You find the cause and means will follow, it is said.
I experienced this as NDDB Spearhead Team Leader, Jalgaon during 1974-76. It started with visit of Purushottam Joshi who was my friend in Nagpur Veterinary College few years ago. He had come on short visit to Jalgaon with his wife and the couple was staying with her sister.
Joshi contacted me over phone and then met me in Jalgaon Union’s office. His visit was no doubt a surprise and we decided to spend as much time together as possible. Then he casually mentioned that the relative with whom he was staying had his office just at a walkable distance from the place where we were sitting. He suggested that we could as well go there and meet him just as personal introduction. I accepted his suggestion and we went there.
That was the office of the Directorate of Field Publicity. Till then I had not known that there was a Govt. Department by that name. The name of the officer was Shri Khandekar who was co-brother of Joshi. After we were introduced I found Khandekar to be very informative and helpful, perhaps that was his job requirement also. During the corse of our discussion it was revealed that his office was there to help various departments in field activities and for this purpose they had hundreds of documentary films on various topics. I casually enquired whether they had films on dairy and cooperation. He immediately called the list and I found that they had two documentary films with titles सफल सहयोग and सौराष्ट्र के लोकनृत्य. The black and white film सफल सहयोग was based on Amul story and the other one in color, although devoted to folk dances had depicted perfect harmony amongst artistes which was nothing short of cooperation. Then and there I thought about borrowing those films on a future date and Khandekar readily agreed to help me. Thus our meeting ended on a positive note and on next day Joshi went back to Buldana where he was working as Extension Officer in Zilla Parishad.
Then I discussed my idea with Narendra Vashi who was like Deputy Team Leader. He agreed that showing documentary films in villages where we organized dairy societies on Anand Pattern was excellent idea. What more, he was willing to operate the 16 mm projector himself if we could arrange one. At NDRI he had received practical training to operate the projector. Now our problem was to only find the projector and we made some effort in that direction. In couple of days we came to know that the Arts and Science College at Faizpur had a 16 mm projector and Shri JT Mahajan, MLA who was Chairman of Jalgaon Milk Union had influence over that college being on the Executive Committee of the Education Society that ran the college. That linkage worked wonderfully well and when we went to meet the College Principal instantly he gave us the 16 mm projector and the rolled screen with tripod stand in complete faith. That added a dimension to our extension effort immensely.
We went to Shri Khandekar to obtain the films. He did not ask for even a formal letter and just on my signature in his register he gave away both the films. In the next couple of days Vashi tried and confirmed that the assembled things ( जुगाड ) worked well and we were ready with a Projector and two Films as a part of our Team’s kit to organize film shows. In the next ten months we must have organized over sixty to seventy film shows in villages just a day prior to bringing the working on Anand Pattern. Each show had hundreds of viewers, women and children alike and the message followed was quite powerful. The first film to be screened was on folk dances followed by सफल सहयोग.
The film सफल सहयोग was produced by Ezra Mir in Films Division and it was remarkable being a sort of running interview of Dr. Kurien dubbed in Hindi with several frames appearing in the background
At one point Dr. Kurien was also seen in conversation with Amul Chairman, Shri Tribhuvandas Patel although their dialogue was not audible. What I remember till today is a line dubbed in Hindi in which he was saying … और आनंद मे हमने यही तो सिद्ध किया है । ( I am one of those who believe that…) भारत का किसान इतना पिछडा हुआ नही है जितना कि समझा जाता है.. हम सभी की तरह वह शुरूआतमे नये तरीके अपनानेसे झिझकता है … लेकिन जब उसे मालूम होता है कि दूध उत्पादन के नये तरीके फायदेमंद हो सकते है, उसकी आमदनी बढा सकते है, तब वह बिना झिझक से उन्हे अपना लेता है… All such statements were good enough to make lasting impact on farmers. Therefore, we could see that screening of these films charged the village atmosphere and it helped us in our extension effort.
During this period the Field Publicity Office did ask us to return the films couple of times but that was only to reissue them. The College at Faizpur also did not ask us to return the projector. Here I must mention that during the first phase of Operation Flood there was no provision of funds for Spearhead Team to carry a Film Projector. Therefore, the number of Film Shows reported by us on monthly basis was over and above the expectation and hardly anybody noticed that activity leave alone appreciation.
However, after several months it so happened that the electric bulb in the projector went off and it had to be replaced. As can be expected the replacement was not available easily but a local electrical shop could finally arrange for it. Needless to say, we included the ‘ expenditure on replacement of projector bulb ‘ in our monthly statement.
