Dr Kurien played hard games with high stakes. When he presented NDDB’s Market Intervention Operation to make India self-sufficient in edible oils in five years, Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, questioned his targets by saying that you took 20 years in milk, how can you do this in five years.
Dr Kurien’s reply was, “This time we are asking for a complete package of policy and powers to implement it”.
“But what are the guarantees?” quipped the Prime Minister.
“Our heads”, replied Dr Kurien. He got what he asked for and made the country self sufficient in edible oils in three years instead of five.
The dairy sector in India has had some great people contribute to its growth. Some are very well known names like Dr P Bhattacharya, D N Khurody, Dr S C Ray, H M Dalaya, V H Shah, A K Ray Chaudhuri, G M Jhala, Dr Amrita Patel, etc. All of them have contributed very significantly. However the contributions of many more have largely gone unnoticed. Some, that come to my mind are the contributions made by N Rajagopal, the then Joint Secretary (Dairy Development), Government of India; G V K Rao the then Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Agriculture; and, T N Seshan who was later the Cabinet Secretary and the Election Commissioner of India.
Rajagopal was a great human being. When I sought an appointment with him to sort out many problems that we had at the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), he gave me a date to meet him at Krishi Bhavan. On reaching his office I was told that he was not feeling well and was on leave. Since I had spoken to him the previous evening and everything seemed to be fine, I decided to go to his home. He greeted me at the door and explained his sick leave. It was to ensure that we had all the time needed to sort out the many issues. His explanation was that how could you get much done at the office!
Rajagopal would take a bus to Krishi Bhavan as he had just enough money for petrol to take him for his morning game of tennis. When Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, visited Anand for the first Convocation of IRMA in 1982, we had to tell her as to how poorly our policy makers were paid. That discussion raised the salaries of officers and a car was then provided to take them to the office and back. Eventually Rajagopal resigned from the IAS as he could not take the heavy bias the then Minister of Agriculture had against the NDDB.
G V K Rao should get full credit for the milk and silk revolution in Karnataka.
When I first met him he was the Development Commissioner of Karnataka.
The Government of Karnataka had prepared a usual project for dairy development at the behest of the Government of India for funding by the World Bank. Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh had also prepared similar projects, as these states were not covered by OF. The World Bank then asked these three States to rework these projects on the lines of OF. I had assisted these states in reformulating these projects.
T N Seshan was the Agriculture Secretary of Tamil Nadu in the ‘seventies. On the recommendation of his staff, he termed the Perspective Plan prepared for Tamil Nadu under OFas unacceptable. When we asked him the basis of his rejection of the Plan, his officers produced figures of current milk production in Tamil Nadu that equaled the targets the Perspective Plan had projected at the end of the plan.
We sought a day more to have a relook at the figures. The next day we produced another set of figures (provided earlier by the same officers) to say that the current milk production was already 50 per cent more than the figure quoted by Seshan the previous day. We then congratulated Seshan on having already achieved the targets under the programme and suggested that perhaps Tamil Nadu did not need any more milk production.
We then explained that the Perspective Plan had already raised the issue of non-reliability of the milk production data and a component of the Plan was to collect the required data on a scientific basis and then aim at increasing milk production by 50 per cent over the period of implementation of the Plan. TN Seshan is a big man and saw the folly of the arguments put up by his staff and promptly approved the Plan and everything that was required to implement it.
In later years Seshan was very supportive of the Market Intervention Operation (MIO) in oilseeds and vegetable oils as the Cabinet Secretary and Chairman of the Empowered Committee on the Technology Mission on Oilseeds. He was a great motivator in getting tough when things got rough.
Before India liberalized its economy and before IT professionals made India matter in the world, the most successful story of the country was its achievement in the dairy sector. From huge dependence on imports of milk powder, India became self sufficient in milk and even started exporting significant amounts of milk powder and other milk products. Our milk production increased from 20 million tons in the ‘seventies to 80 million tons in the ‘nineties and 140 million tons now.
Who was responsible for this revolution? Surely the farmers produced the milk but the one person who more or less singlehandedly organized millions of small and marginal farmers into very successful organizations was Dr Verghese Kurien.
The cooperatives Dr Kurien organized on the basis of the Anand Pattern have been responsible for the increase in milk production. They run the entire gamut of milk production — collecting and paying for it twice a day, every day; processing this milk for marketing; and conserving the seasonal surpluses into milk powder. They have conclusively proved that cooperatives do work as democratic institutions in India.
Dr Kurien always emphasized that democracy in Delhi needs to be underpinned by democracy at the grassroots level in the villages. He told his detractors that he knew more than they didabout the limitations of the cooperatives, since he had worked for the cooperatives all his life and had great faith in the goodness and generosity of the rural people. He was a firm believer in the unmatched combination of farmers and professionals working together to serve the rural areas.
Before Dr Kurien came on the scene, the task of dairy development was being organized by the Milk Commissioners of the States. The Government Milk Schemes soon found that it was easierto use cheap imported milk powder to supply milk in the urban areas of the country than it was to pay higher prices for locally produced milk.
All these milk schemes like Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta began with good intentions. To start with they procured milk at the prevailing prices and sold at market prices. As producer prices rose, consumer prices needed to be raised. It was cheaper to bring in imported milk powder as it enabled the politicians to keep the urban prices low. As a result India became dependent on imported milk powder and the urban market was destroyed for the rural milk producers.
