A journey from Gujarat to West Bengal

Raghu Chattopadhyaya
Raghu Chattopadhyaya

Genesis of milk operation by Amul Dairy in West Bengal

Dedicated to “Father of white revolution”, Milk man of India Dr. V.Kurien

This blog contains a document  titled “A journey from Gujarat to West Bengal” in pdf format embedded on this page. It is written by my dear friend and former colleague Dr Raghu Chattopadhyaya. 

It is the story of milk producers cooperative movement in West Bengal. 

Readers can view and/or download the entire document. 

It actually is more than a story because it provides a lot of data which could be of interest to researchers and also inspire other NDDBians who were the flag bearers of Anand Patrern Milk Producers Cooperatives of 20th Century vintage which gave birth to “Farmer Producer Organisation” in 21 Century!

 My apologies to Dr Raghu Chattopadhyaya for the delay  in uploading this story. 

Please scroll down to read the story of this blog.

Now the story of this blog

Dr Raghu Chattopadhyaya met me at the former NDDB employees meet in February 2020. We met after many years and while we were chatting he quietly passed on to me a A4 size cover which had a hard copy of this document. In the evening I read and liked it. Next day when we met I thanked him for the meticulous work done by compiling facts and figures, adding to that pictures and a narrative that makes it complete. We decided that I will publish it on Vrikshamandir.

Easier said than done.

I moved to Canada in July 2020 and when I started looking for the document I realised that had not brought with me to Canada. I got in touch with him. He shared with me a pdf document. I found it difficult to upload it. I requested him to share a word document. He did but it was so heavy and full of pictures that despite several attempts I could not upload the same.

I was feeling frustrated but realising that technology is not my forte, I kept on trying.

I had almost given up and then by chance in June 2021 I found that there is a very easy way to both upload a pdf document and also enable it’s viewing and down loading. It was a struggle similar to the one I faced in uploading the Vrikshamandir audio page.

जिन खोजा तिन पाइयाँ गहरे पानी पैठ !

The humble giant, guru of Dr Kurien who would insist on paying for photocopying of personal documents

BM Vyas former Managing Director, Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation ( Amul)
BM Vyas former Managing Director, Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation ( Amul)

Bharatbhai had posted this on his blog site in 2013.

There has not been much written about Shri Tribhuvandas K Patel on Vrikshamandir. RK Nagar had written a blog “The Humble Giant” for Vrikshamandir last year. G Rajan also wrote a blog “ How much do I pay ? reminiscing a memorable interaction with Shri Tribhuvandas K Patel. Vrikshamandir feels honoured to publish of this blog on Shri TK Patel that Shri BM Vyas wrote in 2013.

I invite my former colleagues and all others who met and came in contact with Shri Tribhuvandas K Patel “Humble Giant and Guru of Dr Kurien” to write blogs and anecdotes about him.

One more request please leave your comments and reaction on this page. I have not yet mastered the skill of transferring such comments from Facebook and other social media platforms where this blog may appear to Vrikshamandir.

Shri TK Patel by BM Vyas

I was a recent engineering graduate when I joined Amul and it was more for a job, a relatively higher salary than my short previous stint and for the impact that Dr. Kurien had left behind when he had visited my college. Amul in those days seemed like a different land. It had lush green well-maintained lawns, spic and span dairy complex while the rest of the town, was almost a rustic rural setting. Little I knew, that this was about to change my life and that a living god silently working behind the scenes elevating soul of Amul for 22 years would leave such a lasting impact on the nation.

I admit that I was very ignorant then. After living in a neighboring town V.V.Nagar as a student for 5 years, and joining Amul I had neither heard nor read of Tribhuvan. Not even until October 31,1971 when I had already put in 6 months in Amul. I had heard of Bhai-kaka in Vallabh Vidyanagar and also of HM Patel, from my parents and grand parents. But little I knew about Tribhuvandas K Patel, who was the founding Chairman of Amul, and was assigned the responsibility to build a dairy cooperative in Kaira to prevent exploitations of milk producers. This responsibility was assigned to him by none other then Sardar Patel and Morarji Desai.

Tribhuvandas used to deliver interesting speech each year on the foundation day on 31st October and so also Dr. Kurien. All employees, old and new, along with the farmers & milk producers used to gather at Amul to hear them both, with rapt attention and great interest. In addition to that, they would similarly address at General Body Meetings and I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to listen to what they had to say.

Tribhuvandas would describe the difficult circumstances the cooperative was created in and how it is progressing since Dr. Kurien had joined. He would openly say all this development would have been impossible, if Kurien was not there. Dr. Kurien would then speak in English and some one would translate his speech in gujarati. Dr. Kurien would say “Tribhovandas is my guru! When I came to Anand, I used wear green felt cap, smoke cigar, drink and above all I was a bachelor. I had just returned from US after completing my post graduation. It was my good fortune, that here in Anand, I met my real guru. It is the combination of farmers wisdom and professional management that makes Amul a winning organization.”

He would say that those who are fortunate to have received higher education at the cost of poor must remember to subordinate their knowledge to the wisdom of farmers and thus serve the nation and noble cause. “Whatever I have done here is due to Tribhuvandas”.