Thereafter we promptly received a note calling for explanation on that kind of expenditure. When there was no projector from NDDB how the expenditure on bulb replacement could be entertained was the question raised by our auditors. When I answered them the expenditure was allowed as a special case.
However, that sent us alarm that if something went wrong with the projector as a whole who could replace the whole projector and certainly it was beyond our personal capacity. So we thought enough is enough and returned the projector and both the films to respective agencies. The सफल सहयोग was over.
P.S. Purushottam Joshi, my friend who caused the above chain of events met with a fatal accident sometime in 1980. Like many, even he didn’t know about his contribution to our work.
Sometime in 1980 a meeting/workshop was convened at NDDB Anand to discuss the modalities for implementation of Operation Flood (OF) phase II. The Phase II was to cover 155 districts and the State Dairy Federations were to be the Implementing Agencies.
The phase I of OF wherein NDDB sent Spear Head Teams (SHT) was over and the idea of sending a State Coordinator for each Federation had emerged. Senior officers of NDDB and IDC who could be sent as State Coordinators were called at Anand so that greater clarity on the role that a State Coordinator was expected to play and dos and dont were to be discussed.
I had participated from RO Bangalore.
Tolerance to ambiguity
I remember the lead speaker was Dr Malati Bolar who was invited to deliberate on the topic most appropriately titled as ‘Tolerance to Ambiguity’ ! She made us aware of the complex situation any organization may face and how it could be tackled by gathering experience of all.
In that workshop broader objectives of OF II including the details of the plan of action such as coverage of number of village; farmers to be brought under the ambit of the cooperatives; milch animals to be brought under Animal Health Care;AI Centers to be established using frozen semen; animals to be be covered so as to raise National Milch Herd that would ultimately increase the per capita milk availability etc. were shared.
On the next day towards the end of our program we had a meeting with Dr. Kurien , Chairman NDDB/IDC. All the senior officers of both the organizations were also present.
State level federations under Operation Flood -II
Dr. Kurien told us why the idea of having State Cooperative Federation was mooted. In his opinion the State Dairy Corporations had become bureaucracies and that there was a need to replace them with Farmers’ Organisation, a Federation at the start of the project itself so that in future there would not be questions raised on transfer of milk processing plants to unions and the farmers will retain their rights. He also briefly explained the important provisions in the proposed Memorandum of Understanding to be signed like a State Govt. guarantee for repayment of loan, setting up of Audit Board etc.
Towards the end we were asked questions if we had any doubt or clarifications to seek.
There was some response but I remember one question very well.
One participant mentioned that the broad objective of OF II was to raise milk availability through genetic improvement in cows and buffaloes for which a massive effort would be made using frozen semen technology and paraphernalia.
He further elaborated, that this effort could be useful only if there is culling of cows and buffaloes and the culling means eliminating the inferior stock from the herd at every stage which every breeding program taken up anywhere in the world has acknowledged. This question was indirectly touching the issue of cow slaughter. The questioner then requested the Chairman why this particular aspect was missing in the project and why this is also not been raised at Govt. level.
Have patience and change will happen
Dr. Kurien replied to that question citing a couple of examples which were quite interesting.
First he mentioned about a certain delegation from Pakistan that had come to India to study dairy development in India. On completion of their visit to Anand they came to meet Dr. Kurien. However, when they were about to leave he found one of the delegates in tears.
When Dr. Kurien enquired about the reason the delegate said that he was moved by the efforts made by India in dairying. The delegate had said that ‘ both Pakistan and India became independent at the same time but India did well in preserving dairy breeds whereas in Pakistan they have eaten away most of the cattle.’ Citing this, Dr. Kurien said that we should look positively on issues like this.
Citing the second case, Dr. Kurien said he worked with Chairman Shri Tribhuvandas Patel who was a Gandhian worker and followed all its principles like a religion.
” Shri Patel was hundred percent Vegetarian and I have no doubt about it whereas, the same can not be said about his son who went to US and settled there. He may or may not have tasted meat. But if you ask me about the grandson of Tribhuvandas Patel who is born and brought up there I would not be surprised if eating meat may have become a routine for him, unless he decides against doing so”, he said. “This is what happens over the generations.”
Dr. Kurien continued. “People will change , we have to give time. As it is we have been asking for so many changes. But if you ask too many changes, then the easiest thing for them is that they will change you. Therefore you have to have patience that one day or the other change will be there.”
Dr. Kurien told his Mantra and with that the meeting ended.