Also the Milk Commissioners had vested interests in the sector. Dr Kurien often stated that there were no Milk Commissioners in Denmark, the Netherlands and New Zealand but there was plenty of milk in those countries. His theory was that you could either have milk or Milk Commissioners. The Milk Commissioners in India opposed the setting up of cooperatives tooth and nail. While the Cooperative Commissioners welcomed the idea initially, they opposed it later as Dr Kurien did not want political interference in the working of these cooperatives. He often stated that the Registrar of Cooperatives was like God and the Minister in Charge of cooperatives liked being the boss of God.
An incident comes to mind: The Chief Minister (CM) of Rajasthan, Barkatullah Khan, did not agree on autonomy being given to the milk cooperatives as required under the Anand Pattern. He told Dr Kurien that Rajasthan farmers were not as capable of managing their businesses as Gujarat farmers. Dr Kurien then asked him as to how the CM was elected. The CM mentioned that he was elected from the Jodhpur Rural constituency. Dr Kurien then retorted by saying if these people were capable of electing their CM, how come they were unable to manage their own little milk business. That convinced the CM and he agreed to the Anand Pattern of Cooperatives.
Dr Kurien wanted major changes in the antiquated cooperative laws, which gave the executiveall powers to supersede cooperatives. When this matter went to the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, she also questioned Dr Kurien on the capabilities of our farmers to manage big business. Dr Kurien is then reported to have told her that she was talking like the British who had said that they would give Indians their freedom when they were ready. Dr Kurien went to the extent of telling her that because of our desire to govern ourselves we had fought forindependence. If we wanted good governance then maybe we should call Lord Mountbatten back.
Dr Kurien was a missionary. He was fond of saying that for him replicating the Anand Pattern was a mission and like missionaries who know only one way to God, he would support all those who follow the Anand Pattern of Milk Cooperatives. Those who followed would reach God and those who kept on discussing (like many States did and are still debating) will keep on discussing. The results are there for all to see — States like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and some others did well. The others are still discussing.
Dr Kurien was a fearless karmyogi and he never asked for anything for himself. I recall when Jagjivan Ram wanted a private dairy to be funded under Operation Flood (OF), Dr Kurien’s blunt reply was that it could not be done. Surely the Minister had wanted him to be sacked but could not because of the Prime Minister’s support for Dr Kurien.
Dr Kurien was blunt with the bureaucrats as well. Early in the implementation of OF, PN Haksar,a Member of the Planning Commission, asked as to why the project was not being implemented speedily. Dr Kurien’s reply was that the delay was because of him. Haksar was taken aback and wanted Dr Kurien to explain. Dr Kurien then mentioned that the approval for the setting up of the Mother Dairy in Delhi had been pending with the Planning Commission for a long time.
Haksar then asked for the concerned Joint Secretary to explain the delay. The Joint Secretary stated that he had some questions on the subject, like the use of stainless steel in the milk tanks at the bulk vending machines. At that time steel was being imported and we were short of foreign exchange. Dr Kurien then told the Joint Secretary that if he had questions why did he not ask? We have a postal system. He could have picked up the phone and asked. What had stopped him from asking these questions?
Dr Kurien then asked him the Planning Commission did not object to the use of stainless steel in the toilets in the Indian Railways. Why was he objecting to its use in milk booths now?
Dr Kurien then informed him that the tanks in question were to be made of fiberglass reinforced plastic. The Joint Secretary had not read the report. Dr Kurien then went on to question him if he was the Joint Secretary or the disjointed secretary. The project got cleared the same day.
Dr Kurien was just as blunt with the politicians. The Minister of Civil Supplies in the early ’eighties, V C Shukla, was withholding approval for NDDB’s Vegetable Oil and Oilseeds Project. The same minister’s staff had telephoned the General Manager of the Mother Dairy in Delhi to take back a driver who had been dismissed in a disciplinary case. Dr Kurien met the minister and explained to him as to how the project in question would make India self-sufficient in edible oils on the lines of the milk project. The minister did not seem to be interested in Dr Kurien’s explanation and nonchalantly told him to leave the proposal and he would go through it. Dr Kurien then asked him if there was anything on the minister’s mind, hoping the minister would raise the question of the dismissed driver. The minister did not say anything.
“Dr Kurien then asked him the Planning Commission did not object to the use of stainless steel in the toilets in the Indian Railways. Why was he objecting to its use in milk booths now?”
Dr Kurien then said, “Sir there is this question of a driver that you want to be taken back. Before I came to you I explained to the General Manager of the Mother Dairy that we need your approval to this Rs 300 crore project.”
“So why can you not take this driver back?”
Dr Kurien’s reply was that the driver in question was dismissed on serious charges. He went to the court and lost his case. He said, “If I take him back, I will lose the moral authority to run the Mother Dairy. My staff expects me to support them and that driver will not be taken back. You can now do whatever you want with the proposal before or after reading it.”
The minister was taken aback and slumped in his chair and said, “So what they say about you is true. I will support you but you will have to pay a price”.
Dr Kurien quipped back, “What is the price, Sir”?
The minister said, “You will have to help me manage the Asian Games”.
The next day we were at the Management Committee meeting of the Asian Games and I recall Eswaran, the then Finance Secretary, asking Dr Kurien as to what he was he doing at the meeting. Dr Kurien replied, “Maybe you have to drink milk to jump higher and run faster”.
I wrote an email to all those who participated in the meeting thanking them for their presence and their contributions.My email message and reactions, suggestions received from many of them are given below.One of the many high points during this emotion filled virtual meeting, like last time, were the songs by Dr Hemendra Joshi. There was a surprise too. Participation by Dr. GB Shukla.