Tribhuvandas was a visionary and he knew the need to reiterate the right message each year. In each and every meeting, he would mention that Amul as an organization is so designed, that it would always be able to fight any competition in dairy business and win. If anything, Amul milk producers need to be careful is about internal dissention. He would say, “We must ensure that we remove our political caps as we enter this organization. We keep our caste, religion, gender, class aside and just focus on Amul, and the cause. Amul should always watch disruptive forces emerging from within and eliminate such dissentions”. Both Tribhuvandas and Dr. Kurien reiterated these messages a umpteen number of times to sensitize every new member, employee, every visitor, be it a bureaucrat or a competitor!

People now know Dr. V Kurien and his immense contribution but few know of the contribution of Tribhuvandas in creating the most apt and comprehensive business model that resolved huge problems of women empowerment, rural employment, milk production, malnutrition and availability of milk for urban and rural population at large! Replication of that very model pan India in 176 districts in 25 years made India the largest milk producers of milk in the world.

Dr. Kurien used to tell us that it is possible to produce Kuriens, but there is no ‘college’ in the world to produce Tribhuvandas! Give me one Tribhuvandas and you will get a Kurien!

I had little opportunity to directly work with Tribhuvandas. But I would like to narrate a few incidents.

As an employee of Amul, I never went to wish or greet Tribhuvandas on any occasion like Diwali or New Year. Many people did but I hadn’t. If I happen to pass by when he would be in car, he would not expect one to bow or wish him. And if you don’t he would rather appreciate!

Way before attending any of these events, while I had just joined Amul in the purchase department in 1971, someone approached me regarding purchase of a stationery item. I believed it wasn’t necessary and I refused straightway. No sooner had the man left; a clerk came to me and said, “How did you refuse him? He is Praful bhai, the son of Tribhuvandas.” Now, I was all new and fresh out of college and I asked him, “Who is Tribhuvandas”. The Clerk said he is our chairman. I in turn asked him “What does the Chairman mean?” The clerk had no answer.

Just about the time I was appointed as Managing Director of GCMMF, one afternoon Tribhuvandas happened to come to the GCMMF office and was waiting in car while talking to Sri Jaswantlal Shah, former Chairman of Baroda dairy, a close friend of Tribhuvandas and a great Gandhian himself. As I was returning to the office from lunch, Jaswantlal Shah waved and called me. And then facing Tribhuvandas he said, “it was a good decision to appoint BM as MD of GCMMF”. Tribhuvandas very politely said “Jaswantlal you are now 84, but your language still needs to be rectified! We have not made him the Managing Director, it is his work that has made him”.

In his last few days when he was admitted to the hospital, I felt like going and seeing him. So same evening around 8 pm, after work, I paid a visit to the hospital. He was alone in the room resting and Mani ben was sitting outside with some relatives. I went inside, the light was quite dim. No sooner had I reached near Tribhovandas, he said, “ has B M Vyas come?” And then started telling me about the war of independence. In particular he told me there was one freedom fighter called Madhav Pandya. He was so dedicated to the cause, that he did not take care of his family and is now no more. His grand children are living in very poor condition. He asked me, “Would you recruit one of his grandson as a peon, or an attendant? Just so that he can feed the family”.

I was quite shocked! Here is a man, a great national hero, a real gandhian, on his deathbed and instead of talking about his health or pain; he talked straight to point as if he was expecting me! That was the first and the last thing Tribhovandas ever asked me. That too for a freedom fighter who sacrificed his life for the independence of the nation, while unfortunately neglecting his family duties.

In 1984, Tribhuvandas was in Chennai to attend Indian Dairy Association Annual conference and as we were staying in same hotel I used to help him due to his age. Once while travelling, he mentioned “when you were transferred to GCMMF from Amul Dairy, Dr. Kurien before issuing the transfer letter asked me about you and in turn, I asked my son Praful. On hearing your name Praful narrated the stationery incident and he appreciated your attitude. He told me that we need an upright officer. I gave the same feedback to Kurien.”

It is pertinent to point out that both Praful bhai and Tribhuvandas had the same mindset and even after being in a powerful position, they though of the organization’s interest.

Another incident is 2001-02, when we were reviewing our 10-year plan for GCMMF. We had arrived at a gap in milk drying capacity (to dry milk into powder) and we had the options to install 3x30mtd plants, 2x60mtd plant or only one of 100mtd. By this time we had decided to launch milk in Delhi so instead of installing a 200mtd drying plant we wanted only 100mtd capacity. I presented to Dr. Kurien and said we would like to put a state of art spray drying plant at an outlay of Rs. 70 crores and that too ourselves. We will create a project team and execute the project on our own. I explained Dr. Kurien for 5 minutes on why we wanted to go for a 100mtd plant. Just as I completed my reasoning, he said, “Go ahead”. I included that proposal for a formal board approval. Even in board meeting, as I finished explaining the rational, for 5 minutes the board cleared the proposal. I was amazed at their clarity of purpose, their faith in our team and entrepreneurship.