Contributed by Dr Mukund Naware NDDB 1972 – 1986. He spent five years in field and was in RO Bangalore, for more than eight years. He was also Manager (Procurement) for F& V Project, Mother Dairy, Delhi during 1985-1986.
Our master story teller RK Nagar shares the story of building NDDB Campus at Bengaluru
In his own words;
“ When my former ecolleague from planning-Gopal Srinivasan read my story on BOHO Shishu Vihar and ANANDALAYA on Facebook, he wanted me to write and share a story on NDDB Bangalore campus.
So, this one is on demand !”.
Photo courtesy Google, Sathish MN
It all began with my transfer to Bangalore as the Regional Director in May 1986.
I went to call on Dr. Kurien before shifting my family to Bengaluru.
Dr Kurien asked, he asked “ Where is land for my campus? How long are you going to take to acquire it? “
I turned back to see if he was addressing my predecessor thinking that he has probably followed me and I may be in for a brief on the issue in presence of Dr. Kurien. This was because as NDDB we were striving to get land for building a Campus at Bengaluru for several years.
But there was no one there. Dr. Kurien said, “Where are you looking? I am asking you”.
This was funny since I was barely a week old in my new position. I knew this was leg pulling so I lightheartedly replied, “Give me at least three months”.
“Done. Three months and I take it as your promise”, he said but I knew neither of us were serious. Getting a land allotment from government and that too in a metro city is a daunting task. But then, when the ‘divine power’ wishes, things do move at unprecedented speed. This is exactly what happened.
It all began with a courtesy call
I called on Shri P R Rao, Additional Chief Secretary, government of Karnataka a couple of days after I had taken charge of my new role at Bengaluru.Shri Rao was also the Agriculture Production Commissioner and as such all our dealings with both dairy and oil seeds projects in Karnataka were with him. As I entered his office, he said, “We met in Anand last month. You were next right to Dr. Kurien in the meeting. So, you have taken over from my good friend Behla. Nagar, feel free to call me anytime you need any help from the Government”. This was indeed a very warm welcome so I seized the opportunity and said, “Sir, I have only one priority agenda and that is the land for our campus”.
“Ok, ask someone from your office to find out where is the file and meet me again. I know that Mr. Behla was following up allotment of a piece of land in Koramangala tankbed with PWD. Then let us see if this parcel of land earlier allotted for a slaughterhouse project is still available. If not, look for another plot of land on the outskirts of the city”.
This was a very encouraging response from Shri Rao. I was aware that Behla had done a lot of legwork especially to get a piece of land in Koramangala tankbed due to its easy approach from most parts of Bengaluru. I was naturally not going to let go his hard work in vain. So, I decided to ‘search’ the file in PWD and my engineer colleague Shri M S Shankar offered to help. His uncle was a very senior IAS officer and he could relatively easily trace the ‘missing’ file.
Shankar did an excellent job. He not only found where the file was but also found why the PWD was not wanting to let go of the land despite the shelving of the slaughterhouse project following non clearance by the civil aviation ministry as the proposed project fell in the ‘tunnel’ (landing/takeoff route) of aircraft’s. So when I again met Shri Rao, after a fortnight, I was able to update him on the status.
Despite nearly eleven weeks of rigorous follow up, we were unable to see any movement of the file. It was getting frustrating and I decided to meet Shri Rao again. I called his secretary and sought an appointment. Unexpectedly Shri Rao himself took the phone from his secretary and asked me “Nagar, what is the agenda”?
I intuitively answered “Sir, I have drafted a letter from Dr. Kurien to the CM Shri Hegde about allotment of land for NDDB campus and I wanted you to have a look at the draft before I send it to Dr. Kurien”. I didn’t have draft, but in that situation, that was the best reply that came to my mind.
“No Nagar, you are not sending any draft to Dr. Kurien. I will call you back” was his reply.
Knowing that there is no chance of meeting Shri Rao, I left for Karnataka Milk Federation to meet the MD, Shri Munniswami. As usual, we smoked and had a cup of tea, Munniswami said, “Let us go to the office of Chief Secretary for the meeting”. “What meeting?”, I asked.
To this an amused Munniswami replied that following my talk with Shri PR Rao earlier today, a meeting has been fixed to allot land to NDDB and KMF in Koramangala tank bed. “This is a crucial meeting as the Chief Secretary cancelled his other appointments for it. We must reach there immediately.” “How come you don’t know about it”?
We just made it in time for this crucial meeting.
The Chief Secretary, Shri Satish Chandran (I hope I am recollecting the correct name) brushed asides all the arguments of the PWD against allotment of land to NDDB and ordered that he should get a copy of the allotment letter delivered to NDDB Bangalore by the close of the day.