Thank you so much for your time and for contributing to the interactions ( बतकही, बतकुच्चन ऐंड कुछ नोंकझोंक) at the “2nd Virtual Vrikshamandir Zoom Baithak” held on 6th September 2021 at 700 am and 730 pm ( India Time).
We missed many of you who had shown interest to join.
– Shekar Roy had sent me a message a day earlier and shared the sad news of death of his daughters mother in law and regretting his inability to join. May she get Sadgati.
We also got the sad news of passing away of Shri Kailash Vyas firmer MD Amul and Mrs Nair. Our condolences to the bereaved families.
– Rajan messaged to say earlier in the day to inform that a relative of his was hospitalised and that he needs go and attend and would not join.
-MK Sinha called on whatsapp while the meeting was going on. He was not feeling well so excused himself from joining. We all wished him and hope that he gets well soon and is ready to join the “3rd Virtual Vrikshamandir Baithak” after a fortnight.
After that there was no news from him despite my repeated calls and messages. I am glad to inform you that I spoke to him earlier today. He has moved from Haridwar to Noida and is staying with his son Shishir. He feels a little weak but was in good form and we had good “old men talk” ( Added 10 September )
– Siddiqui too sent several messages about the difficulty in connecting but despite sending him link again things did not work out.
– Mrs Manchanda messaged me after the meeting was over and regretted her inability to join due to health issues.
– SBS Senmazumdar joined but we could neither see not hear him. He later called me on WhatsApp saying he saw all of us and also heard a part of our conversations. He made comments on my beard. (अच्छानहींलगरहाकाटदीजियेनहींतोट्रिमकरवालीजिये।मोदीजीसेकंपिटीशनमतकरिये” ! ) I accepted the advice that I have been receiving from my wife, sisters and children and after Mazumdar’s “counselling” this time and I got my beard trimmed.
You might notice another gentleman in the picture on your left. He is a friend who lives close to our house. A friend whose ancestors originally migrated from India to British Guiana. He moved to Canada at the age of 18. Sitaram ji is a devout Hindu and has a murti of Bhagwan Shiv at the entrance of his house. He was looking for a rudraksh and I am glad that I found and gave him one rudraksh out of the three that my father had given me.
The next day when I met him I found that he had put the Rudraksh in the middle of the mala of beads around his neck. I could not resist but ask him for a picture and he agreedd.
He does not know from where his ancestors came from India to British Guina but has been going to India and travelled to Varanasi, Prayag, Ayodhya, Haridwar etc. I propose to write a separate blog on my friend Sita Ram. ( Added 10 September)
I have not heard from others who wanted to join but could not do so for whatever reason.
I need apologise for the inconvenience caused to some of you for the difficulty in connecting due to my error in sending link and password etc. .
Internet connectivity, other commitments and the confusion I caused in sending confusing messages and link for the second meeting have been the major causes that came in the way of many of you joining the meeting.
My apologies again. I have learnt a lesson and going forward would be careful.
We had 9 participants each at the two meetings including some who attended both the meetings.
I am not disappointed at the small number who joined at the meeting as I had stated during the first meeting the principle guiding these Virtual Zoom Baithaks are;
– Whosoever show up for the meeting are the right persons
– When the meeting starts is the right time
– When tge meeting ends it ends
And if something good and concrete comes out of it as a result of such interactions It is Gods Gift 🎁
Therefore, I have no regrets and with a deep sense of gratitude thank the “divinity” that resides in each of us ( those who participated as well as those who could not make it) for the opportunity that I got to be of service as a Sutradhar to bring my former colleagues whose “young lives” mattered and who contributed in their own ways in making NDDB of the yore achieve many its objectives.
I would be grateful for your comments, suggestions and most importantly your feelings after attending the meeting. I would like to do a blog by collating your inputs and upload it on Vrikshamandir.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
PS: As suggested by Kishore Motwani I am not sending this mail to you as bcc but addressing each of you so that you all have each other’s emails. I am marking bcc copies to 11 others who had indicated their desire to join but could not and also not sent any message.
Dear Shailendra Sir,
8 September 2021
Thank you for your emails with slides and innovation list .
I was wondering whether it is ok to add following two to the list
1. Encouraging and assisting HMT to set up dairy machinery manufacturing facility and subsequently IDMC as a wholly owned subsidiary of NDDB- with a view to break the monopoly of milti-nationals in dairy equipment and machinery which was required visualising the growing demand of the dairy industry
2. Initiating reforms in cooperative legislation- A model coop Act (drafting and assisting the planning commission’s committee; partnering with cooperative development foundation (CDF) and assisting a panel of Eminent cooperators including Dr. Kurien. With this initiative AP Govt was the first to enact a parallel legislation for self reliant cooperatives (over10000 coops in AP are under this Act.
Dr. Kurien also envisioned a level playing field with other corporates for coops and articulated in several forums about the need for bringing about the powers of RCS on par with those of Registrar of Companies and had also proposed to the Govt amendment to Companies Act providing incorporation and regulation of Cooperative Companies. But this became a reality only much later (2002) with Producer Companies legislation becoming a part of Companies Act
8 September 2021
Yes please we need add, delete, modify the list. As I said the list is not “cast in stone”. Also we all are getting old and memory loss is natural. Though in some cases ( like my father) he would remember his past so clearly but not the present. Towards the end he would not even recognise me. He had Alzheimer’s.
In my case at 75 I notice that I forget details of many incidents of the past but if some one gives a hint I remember.
Both the points you mention are important and noteworthy.
Unfortunately the last meeting due to various reasons did not go as expected. Dr Naware and I had planned to spend more time discussing the list that is why in the slides I inserted blanks to take nots but did not get to that important task and it remained blank 😁🙏🏼
May be in the next meet we focus on the list. Rajan too has suggested some additions.
