मैडम को घर छोड़ दो। और मुझसे , “ यू नो, दिस कार नीड्स वाईट पेट्रोल, ऐन्ड माई कार शुड नौट स्टौप ए सिन्गल डे। उस जमाने में आनंद में व्हाइट पेट्रोल? लेकिन व्हाइट पेट्रोल आया। गाड़ी कभी नही रुकी। कैसे हुआ, यह एक अलग कहानी।
५. निर्मला की शादी
कितने सारे लोग आमंत्रित थे। उनमे एक सैयद भाई भी थे, उनके पहले ड्राइवर। मुझे बुलाया ‘सी दैट ही इज ट्रीटेड नौ वे इन्फीरीयर टू एनी वन हीयर। फौर मी ही द वी वी आइ पी फौर द डे। सैयद मियां के लिए अलग टेबल लगाया, एटेन्ड किया और जब जाने लगे, उन्हें बुलाया “थैन्क यू सैयद भाई” ! सैयद भाई मुड़े बिल्कुल स्पीचलेस। बस आंखे नम थीं।
लेकिन इस विशाल व्यक्तित्व को करीब से पहचानने का मौक़ा मुझे एन डी डी बी छोड़ने और अमूल ज्वायन करने पर मिला, उनके साथ, उनके परिवार के साथ साक्षात, और उन सारे लोगों से आत्मीय बात कर के। उनमे आदरणीय त्रिभुवन काका, श्री रमन शंकर पटेल, श्री मनुभाई डाह्या भाई पटेल और श्री बाबूभाई गिरिधर भाई पटेल और श्री एच एम दलाया। सन १९८७ से २००० तक इनका सामीप्य मिला। घंटो साथ मे बैठता, सुनता, प्योर, औनेस्ट, प्रिस्टीन, नौस्टैल्जिक रिवर्स चरनी औन टाइम।
एक ऐसी ही बैठक में त्रिभुवन काका के साथ। “सींहा, कुरियन ने कोई औढखी सक्या नथी। एनी व्यक्तित्व एक नानो बालक जेवा। निष्कपट, निर्दोष, चंचल। कदी शान्त नही बेसी सके। लोको एने ज़िद्दी कहे छै। आ जिद्दी नथी, हठी छे। पण एनो हठ बालहठ। एक रमकड़ा मली जाए तो बस खुश खुश। जूना समय मां मारा पासे बेसता। खबर नहीं शूं शूं अफलातून बिचार। हूं एनो समझातो, कुरियन अमे महासमर मं छीए। मने वचन दे एवं चर्चा सामान्य रीते अणे सामान्य जग्या नहीं करवानी। अणे ए आजीबन निभाया।” श्री रमनभाई शंकर भाई पटेल “सींहा, तू केनी बाबत जानवा ईच्छे छे, कुरियन बाबत ? अरे एनो बिचारो ना उंढापण, अमे नथी समझी शक्या तो तु तो एक नाना बालक जेवी छे। अगम्य, अथाह पण मापी न सकाए एवो सारगर्भित” । मनुभाई डाह्याभाई पटेल “सींहा अमे राजकारणीया छीए।अमारी कार्यशैली तमने खबर होए। पण कुरियन! आ बाबत मां एनी समझ अणे चपलता अमे नहीं पाड़ी शय्या”। बाबूभाई गिरधरभाई पटेल कुरियन एनक्लेव और एक जमाने मे कंजरी कैटलफीड फैक्टरी पर आने वाले सामान पर टोल टैक्स पूरी तरह माफ करने वाला शख़्स , बस “एक बात, कुरियन नो प्रश्न छे न। पूछवानो नही, सोचबानो नहीं”
BOHO, or whatever this acronym stands for, is the Social club of the National Dairy Development Board established after we moved to the campus in 1970.
Pictures courtesy G Rajan and SB Sen Mazumdar
A polygraphed magazine Facts and Solid non Facts was started and a competition to suggest a name for the club was organised by Shri Ashok Koshy, IAS the then Executive Assistant to Chairman NDDB and later Director ( Administration ) who was the moving force behind organising this social club. Entry fee was Rs 1/-. A total of31 entries were received. Finally the jury selected BOHO as the official name of the club. If I remember correctly it was PT Jacob who suggested the name BOHO and got the prize of Rs 31/-Many believe that B in Boho stands for Buffalo making BoHO as Buffaloes of the highest order. The opinion is highly divided as B stands for many other words in English. 😁🙏🏼
RK Nagar, in his inimitable style of weaves a nostalgic tale of his younger days and his indulgence in food. Why he decided to put a headline for this story as “ The spoiler” only he knows.