By the time I reached my office around 5.30 pm the allotment letter had reached my table. I just couldn’t believe my eyes. And it all happened on the 89th day of my tenure as the regional director. I promptly sent a message-“ Just received government of Karnataka order allotting 6.5 acres of land in Koramangala tank bed for NDDB campus” to Dr. Kurien and faxed the allotment letter.
This was unbelievable, but then, the divine wish prevails. A miracle had just happened. Munniswami later told me that soon after I called Shri Rao, he walked-barefoot- to the Chief Secretary’s office, requested him to cancel all his afternoon appointments and urgently convene a meeting to decide on land allotment to NDDB. I must say, he kept the promise he made to me in our very first meeting in Bengaluru.
Building the campus; Initial Hiccups
NDDB was allotted 6.5 acres as requested in the original application. When we reached to get the area marked, we found that a 100 ft road, according to the Bengaluru Urban Development plan was cutting right across the survey numbers allotted to us. That would have effectively left just about 4.5 acres for the campus. Moreover, it would have meant a campus divided into two pieces- one on either side of the road.
When I approached Shri Rao to get us a revised order that would give usall 6.5 acres on one side of the road, his first reaction was, “Is it not it better? You may keep the office and residential areas apart. When I explained that managing two independent campuses would be problematic, he agreed to have a revised allotment order issued. I received it in the next couple of days.
During this time my mother was with me in Bangalore. I asked her if she would like to see the campus site. When she saw the site (she didn’t even step out of the car), she was horrified and exclaimed,” what, you are going to build a campus at this site? This is stinking filthy. Who would want to come and live here? You better look for some other site”. Imagine how horrible it must have been. So much so that every time our project engineer Shankar reached home after visiting the site, his wife allowed him inside only after he took a bath outside the house. She always kept a full bucket ready for him to ‘disinfect’ himself following his visit to the ‘stinking’ site.
Even before we started any work on the campus, Dr Kurien during one of his visits that incidentally happened to be via Mumbai (he normally used to take the Ahmedabad-Bangalore direct flight), told me somewhat sternly “Nagar, this campus is your project and I will hold you directly responsible for the quality of construction”. With this he not only set the agenda but put my entire campus project team on high alert.
Once we got the consolidated piece on one side of the proposed road, we had to get it surveyed and marked. When the survey team reached the site, they found it extremely difficult to do the job as a naala (it was probably meant to be a storm water drain) carrying sewerage from behind NDRI campus was flowing in a zigzag manner right through the site and the entire area had become a shallow swamp. Survey and marking work was however done and we were on to our next task- get a boundary wall build. But before we could do that, we had to raise the land to the road level. Being a shallow tank, it’s level was about two feet lower than the road. So, we decided to get the land filling and boundary wall done simultaneously.
Naala flowing across our plot
Land filling: with the naala flowing with full force, land filling became the most challenging task for the contractor. The land had actually turned into a shallow swamp and in the very first week, two of the contractor’s trucks ended up with broken axels. Moreover, all the filling material he dumped in got washed away in the current of the naala. The frustrated contractor offered to pay the penalty and walk away unless the flow of the sewage was diverted. We found that the naala was created by illegally blocking the main open drain that carried the sewerage so that the tank bed can be used for grazing animals owned by the people staying in nearby slum huts.
We tried our best to get the concerned government department to attend to it, but they had their own issues. Who would want to initiate it, ask for budget, take responsibility and account for it in the government? In this situation, I had to do something very quickly else , I feared that the contractor would run away and the campus project will come to a grinding halt.
On the Friday evening of the week (Government offices were to remain closed on Saturday), I went to the main drain along with our engineers and the contractor. I instructed the contractor to immediately put his workers on the job and remove the earthen embankment that diverted the flow from the original path to our site. The contractor was hesitant and not sure if he could do it as it needed the permission of the concerned government department.
At this I told him, “I am the Government and these are my orders. Finish the job before midnight”.
The contractor did as I instructed him and on Saturday morning, when he visited the site, he found that the flow of sewage had stopped and he could resume earth filling. We had crossed a big hurdle.
Soon after this incident I was on a visit to Anand as the then dairy minister of Karnataka Shri Siddhramaiah was visiting NDDB HQ. As we came out of TEQ after lunch and saw off the minister, Dr. Kurien asked me, “Have you been able to get the Government to solve the naala problem?”. To this I told him what I had done to get the problem out of the way. He was aghast. He turned to Mrs Kurien and told her, “This fellow Nagar is taking state laws in his hands and will end up in jail one day”. We three had a jolly good laugh when I told him that by the time the Karnataka government discovers it, I probably will be transferred out and if any one has to go to jail, it would be my successor.