Marking a copy to Dr Naware to keep him in the loop.
7 September 2021
Thank you very much Shailendra Sir. It is so nice to see the passion with which you have taken up this initiative. Would it be possible to share/email the slides you have prepared? If I understood correctly, you would be putting together anecdotes/important and interesting incidents of the period -1965 to 1998. Best regards Belavadi
Yes, I think by keeping the timeline for collecting important and interesting incidents / anecdotes as 1965-1998 we would cover the period Dr Kurien was at the helm of affairs at NDDB.
I am attaching the PowerPoint slides that I shared in the meetings of 6 September. I am marking a copy of this mail to all others who participated in the 6 September Zoom meetings so that they too are privy to our conversation and get the power point slides. I am also sharing the list of 50 innovations that Dr Naware put together some years ago.
As of now I am not sure about final shape of the stories and anecdotes that get collected would be available for people other than us to see. I keep fingers crossed and hope that we come out with something worthwhile.
I would rather wait and how many and what quality of stories and anecdotes we finally get. I will take a call in consultation with the group that has volunteered to be a part of this initiative.
8 September 2021
Following innovation may be added, if deemed fit:
1. Selling of Blended Vegetable Oils.
2. Sale of Vegetable oils in TetraPack weight basis.
Our ARD lab at NDDB had also developed,
1. choclate bricks for milch animals —— name Minimole ( by late Dr. George kunju )
2. Mumra chikki (Natraj Murthi ) which was a supplement for the weaker section marketed through Ttribhuvandas Foundation ooutreach project.
I am not sure if any of these products developed by erstwhile NDDB colleagues find any place or recognition or mention in today’s NDDB
7 September 2021
As always both the meetings were great. It was nice to see Prusti saab & Dr Motwani after ages. Dr Nawre Saab’s presentation was precise & he explained subtly about NDDB innovation.
I would volunteer for writing anecdotes pertaining to implementation of OF 2 in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra.
There are some stories about Board meeting of Baroda Dairy where I represented NDDB . Probably these stories are post Kurien Saab’s tenure.
I may not be off target stating that NDDB’ s Women Dairy Leadership Programme was a sort of innovation particularly in a male dominated society in rural India. The programme was initiated when Dr Kurien saab was NDDB Chairman. I have anecdote pertaining to this programme which occurrd during my promotion interview. I will share it at appropriate time.
Dr Joshi’s melodious voice gave positive impetus to the zoom meeting.
Looking forward for next meeting.
Hemendra B Joshi
8 September, 2021
It was quite interesting to attend the second Zoom meeting !
My feedback on 2nd Zoom meeting held on 6th September,2021 as follows:
1.Such meeting is really served as boon to people who have been faded up from the screen of mind ,a beautiful recollection and reminiscences are quite nostalgic n how abruptly a lesser known face becomes intimate that was happened in case of Dr Motwani and Sri Nagar saheb !it was quite delightful to listen their dilogues initially looming with question marks n suddenly their expression changed !
2.sinusore of all eyes was the wonderful presentation made by shri Shailendra Kumar ji,how nicely depicted 50 innovations of NDDB authored by Dr Naware..you have nicely underlined the interesting short anecdote write from the innovation such as Development of Amul pattern three tire cooperative system ,depicting the end result of socio economic development of people n improving their living standard !
3.More technical stuff and prolonged discussion over leads to monotony ,it could be made interesting by presently precisely no need to support with data,how it helped is very important what I personally believe!
4.some sense of humour in between would generate more interest how the meeting proceeds while focusing on the agenda.I had note and pen to write down some points so that we could have references for future meeting.
5.I think we all should try through various sources in a joint effort to inform and acquaint our former NDDB employees to join such meeting to have better attendance to sustain interest besides better outcome.
6.I really appreciate shri SK ji for his endeavour about formidable task he is undertaking of making all procedural arrangements with lightening communication with each of us ! At the same time publishing it in the blog ,Vrikshamandir in a beautiful format thus doing commendable work for all of us !Sir ,hats off !
Thanks n regards
B G Pai
7 September, 2021
I could not get the connection. However I shall join on the next/ third oneWith kind regards. BG. Pai
10 September 2021
Since a complete list of fifty innovative ideas is circulated it is likely that there would be fewer suggestions now although we are open for them. Accordingly in the forthcoming meeting the second section of technological innovative ideas may be discussed. That should be followed by section three and four.
After discussion over all four sections let us work out a list of those ideas on which we can develop articles. If necessary two three innovative ideas could be brought under one title.
This way let us generate a list and call it ‘ Table of Contents ‘ for publication. By that time let the participants come forward individually or jointly who would like to write a particular article.
The subjects not chosen by anybody could be assigned to somebody by exploring possibility.
All the articles may be written in next say two/three months.
We will need few editors to go through and edit them. Editors could be writers also. As we progress in future let us discuss the way in which articles could be published whether on line or in hard copy form through any publisher.
Former Executive Director National Dairy Development Board
Dr. MPG Kurup writes with substantial inputs from his classmate Prof.Dr. M Krishnan Nair, Dean , Faculty of Veterinary and Animal Sciences about Prof. Dr.M.N. Menon, Former Animal Husbandry Commissioner & Jt.Secretary , Government of India , New Delhi
Dr. MN Menon was one of the most outstanding Veterinary Professionals in India : the crowning position he held in the country was as the Animal Husbandry Commissioner and Joint Secretary to the Government of India for a period of 5 years.