It is his story and about him, but as he puts it, he sees “no harm in starting this story with this title for my friend.”
Calling him a spoiler would be a bit too much, but I see no harm in starting this story with this title for my friend.
And the reason is simple. He ‘introduced’ me to non-vegetarianism- not jokes- FOOD!
Yes that is right. Till I met him, I had at best had an occasional egg, mostly boiled while eating out with friends. It is because I come from a strictly vegetarian family. We were not just vegetarian, we were very ‘Satvik’ in the sense that even onions and garlic didn’t make it to my mother’s kitchen.
Of course over time it changed. I vaguely remember that when I was in tenth grade that I first had raw onion with my food at home. It was introduced by my elder brother who was doing his engineering in Gujarat and having raw onion with Gujarati snacks is a must, especially if you have items like ‘fafda’.
I had my first egg when I entered college. I was in pre university and during our practicals of animal husbandry, we had to work on the college poultry farm. Towards the end of the class, we were allowed to buy subsidised eggs from the department sale counter. Since most of us in the class were vegetarian, some of us- more adventurous types, bought an egg, cracked it and gulped the raw egg. So, it was taking nutrition without feeling the taste of the egg. Then came the boiled egg stage at home but it still wasn’t in my mom’s kitchen. I was permitted to boil it in a separate vessel on a stove placed in the farthest corner of the terrace.
But this ritual broke when I came to Anand simply because eggs were not available in the market. I mean they were available but in very limited quantity. The sole seller had perhaps a dozen hens and he got another 50 or so eggs from Baroda- in an earthen matka. His entire stock used to get sold out by 9-10 am. When I asked him why he doesn’t get more eggs from Baroda, his cryptic reply was, ‘that is total demand of Anand. If you want eggs, tell me a day before with advance payment’.
Simply put, if you wanted eggs, you had to go to him the previous evening in good time for him to send a message to his Baroda supplier. It was virtually making a “prayerful request to the hen to lay an egg for you for the next day”. You had to specify the numbers and the time of pick up. If by any chance you were late in picking your order, the eggs were sold away to someone else.
Manibhuvan days at Anand
So, my enthusiasm to eat eggs completely died when I came to Anand. I lost the luxury to have a not so frequent boiled egg too.
And since Gujarati food (as it is there were very limited eating places and they all served similar limited fixed thali) didn’t suit my palate, I wondered how this Spoiler friend of mine from north India had managed to survive. He came from a family of hard core non vegetarians who loved their ‘Khade masale wala meat’. And in Anand where one could barely get eggs, for him eating good meat was a distant dream.
When I moved to share accommodation with him in ‘Manibhuvan’ , one Sunday morning he set on the parapet wall of our balcony in a pose similar to one that village folks take when they go out in darkness for morning adulation. He was unusually quiet, almost pensive. I asked him if he was ok.
“Yes, I am”, he replied. “But then why are you so quiet”, I asked.
“I feel like eating meat”, he said.
“So, what is the problem? You have been in Anand for sometime and you must be knowing a place where you can get meat. Let us go there and you can have your fill”, I responded.
“No, I want ‘khade masale wala’ meat, the type that my mother cooks”. “You don’t get it in restaurants”.
I had only heard of meat and I didn’t know what it meant. For me meat was meat- khada masala or baitha masala or for that matter soyahua masala- was all same to me. I couldn’t help him. So, I asked, “then what do you want to do”?
“I want to cook but I can’t do it in our kitchen as YOU are a vegetarian” was his reply.
“I have no issues with your cooking whatever you want to eat in this kitchen. It is our kitchen and you are free to cook meat. I have friends who are non vegetarians and I have shared table with them on college tours. You don’t have to deprive yourself just because I am a vegetarian”. I cleared.
He was very happy at my reply. He immediately changed into a spotless white pajama-kurta and left on foot for market to procure meat and ‘khade masale’ for his “meal of the year”.