Reworking the earlier approved Design
A Madras based architect, P T Krishnan was retained for the campus project by Shri Behla in anticipation of early acquisition of the land and they had the architectural drawings prepared and approved.
The only problem with the design was that it did not have a provision to repeat a part of the design in case of a needed expansion.
We had to therefore redo the designs. Krishnan was initially not very happy with the idea of starting de novo but he understood the logic and agreed to my request. I told him that whereas he has the experience of designing, I had the experience of living in various types of accommodations on the Anand campus and let us combine our experiences while designing this campus.
I asked him to design the housing keeping in mind 3 things: one, excellent cross ventilation so that we don’t have to use fans for more than 2 months in a year; two, plenty on natural light for plants to grow indoors and three, privacy-the lady should be able to move between her bedroom and kitchen without having to cross the living room just in case there was a visitor in the house.
I then added two more requirements- provide a second bedroom in D type and additional privacy so that the bedroom fights between the couples remain private- they shouldn’t be heard by neighbours residing below or above. This last requirement was tricky, so I suggested reorientation of the bedroom in the middle floor, and it worked.
Additional features I wanted in the C and D type buildings were- two wheelers parked must not be visible from the road and, clothes drying in balconies must also not be seen from anywhere.
In the revised design, Krishnan accommodated all my requirements. The drawings were sent to the Chairman for his approval. We were careful in accommodating all the requirements within the specified area limit for each type. Since all the designs were within the specified area parameters, the plans and budget were approved without delay. We had cleared all the internal hurdles but the approvals of concerned government agencies still remained.
Thankfully all the senior bureaucrats that I had come in contact with were willing to go an extra mile and they helped me speedily get all the statutory clearances. We were now all set to begin construction.
Naala bothers us again
This was entirely unexpected. When we started work on the foundations, we found that every building planned was to come up on one or other curve of the naala that used to flow through the site and building with a conventional foundation on filled up site would be dangerous. We had to then go for pile foundations.
Thank you my friends
Finally the campus was ready for occupation- both residential and office buildings with landscaped garden by middle of 1989.
And this wouldn’t have been possible without a very dedicated efforts of three of my former colleagues that formed the core team- late S P De, site engineer Setu Madhavan and the project engineer M S Shankar.
I owe much to all three of them for the tremendous effort they put in to ensure quality construction. Their honesty and integrity was highly praised by the contractor when he came to meet me after completion of the project.
In his words, “Sir, I have done many projects for PSU’s around Bangalore, but have never worked with a team like yours. They are so honest that they didn’t accept even a cup of tea from my office. And believe me sir, because of their honesty, this is the first ever project where I have incurred a loss”.
Wherever you are my dear friends, I, R K Nagar am very proud of you.
Finally, the design left some people baffled. A few months after we occupied the campus, one day a passerby was heard asking the watchman, “Is this place occupied by humans or ghosts? During day time, I don’t see any vehicle or clothing around any of the buildings but as it turns dark, light turn on. Is this place haunted?”.
Meeting Thiru SK Paramsivan at his village Chinniampalayam. Thiru Paramsivan now 102 became the founder Chairman of Erode District Milk ProducersCooperative Union
On a hot afternoon, I visited Chinniampalayam, a village ten kms from Erode, to meet Mr SK Paramasivan, a progressive farmer, cooperator and a former Member of the Parliament. After preliminary introduction, I explained to him the purpose of my visit: to organise Anand Pattern milk cooperatives under the Operation Flood programme.
Making a face, he retorted that cooperatives, as a whole, had failed in Tamil Nadu and that the people have lost faith in cooperatives. He was a member of the Erode Cooperative Milk Supply Union and had bitter experience of the Union: it served neither the producers’ nor the consumers’ interests. I allowed him to ventilate his feelings on the cooperatives which he did for about thirty minutes. At the end, I made a request to him to give me an opportunity to talk to the farmers of Chinniampalayam. He welcomed the idea, though reluctantly, and agreed to convene a meeting. The date and time were fixed. I thanked him and left, assuring that I will meet him at the appointed time.