After a distinguished / brilliant , academic career completed the 5 year GMVC/BVSc Course in 1945 , from the Madras Veterinary College. Dr.KS Nair was the Principal and his Mentor. Dr.Menon , then joined the Indian Dairy Research Institute and acquired their Associateship. He then went to United Kingdom and took MRCVS From the Royal Veterinary College London , and later the Royal College awarded him FRCVS , for the innovative Thoracic Surgery Technique in Dogs , he developed.
In 1958 , the Kerala Government invited Dr.Menon : then Professor of Surgery in Madras Veterinary College , to join the Kerala Veterinary College and appointed him as the Principal and Professor of Surgery . The Government later appointed him as the State Director of Animal Husbandry , in 1961 .
In 1971 , Dr.V Kurien , Chairman of the National Dairy Development Board as well as the Chairman of the Indian Dairy Corporation , persuaded Dr. Menon to join the Indian Dairy Corporation as its Regional Manager in Chennai. Dr.Kurien wanted him to actively participate in the world famous Farmer / Dairy Development Project “Operation Flood” , he launched in 1970 ! Soon he moved to the Head Office of the IDC as Head (Milk Production Enhancement and Procurement : MPEP) , in Baroda , Gujarat.
Meanwhile I was already the Dy.Director of Farmer Organisation and Animal Husbandry , in the NDDB , at Anand , also in Gujarat. We thus became Colleagues in the Same National Set Up. Among other things , one of the interesting and important tasks we did jointly was to acquire from the World Market , very high genetic quality Breeding Stock of Dairy Cattle : Pregnant Heifers and Young Bulls , thousands of them , from Europe , North America , Australia and New Zealand . We also organised the massive Air transport of the globally acquired Dairy Seed Stock by specially chartered Boeing 747 Cargo Air Crafts ,from the International Airports to Various Air Ports in India.
In the second half of 1975 , Dr.Menon was appointed by the Government of India , as The Animal Husbandry Commissioner , as well as , the Joint Secretary , ex officio , in the Central Ministry of Agriculture. When Dr.MN Menon became part of the Central Government , I took over as the Head (MPEP) of the IDC in Baroda and continued the tasks.
Dr. Menon was the Protégée and also the Son in Law , of Dr.KS Nair and has two Children : a daughter and a son. Dr.Menon , after a very distinguished career , retired to his home town ” Thiruvananthapuram ” .He left for his heavenly abode in the late Nineties.
Dr. Menon was a Man of unassailable integrity , both personal and professional ! He was also a wonderful human being. He was my , teacher , Boss , mentor, later Colleague and all through my friend , Philosopher and guide. I can summerise my feelings for him as nothing less than “worship” !
May his noble soul continue to rest eternally in peace , in his heavenly home ! Guru Sakshath Parabrahma , thasmii Sree Gurave Namah.
This funny incident also happened in 1982 in Pakistan. The scene- Hilton, Lahore.
This was our second week in Pakistan. After first week in Islamabad, which was mostly meetings with policy makers and senior bureaucrats in the government of Pakistan, we were now to undertake field visits to the proposed project areas in the Punjab province.
Dr. Kurien left for India after the first week. So, when we reached Lahore, Mike and I were to ourselves, while the rest of the mission members from the world bank had their own way of socialising between themselves in the evenings.
After we checked in the hotel, Mike asked the hotel manager, if alcohol is served in the hotel. The manager replied that as foreigners, we could get a permit that would entitled us to a ‘unit’ of alcohol during our stay of one week in the hotel. He added that the hotel issues the permit and we will be required to do a bit of paper work.
The paper work was simple. We had to just fill out an application form with our passport and visa details. The person responsible for issuing the liquor permit verified the details and issued us the permits. One permit entitled a person to either a one litre bottle of ‘finest’ whiskey made in Pakistan or 16 bottles of beer. So, between Mike and me we had two permit with a choice of picking two bottles of whiskey, 32 bottles of beer or one bottle of whiskey and 16 bottles of beer.
We chose the last option and decided to use Mike’s permit first and picked a bottle of Pakistani whiskey from the hotel’s wine shop.
I don’t know how strict the current prohibition laws in Pakistan are, but we were there during the rule of General Zia Ul Haq. During his time, drinking by Pakistanis and especially Muslims was strictly forbidden. The law breakers were awarded severe punishment and there was an atmosphere of fear among the citizens lest someone is caught breaking the prohibition law that included not only the person found drinking, in illegal possession of alcohol and the one who served alcohol.
The ‘finest’ Pakistani whiskey was a disappointment. And that was Mike’s opinion as he understood the qualities of whiskey way better than I did. And if I couldn’t relish the taste of it, imagine what Mike’s reaction must have been. So, we decided to opt for beer on my permit after we were somehow done with the Pakistani whiskey.
This was the middle of the week and after the day long field visits, we were relaxing in Mike’s room. We decided that we will ask for just four bottles of beer- each was 650 ml for the evening.
I called the hotel’s wine shop and placed the order. I gave Mike’s room number where the beer bottles were to be delivered.
There was knock on the door after about 5 minutes. I opened the door and found a handsome young waiter, in his twenties holding four bottles of chilled beer in a tray. He very politely asked, ‘May I come in sir’? I said, ‘yes, please do come in’.
He then came in and placed the tray on the table. He then passed the bill to Mike for him to sign.
Since, the permit was in my name, I asked him to hand the bill to me to sign. The young man was horrified that a local person was hosting a white man and is going to sign the bill and that too under General Zia’s regime.
We understood his dilemma, exchanged glances and decided to have some fun at the poor waiters expense.