He returned after about an hour and a half in a horse carriage. The way he alighted was a scene to witness, he was smiling from ear to ear, looked very happy almost triumphant.
He kept his purchases on the kitchen platform. There was a bigger pack with about 250 grams of meat and about a dozen small ‘pudias’ containing all the ‘khada masalas’. Again changed, asked me to sit in the balcony and got down to business. It took him nearly two hours to make the long awaited dish with his mother’s recipe.
Since our cook Raoji had cooked our usual vegetarian food while my friend was away in the market, I waited for my friend to finish his cooking so that we could have our lunch together.
Finally he emerged from the kitchen and declared, ‘I have done it, it smells exactly as what my mother’s recipe’ and added, ‘Nagar, you eat first’.
“Why”? I asked. “Because being a vegetarian, if you see me eating meat, you may throw up. I Don’t want to spoil your lunch”.
“Look dear, if I had to eat alone, I would have done it while you were away in the market. I waited for you so that we eat together. Now let us sit and eat. It is Sunday lunch and we must enjoy it- I my veggies and you, your meat”.
As we set down, he waited. He didn’t start while I had finished half a chapati. So, I asked him, “why aren’t you eating? Anything wrong”.
“No, would you like to taste the curry- just a tea spoon, just in case and that will reassure me that I have not spoiled your lunch”.
I agreed, tasted a tea spoonful of curry followed by a small piece of meat- the size of a peanut.
The ‘Spoiler’ had played the trick. Smart cookie. I remained spoiled for the next 30 years.
Wouldn’t you want to know the name of this spoiler? The fellow who made me recall this story- Shailendra Kumar.
I heard Dr Kurien speak to a group of people only once.
While was working as a team member of NDDB Spearhead Team (SHT) at Kolhapur in 1980, I got an office order transferring me from Dairy Project (NDDB, SHT) to the newly launched NDDB Oil Seeds and Vegetable Oil Project, Bhavnagar, in October 1980.
I was nominated to part in a seminar cum training programme of ten-day duration after six months of joining at Bhavnagar. The participants were staff chosen from National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) and Gujarat Cooperative Oilseeds Growers Federation Ltd (GROFED. The subject areas covered were Agriculture Extension and Cooperation. The venue was the government agriculture farm Talaja, Bhavnagar. Oilseeds Growers were also invited on the day of the inauguration of the programme.
At the inaugural function Shri GM Jhala and Dr Chothani from NDDB addressed the seminar. They briefed about the NDDB Oilseeds and Vegetable Oil Project designed on the Anand pattern, with oilseed processing plant so that farmers get a remunerative price and steady marketing channel for their produces. At the end of the inaguration programme I got the opportunity to propose a vote of thanks to the speakers and participants.
Later, along with other training programme participants, I visited Lokbharti, Sanosara, Gujarat Agriculture University Campus, National Research Center for Groundnut at Junagadh and Soil testing Laboratory at Gandhinagar. It was a study visit and at each of these institutions we were briefed about the objectives, operations and specific activities of the institutions we visited. We also learnt about research work being carried out at these institutes.
It was heartening to learn about the research work in oilseeds production through the development of high yielding varieties. During the training, we also had sessions conducted by NDDB officers as well as from the Agriculture and Cooperation Department of the Government of Gujarat.
The seminar cum training programme ended at NDDB Anand.
Dr Kurien Sir addressed the concluding session. He briefed us about the NDDB Oilseeds and Vegetable Oil Project which was designed on the pattern of Anand Milk Cooperatives for the Oilseeds sector. Objective being to integrate production, processing and marketing of Oilseeds and edible oils as also provision of inputs for increasing Oilseeds production under Oilseeds Producer owned cooperative institutions.
In his address, Kurien also mentioned the telephonic conversations he had with the Minister in the Government of India about our project. Dr kurien Sir spoke in English with some sentences in Gujarati, which was very sweet. At the end he asked about our working conditions and problems faced and about our remunerstion.
This gesture on his part indicated his concern for employees. He was sensitive to the needs of both the employees and the oilseeds producers.
I fondly remember this event when I heard Dr Kurien speak to the participants of the seminar cum training programme. I was lucky to have been present on that occasion.