I, along with members of the Spearhead Team, reached Chinniampalayam exactly at 6 pm (the appointed time) and met Mr Paramasivan. He was surprised to see us exactly at the appointed time because he confessed later that no government officer ever came at the appointed time! The farmers had already assembled for the meeting: about fifty of them were ladies. Paramasivan introduced me to the farmers and asked me to talk. It was always my practice to collect as much information as possible on the village, farmers, number of milch animals (buffaloes), facilities for disposal of milk and the problems faced. I had collected this information in respect of Chinniampalayam, in advance.
Addressing the farmers in broken Tamil, I told them about the problems they were facing in keeping buffaloes and producing milk: high cost of feeds and fodder, lack of AI and animal health care facility and exploitation by the agencies that collected the milk. I explained to them how the farmers in Anand solved these problems by forming milk cooperatives. I also told them about the Operation Flood programme and organisation of Anand Pattern cooperatives as a part of this programme. The programme will be implemented in seven districts in Tamil Nadu which included Erode also. NDDB had placed a Team in Erode to help the farmers in organising Anand Pattern cooperatives. The farmers listened with rapt attention and I could notice on their faces signs of willingness to try out the pattern.
When the meeting was about to conclude, Paramasivan got up and said “we have a farmer in our village, Raju, a communist. He was in the habit of opposing all good things saying good things happened only in Russia and China. You take him to Anand and let him see the developments there. If he is convinced, you can take it that our entire village is convinced”. Thus saying, the meeting ended.
As a part of the Farmer Induction Programme, Raju was deputed to Anand along with other farmers. He spent a few days at Anand, went around the villages and saw for himself the changes that had taken place due to milk cooperatives. On his return to Chinniampalayam, Raju told the farmers what he had seen at Anand and that if any good thing had happened anywhere in the world, after Russia and China, it was at Anand. Further, he said that was the last chance for them to develop their village and that they should wholeheartedly accept and support the programme.
Chinniampalayam was one of the eight “Anand Pattern” cooperatives that we had organised in the first lot, with Paramasivan as its Chairman. Today, it is one of the most successful cooperatives.
We remember his tenure as Chief Election Commissioner. However, as a man of action and great simplicity right from the beginning of his career he had a way of doing things differently which set him apart from the rest.
RK Nagar pays tributes to Mr. TN Sheshan recalling his meeting with Mr. Sheshan some time in 1978 when Mr. Sheshan was Agriculture Production Commissioner Govt of Tamilnadu.
On 10th November 2019, the news of the death of Mr. T N Sheshan brought to my mind the memory of meeting him along with Dr. Aneja in Madras (now Chennai) sometime in 1978. The context was the state plan for Operation Flood-II in Tamilnadu and we were to meet Mr. Sheshan, who was then the Agriculture Production Commissioner of the state.
I had actually no idea that I was going to meet this personality. I had said yes to Dr. Aneja, when he asked me if I was ready to join him for a meeting in Madras and I had without hesitation said, ‘yes sir’. The whole conversation on intercom was somewhat like this:
“Hi Nagar, Aneja here. I am going to Madras for a meeting. Do you want to join me”.
“Sure sir,” I replied.
“Don’t you want to know why I am going there”. “No”, I replied back.
“ Then why do you want to join me”?
“I have to buy some cane chairs for my dining table”, I gave a rather cheeky reply.
“Alright, get ready, book you tickets and see you in Madras on (date). Carry with you relevant documents. And this trip is going to be no fun, ok”. I could hear his laughter on the intercom.
“And inform me when your bookings are done”, he concluded.
Now I knew he was involving me in some serious business.
At this time, I was handling MIS and a large part of it was the rural supply and urban demand surveys. My group had just completed 3 years of survey work in 18 Operation Flood I milksheds, their urban markets and 4 metros. These surveys were conducted, in one annual and 3 seasonal rounds to capture seasonal supply demand variations so as to understand how it affects procurement across seasons with its consequent effect on milk marketing and prices. By any standards, it was a massive exercise and I was happy that our projections were closely matching the actual procurement figures in all the milksheds.
In a way, this exercise had established the credibility of our survey design, sample size and our data capturing and validation methodology. So, when Dr. Aneja asked me to carry relevant documents, I knew he was referring to a summery of Tamilnadu survey data.
When I informed him of my bookings, he asked me, “where are you staying”, “Hotel New Victoria, opposite Egmore railway station”, I replied.
“Book my room too” he said; “where, Connemara?”, I asked.
“No, in the hotel where you are staying”, came the answer.
I wondered why on earth would he want to stay in a 3 star facility which was way below his entitlement. I found the answer when we met in Madras (this trip is going to be no fun). Oh, so he had warned me well in advance.