Mike, without uttering a word, pointed towards me indicating to the waiter that he will sign the bill. This young fellow, I guess knew some English but was intimidated in Mike’s presence and fumbles in Urdu, ‘wo sahab sign nahin karsakte’.
As he said this, I realised that he is confused about my nationality and if I used my limited urdu-punjabi, it will confused him more. Why not have some lighter moments, I thought and told him, ‘order hamne kiya hai, to sign bhi ham hi karenge. Ye angrej kaise karenge’?
‘Nahin sahab, aap sign nahin kar sakte. Aap to order bhi nahin de sakte. Aapko pata hai na ki musalmaano ke liye sharaab peena mana hai aur kanooni jurm hai. Aap ko to saza hogi aur aap mujh garib ko bhi jail bhijava denge. Meri to nayee nayee naukari lagi hai’.
This knowledge was more fun. I decided to carry on the tussle for a while as Mike continued to enjoy it. Mike, although didn’t speak Hindi, could understand what was going on between me and the waiter and signalled me to carry on for a little longer.
I then changed my expression- pseudo anger and told the waiter firmly, ‘Hum na sirf bill sign karaenge, balki poori do bottle beer bhi piyenge. Chupchap bill hamare hawale karo’.
Poor fellow was terrified. The fear of losing the job had taken him over. I saw his frightened expression. Then he acted fast, hurriedly picked the tray and held it close to his chest.
‘Sahab,aap ko bataya na ki Pakistani log aur khas kar musalmaan sharab nahi pi sakte. Ye kanooni gunah hai. Aap musalmaan hokar bhi ye baat nahi samajh rahe ho’. He fired the last salvo and turned towards the door.
I then stopped him, asked him to keep the tray on the table, pulled out my passport and showed it to him.
I said, Main Hindustani hoon. Jara mera naam padho, kya ye Muslim naam hai’?
As he read my name, he turned pale. With tears about to flow from his eyes, he profusely apologised and requested me to not to complain to the hotel management about his rude behaviour.
I smiled and told him that He doesn’t have to fear as we were just having a little fun at your expense. We have no intention to harm you in any way. I then signed the bill and tipped him double the normal amount. He was hesitant to take the tip but we insisted saying, ‘this is just a token reward for your sincerity towards your job’.
He left reassured with a smile and we had the most courteous room service for the rest of the three days in the hotel.
G.Krishnan started his career in the NDDB as a Graduate Apprentice in 1973 and subsequently worked in the Planning Division and the Oilseeds and Vegetable Oil Wing. In 1978,he went on deputation to CLUSA and worked in the vegetable oil project for a brief period.
Krishnan left NDDB in 1978 and worked in the banking sector. He was for a number of years Senior Economist with the Central Bank of India, and the Reserve Bank of India Mumbai. After opting for voluntary retirement from the Bank in 2000,he has been actively involved in various environmental struggles in the Southern Western Ghats.Krishnan has also been involved in various RTI related issues in Kerala.He is presently settled in a small agricultural farm in Kerala and finds happiness in the company his rubber and nutmeg trees.
The blog titled ‘Aching Joys’which appeared a few days back in Vrikshamandir contained two photographs of a lady attired in a blue dress,surrounded by three others.Clearly,the lady in blue sort of looked out of place in the midst of three city slickers (an expression which I learned from Prof. Michael Halse!).
Soon after it’s publication,a few of my former friends and colleagues started contacting me to know a little more about rubber and other plantation crops.However,most were curious to know more about the mysterious lady in blue!
Surprise,surprise. Though unfamiliar to many of us,this mysterious character is one of the better known and widely recognized faces in Kerala as well as environmental activists. She is Geetha V.K, the first woman chieftain or ‘Oorumooppathi’ of a tribal settlement in Kerala,belonging to the forest dwelling Kadar community.
In Malayalam, Kadar means forest dwellers.They live in small communities and eak out a living from the forest.Today,there are only about 1800 Kadars in India and 90% of them live in nine settlements near our neighborhood. They do not undertake farming or any other form of agriculture. Essentially, they survive by collecting honey and medicinal plants from the forest in which they live. They consume a lot of fish too which is available in abundance in the Chalakudi river,on the banks of which most of their settlements are located.
Geetha is only 32 years old and is the first person from her community to complete schooling.Being the tribal chief –incidentally,as per protocol,any outsider,including government officials require her consent to enter the settlement.
Being the Oorumooppathy,many would imagine her to be aggressive and fierce.On the contrary, she is a rare and soothing presence in the middle of the dense Western Ghat forests. With her mild manners and soft spoken words, she has amazed each one of us who have known her and worked with her.
Top row from left to right; 1- Geetha with Bhoomika Award 2018 for environmental protection 2- Geetha leading the anti dam agitation at Vazachal settlement Bottom row from left to right 1- Wives of former NDDB employees with Geetha 2- Athirappilly Falls 3- Vazachal settlement 4- Another view of Athirappilly falls
The only time I have seen her assuming an aggressive avatar is when the officials of the State Electricity Board appears in the vicinity. This is explained by the fact that her community had to undergo three wholesale displacements during the past 100 years to make way for new hydroelectric electric projects in the midst of dense forests.
Today, her community is being threatened once more as the State Electricity Board has drawn up plans for a new project in the vicinity of their settlement. However, for the past 20 years she and her people have successfully prevented the state authorities from proceeding from the project and thereby preventing one more eviction.
For the purpose,she has successfully mobilized public opinion within the State and filed 2 suits in the Kerala High Court, which rightly points out the fact that the two new proposed projects are planned in land which has been legally entrusted to them by the very same government under the Forest Rights Act-2006.