Anyway, we reached Mr. Sheshan’s office at the appointed time. He had couple of months back received an official letter from IDC (Indian Dairy Corporation, NDDB’s sister Organization that was responsible for project funding prior to its merger with NDDB in 1987) asking the state to submit a plan for funding under OF II.
When we reached for the meeting, we were greeted by Mr. Sheshan and his team drawn from the Tamilnadu Dairy Development Corporation (TNDDC) with a pile of four bound volumes, each weighing approx 1.5 kg. These were the plan documents for four dairy development regions in which the state was divided by TNDDC. There were two sets, one each for me and Dr. Aneja.
The idea behind ‘presenting’ us with these bulky sets was to overwhelm us. The officials thought that we will carry these plans to the hotel room, spend our days and possibly nights going through them and, perhaps approve them by the end of our two days visit.
Dr Aneja and I looked at the volumes, exchanged glances (reminding ourselves of the preparation we did to receive the first FAO-WFP Mission in 1970 and saying that we are the past masters of this game) pushed them on one side. Dr. Aneja then addressed Mr Sheshan, “Sir, I am sure a lot of effort has gone in making these plans and your officers have done a wonderful job. But since we don’t have time to go through these plans here, we will have to take them to Anand for a detailed study. That would considerably delay the approval process”.
“Then what do you suggest”, asked Mr. Sheshan.
“It would be appropriate if your officers can make a presentation on each of these four plans”, Aneja replied.
Mr. Sheshan immediately agreed to the suggestion and asked the team leader to make a presentation.
Dr. Aneja and I exchanged a glance. We knew we have caught them unawares. TNDDC team was not prepared to make a presentation. When the leader hesitated, Mr. Sheshan retorted, “You are making the presentation here in my office, now”.
While the team leader was getting ready to make the presentation, Mr. Sheshan addressed Aneja, “ These plans have been worked out in great detail and if you find anything wrong in them, I will ‘chew’ my non existent hat’.
Oh boy, I had just learnt a new phrase. Mr. Sheshan was very fond of using it, and in the next 10 minutes, he must have ‘chewed’ about 15 hats. I started counting but soon lost count.
When this conversation was going on between the two, I started glancing through one of the plans. I suddenly noticed a bar chart and a table wherein seasonal milk production figures for cow and buffalo milk were given. In the documents, buffalo was referred to as “black cattle”. I found these figures strange and turned corresponding pages of the remaining three documents.
All four had similar projections. In the meantime Mr. Sheshan got busy on phone.
When Mr. Sheshan was busy on phone and the team leader with preparation for presentation, I showed the table to Dr. Aneja and pointed out that the seasonal variations shown were 1:1.3(lean:flush ratio) and to arrive at it, they had increased the quantity of milk from black cattle by adjusting the fat content at par with cow milk. So, if cow milk has 4% fat, and buffalo milk 6%, in the projections, 100 liters of buffalo milk was shown as 150 liters of “black cattle” milk. This not only inflated the total production but also gave this unrealistic lean to flush ratio. They had used it to arrive at the processing and milk drying capacity projections.
Unfortunately, what the leader forgot was that while reducing fat content, the other component of milk -SNF will also go down proportionately. And therefore his entire plan was based on highly inflated production and procurement projections.
Dr. Aneja immediately seized the opportunity to demolish the plan. He got up from his seat, extended his hand towards Mr. Sheshan and said, “Congratulations Sir, you have already achieved in TN what we think will take at least about 20 years, even in Gujarat.”
Mr. Sheshan was not expecting this. He looked shocked and confused and asked, “What is it? Gujarat is way ahead of the rest of the country in dairying and you say we have already achieved it. What are you talking about”.
Dr. Aneja calmly replied, “Sir, the lean: flush production ratio. Wonderful achievement Sir.With this, TN will have all the fresh milk it needs to market even in summer and you wouldn’t need to invest in expensive powder plants” and showed him the projections in the documents.
This must have hit Mr Sheshan very hard as the next thing we witnessed was a copy of the document flying across the room. A fuming Mr. Sheshan gave the team a thorough dressing down, mercifully in Tamil for us to not to understand what he was saying. But its effect could be seen on the faces of the entire team of TNDDC. It continued for about ten minutes. They were then given marching orders.
After the team left, a visibly upset Mr Sheshan turned to Dr. Aneja and said, “I didn’t know I am surrounded by d*****s. Please leave these documents here and depute a NDDB team to make a plan for us.
As we came out of the secretariat, Dr. Aneja looked at me and said, “Chairs- forget about them this time and get down to the business. You are making the first state plan under OF II, and it is going to be Tamilnadu”.