Geetha was barely 12 years old when I met her for the first time in early 2000’s.During those days,we used to closely interact and work with the Kadar community under the umbrella of the NGO named River Research Centre. Initially,as a 12 year old, she was part of a children’s group known as ‘Kuttykoottam’ organized,guided and nurtured by one of Kerala’s prominent Environmentalist,the late Dr.Latha Anantha.
Realizing her potential, Latha took her under her wings and inculcated the spirit of idealism,empathy for her downtrodden Kadar community and love for nature.This was the beginning of Geetha ‘s celebrated journey which won her respect,awards and national recognition. We ,who have worked with her and known her see her as an embodiment of courage, determination and hope.
Here I am not talking about a flowering or ornamental plant surviving a harsh winter following the ‘fall’ season. I am talking about a man made device for entertainment. And the device- not one but two under reference here are a Radio and a Harmonium.
But why these two poor lifeless things should deserve such a fate for no apparent fault of theirs? Actually the fault didn’t lie with them, but with their rather helpless owners.
The introduction to this story is a bit too confusing at this stage. So let me come straight to the point.
Year 1971. I was one of the initial four occupants of what is known as the old hostel on the NDDB campus. These were the times when after office entertainment meant playing some outdoor games and after dark, play cards or some board games followed by after dinner gossip sessions till midnight, (nay early morning as they invariably lasted until 2-3 am).
I was not fond of cards or board games but joined the small group in our daily gossip sessions. It used to be any nonsense other than ‘shop’. Politics, films, sports, stories- mainly made up ones and what not, but we always had some new masala to stretch the sessions up to early mornings. Although one of us had a transistor radio, we used it only to catch up on the day’s events as a feed for our gossip sessions.
Now, on a working day if you hit the bed at 2 am and have to start next day in office, fully alert at 10 am, then quiet understandably you need about 7 hours of uninterrupted sound sleep. It was all working well for us- especially me as I needed just 30 minutes to get ready and be on my desk at 10 am sharp. I, in fact seldom got up before 9.30 and yet always made it in time, thanks to the room I has been allocated where I had the attached bathroom to myself.
This sweet routine received a severe jolt when the first batch of trainee engineers joined NDDB.
One morning at 5 am, I heard someone play Harmonium and after sometime, the melody of the instrument was joined by a Radio playing Hindi film music. The sound of these two gadgets may have been a sweet melody to the ears of those who played them and other early birds of the hostel, but to my ears, it was unbearable cacophony.
I didn’t react for a couple of days but after about three days, I decided to find out who was disrupting my sleep and that too at an hour when the sleep is in its soundest phase.
The proud owners were both lovers of music. The harmonium belonged to an engineer from Maharashtra, who loved classical music and did his “Riaz” (as most singers to) in early morning hours and he had to play the musical notes at a particular volume to support his singing. The owner of the Radio was from Punjab. He had assembled it himself and took immense pride is his creation.
I must talk about his creation. The radio had some unique features. First it had no body- only skeleton. Second, you needed a plier and a screwdriver to operate it. Third, it had no volume control. Obviously no one other than the creator could operate it. So, if the creator went to the bathroom after starting it, the only way to ‘shut’ the damn thing up was to pull the plug. But you couldn’t do it as he would be enjoying the music while doing his daily business in the bathroomand his room firmly bolted from inside.
On the left NDDB Hostel 1970. Foundation for multi-storey hostel was not yet laid. (Photo SK).Right Top NDDB Gate 1971 ( Photo G Rajan); Right BottomChummery for bachelor officers later converted into Guest House 1970 ( Photo SK )
But the problem had to be solved. So, I and with me others who were feeling as irritated by what had become ‘noisy nuisance’ for us, decided to take up the matter with late Shri GM Jhala, who as head of NDDB’s technical division those days was involved in training of these young engineers.
He said, ‘Just ask them one question,but ask them individually’. ‘What question’, I asked.
‘Will your gadget survive a fall from the second floor of this hostel’, he answered and walked away.
I posed the problem to him while he was on his routine evening walk and he came up with the simplest possible solution.
He said, ‘Just ask them one question, but ask them individually’.
‘What question’, I asked.
‘Will your gadget survive a fall from the second floor of this hostel’, he answered and walked away.
We didn’t have to ask the question. Someone from amongst them overheard our conversation with Shri Jhala.
The problem was nevertheless solved in no time. The fear of a’fall’ is immense!
Kerala got its first outstanding and highly qualified Veterinary Professional : A Practioner , Educator , Scientist , Manager , Development Specialist and Administrator : all rolled into one , in 1955 : when the then Travancore-Cochin Government Found and Appointed Sri K Sankaran Nair : (Dr.KS Nair) GBVC (Bombay) , MRCVS (UK) , DTVM (UK) : who has just returned on retirement to his home Town Thiruvananthpuram , after glorious Service in the Indian Army , Government of Madras , the Government Hyderabad : as the Founder Principal of The Veterinary College they started in Mannuthy , Thrissur , Travancore-Cochin State.
After qualifying as Diploma Holder in Veterinary science in 1914 from the Bombay Veterinary College , he worked as a Veterinary Asst. in the state and then with the Indian Army for four years as Warrant Officer, during the World War I .
In 1920 he joined the Royal Dick Veterinary College , London and qualified as MRCVS ( Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in London. In 1937 , he again visited UK (Scotland : University of Edinburgh) for his Diploma in Tropical Veterinary Medicine (DTVM) .