That’s how I ended up in planning.
Next day, when Dr Aneja was leaving for airport, I casually remarked, “I didn’t know dealing with state governments was that easy”.
He didn’t say anything, he just smiled and left for airport.
Unknowingly, I had just shot myself in the foot. But that’s for the next story.
Dr. Kurup worked with the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) of India from 1969 to 1993 serving as a member of the of the Board and Executive Director of NDDB from 1991-1993.
As an International Consultant on Livestock and Dairying since 1993 he has worked countries across the world in Asia, Europe,North and America. He is currently based in Toronto.
I started my pilgrimage North in the late sixties not knowing when I set out that it was to be a pilgrimage at all. But it so happened that I was swapped up in a human saga set in motion by a giant among men, called Vergheese Kurien. What I recount below are some of the precepts and principles in leading men, doing things and achieving success that I learned as a part of this great movement.
There are only a lucky few who were fortunate enough to work with the legendary milk man of India: Vergheese Kurien, a visionary and pragmatist, a rare combination of qualities seldom found in one individual: his head in the clouds, but his feet planted squarely on terra firma. I was one among those lucky few and for almost a quarter of a century with a ring-side seat, just an arm’s length away from him, all along. A Leader of men par excellence and a champion of the farmers, he devoted a whole life time to help them shape their destinies and to build for them an empire, vast and powerful, entirely controlled by them through the professionals they employ.
I became a part of this team of professionals lead by Vergheese Kurien and along the way some of his wisdom rubbed off on us: we learned the tricks of the trade: leadership, man management, team spirit, attention to detail, decisiveness, and above all determination. The rules of the game too were as important as the tricks themselves: integrity – personal as well as professional, fairness, equity, punctuality, speed, prudence and accountability. Competence, efficiency and unflinching loyalty were pf course prerequisites to become a part of his team.
Management by delegation: delegation of responsibility and authority was the order of the day: we all learned that to load a man with responsibility and matching authority was the surest way to make him grow. We soon realized that one cannot lead from a crowd: one has to stand upfront to lead. Decision making became for us a matter of the head first and then of the heart as well: it was clear that the path to hell was paved with good intensions! In team building we learned to choose our peers, not the serf: the principle was: choose the one good enough to be your boss!
Lo and behold! We were soon a bunch of brats: head strong and cock sure, competent and aggressive, ready to take on the world and to hold on our own. We invaded the country with our tasks, teams and projects, changing the way we did business in our country and building enduring edifices as bulwarks against any onslaught of vested interests: and we succeeded all the way to the market, adding value and enhancing returns for our primary constituents: the farmers in India. And they cheered us on to advance and achieve as never before.
The theme was small holders and their livelihoods: the movement enabled over 10 million marginal and land less households of milk producer members in the cooperative movement to cross the poverty line and to enjoy a far better quality of life, in a sustained and progressively improving rural prosperity ambience. It taught us to look beyond the cow and see the man behind; and work for his welfare. The social capital build up in rural India enabled by the movement resulted in tens of thousands of viable and flourishing community based organizations owned and managed by farmers, institutionalizing their household livestock enterprises, giving them a continuing and sustainable livelihood option.
To me as an individual, the opportunities opened up by the movement were vast and varied, enabling me to become a major player in the development and orchestration of the livestock sector in India, to build and promote a nation-wide input generation network of animal feed mills, frozen semen production stations, bull mother farms, world class laboratories; to be the CEO of the second largest virus vaccine manufacturing plant in the world; and to coordinate and manage an army of professionals: a mixed bag of veterinarians, engineers, scientists, economists, environmentalists, sociologists, agronomists, accountants and administrators. After demitting office in the formal set up the experience and expertise gained over the quarter century I spent working with Dr.Kurien enabled me to become a successful international consultant handling widely varied mix of projects, the National Livestock Policy Perspective for the Government of India and to continue as a Consultant to the World Bank over the past 15 years.
Some say that Kurien is a big Banyan Tree under the shadows of which nothing grows: nothing can be farther from truth. For those of us working with him, it was this shadow that provided the protective umbrella, emboldening us to dare the limits every single day and achieve breakthroughs of personal and group excellence, always shielding us from harm and encouraging us to grow. No other leader has left behind such a vast skill pool of top class professionals and managers, who continue to contribute to nation-building in different sectors of our economy.
Next Post “Emerging Issues on Meat Sector as : Human Foods of Animal Orgin , Food Saftey and Food Security , in India.”
This post had earlier appeared on Dr MPG Kurup’s Facebook page.