After the First World War and Army Service , his Sojourn in London. , he started his professional Career as Surgery Lecturer in the Madras Veterinary College , then the Superintendent of the Madras Serum Institute and after that took over as the Principal of the Madras Veterinary College 1941. He modernized the College,upgraded the existing GMVC Diploma Course into a 4 Year Degree Course : BVSc .
He was then appointed as the Jt.Director of the Animal husbandry Department of the State and spent several years building and administering : infrastructure for , research and development in Veterinary health care , Animal Husbandry , Animal Feed and Nutrition , Animal Breeding and Genetic Improvement of Domestic Animals (Livestock ) and Poultry . After an era of modernization , growth and development , he retired from Madras Government Service.
His services were then availed of by the Osmania University as Professor of Animal Husbandry and Principal of the Osmania Veterinary College in Hyderabad. After distinguished hwork for 4 years in Hyderabad , he retired and returned to his home town , Thiruvananthapuram.
The growth and Development of the New Kerala Veterinary College was the outcome of the Leadership , Wisdom , Knowledge , Expertise , Vision and Experience of this Doyen of the Veterinary Profession. He established a strong foundation for the College , ensured all teaching and student facilities / amenities and equipment .
I myself was an alumnus of this college and his Student in the first batch of BVSc : 1955-59 : my Smarananjalies and Adaranjalies for this Vandaneeya Gurushresta.
(Source : Prof.Dr.M.Krishnan Nair. Former Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary and Animal Sciences ) 🌺🙏❤️🌸🌺🙏❤️🌸🌺🙏❤️🌸🌺🙏❤️🌸🌺🙏❤️🌸🌺
Year 1982. I was in Karachi with Mike (Dr. Michael Halse, my guru). We were members the Pakistan Dairy Sector Review Mission fielded by the World Bank and led by Dr. V. Kurien.
The evening we reached Karachi, Mike told me that he had a call from the principal of his high school in London just a couple of days before our leaving India for Pakistan. The principal invited him for ‘The old boys’ meet scheduled later that year in London. Mike also told him that he is going to Pakistan in the next two days and will be out there for a month.
His principal asked him, ‘Are you going to visit Karachi?’
‘Yes’ Mike replied.
To this his principal made an unusual request, ‘While in Karachi, can you look for a man by the name Cowasji/ Kowasji? He was a student of our school during the same period you were in the school. He was probably a couple of years your senior and was a very good cricket player’.
The principal didn’t know his full name, address or phone number.
So, Mike asked me, ‘RK, how do we try looking for this man? I have never met him or heard of him, but I did promise my principal that I would try and look for him while I am in Karachi’.
I suggested that since we are here for a week, we will scan through the telephone directory and call a few numbers every evening. ‘After all how many Cowasjis/ Kowasjis are likely to be listed in- 20, 25 may be 30 at max’. I said.
And this looked quite doable.
So, the next thing we did was to open the directory and make a beginning. We first decided to go through names listed under C, call them first and then go to names listed under K.
I opened the directory, went to the listing and found that there were nearly three pages full of Cowasji and the listing was in two columns on each page. ‘That’s hell of a lot of Cowasjis. Karachi seems to be full of them’. Mike exclaimed and continued, ‘I hope we don’t have as many listed under K. Looks like we will spend all seven days looking for this cricketeer Cowasji’.
We anyway decided to begin the search with the first Cowasji entry under C. We didn’t even bother to go to the listing under K lest that dampens our spirit.
I called the first number. A gentleman from the other side picked the phone and said, ‘Hello, Cowasji speaking. May I help you’?
I introduced myself and said that I am from India and that my English friend is looking for one of his school seniors who studied in England during the late ‘40s and who played cricket. He now lives in Karachi. Sir do you know that Cowasji?’
‘I am sorry, I don’t and I can’t help you’ and he disconnected.
I called the sixth number. ‘Cowasji &Co’. How can I help you’?
Cowasjee family of Karachi
Reading this story I got curious about Cowasji / Cowasjee and internet search resulted in Ardeshir Cowasjee from Karachi. I don’t know if Mikes school mate was from this family of Cowasjee or not. But surely Ardeshir Cowasjeeof Karachi was an interesting individual.
I tried the second number but no luck. I tried 3rd, 4th, 5th numbers and no luck. I then told Mike, I am going to call the last number for the day. If we are not in luck today, we will go for dinner and then try tomorrow from the next number onwards. He agreed.
‘I don’t know him, but if you call ‘Cowasji, Cowasji, Cowasji, Cowasji & Co, they maybe able to help’. He gave us the number of the ‘all Cowasji company’.
Since we had the number, we in our wisdom decided to immediately call this number.
‘Cowasji, Cowasji, Cowasji, Cowasji & Co’. How can I help you?
For the last time, I repeated the request. ‘Oh, I guess I know him. I’ll give you a number. Call him, he MAY be the man you are looking for.
I hesitantly called this number.
‘Hellos, Cowasji here. May I know who is calling’?
I repeated the story.
‘Oh, did you also study in that school’? He asked me. I said, ‘I didn’t but this friend of mine who is with me right now was in that school during the same time you were there’..
‘I will be very happy to meet you and your friend tomorrow. Where are you staying’?
I gave him our hotel address and room numbers. I then handed the phone to Mike. They had a nostalgic conversation for next 25 minutes or so. Mike was very very happy to locate ‘The Cowasji’.
Next evening Cowasji came to meet us at the hotel with his wife.
‘She is my wife-second’ he said, and she promptly added ‘and he is my husband-third’.
That was a happy ending to our search for ‘The Cowasji’ in Karachi on the first day itself. It was quite an interesting experience.