Much later, I was travelling with Dr. Kurien and I asked him how did he agree to such a massive expansion in less than 5 minutes? He smiled and said, “when we were to install our first ever spray-drying powder plant to dry buffalo milk into powder, it had been taken to the board in 1955. Tribhuvandas took 5 minutes to approve! Tribhovandas was not a dairy engineer and the farmers co-operative union was too small to risk such capital expenditure then, but he had tremendous faith in farmers and his professional managers.”

I had been on the board of several public and private companies, but I rarely saw such clarity in decision-making and such risk taking abilities.

Be it Tribhuvandas Patel, the founding Chairman of Amul, Moti bhai Chaudhary of Mehsana Dairy, Jaswantlal Shah of Baroda dairy or Tulsi Rao of Vishakha dairy, they all represented the spirit of Tribhovandas in real sense.

Tribhuvandas Patel was the one who sculpted Dr. Kurien and also implanted the spirit of cooperation in his heart and through him, in all of us. We need a hand full of Tribhuvandas to enable such Kuriens to perform! India needs them the most in days ahead.

Dr. A. A. Chothani and Teliarajas of Gujarat

As remembered bv  G. Rajan, former PS to Secetary,NDDB

“Rajan, could you please come over to my house quickly”

Dr. RP Aneja (Secretary, NDDB ) was on the intercom.

It was on an early Sunday morning. It had rained the previous night. Dr.Aneja seemed concerned about something. I anticipated that there was something serious. From my D-3, NDDB Quarters, I rushed to Dr.Aneja`s house at A-1,…. ..hardly 500 fts..

Dr.Aneja was standing outside his bungalow, waiting for me. 

Rajan: Dr. Chothani has met with an accident. Dr. Aneja murmured. It seems he fell down from the Gujarat Mail early this morning at Sanjan, near Surat. He was returning from Bombay alongwith daughter Amina and her child.

You have to rush to Anand railway station and sit with the Station Superintendent and keep on passing messages that you will get from Mr. Saigal,Diviional Railway Manager, Baroda , who is a friend of mine. You please continue to be at the railway station, till I ask you to return .

Yes sir….. 

I reached Anand railway station on my scooter, after parking the scooter, went straight to Platofrm No.1 , where the office of the Station Superintendent (one Mr.Vaishnav) and his wireless equipment is located. After introduction I settled down. The wireless set started giving broken and noisy messages…that ~ Dr.Chothani is admitted at the Sanjan Railway Hospital (Western Railway)with the external wounds cleaned and bandaged and his family members from Anand should reach him at the hospital at Sanjan.

I was in constant touch with Baroda railway station and Dr.Aneja.  

 Dr. Aneja in the meanwhile had made arrangements to transport Mrs.Chothani from Anand to Sanjan in an official car. I think Shri PV Mathew accompanied her from Anand.

After initial treatments at the Sanjan Railway hospital Dr.Chothani was shifted to the Aghakhan Hospital in Bombay. 

He had suffered multiple fractures as the fall was from a moving train. The speed of the Gujarat Mail at the time of the accident could have been nearly 100 KM per hour. Luckily for Dr.Chothani, he had fallen on a pool of muddy water….and he was wearing a thick Safari suit, otherwise the damages would have been very severe. 

He was also lucky that a track runner noticed him in time. As soon as this man reached the spot, Dr.Chothani gave his visiting card. The runner then managed to stop a passenger train going towards Bombay and helped Dr.Chothani who was badly injured, loaded in to a compartment. The Station Master at Sanjan railway ..station reported the accident, as per the procedure, to the Divisional Railway Manager, Baroda who luckily was Dr.Anejas friend Mr.Saigal.

“After Milk, National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), started marketing of edible oils naming the project ‘Dhara’, it was then that Kurien made many enemies, who had a lot to lose if the project succeeded. Subsequently, Kurien’s most loyal co-worker Mr Chotani was thrown out of a running train. It is believed that the accident was pre-planned by the enemies of the ‘Dhara’ project. Although Mr Chotani survived the accident, but it was rumoured that Kurien could be the next target. When Kurien was asked to hire bodyguards for his safety, he denied at once,” informed Abril SJ.

Gaonconnection 9, September 2019

For Dr.Chothani, things started moving in a jet-set speed….. 

Dr.Aneja has been keeping Dr.Kurien informed of the status from time to time.

Meanwhile Shri Collin D’Lima from NDDB Mumbai office was assigned specifically to help and support Dr.Chothani till the time he was discharged from the  Aghakhan hospital. Collin very effectively handled all issues and coordinated with the hospital, and NDDB Bombay and Anand, sending out hourly messages on the dedicated hot line, tele printer , directly to the Secretary`s office.

Next morning (Monday) the entire NDDB campus was agog with the news of the accident.

As soon as he arrived from a tour, that Monday morning. Dr.Kurien rushed into Dr.Anejas office and I could hear as he was loudly enquiring about as to what was Dr.Chothanis health conditions . Dr.Aneja mentioned that there was a teleprinter message from NDDB Bombay office (Collin Dilima) to say that Dr.Chothani was conscious and that all the fractures have been plastered and all parameters are satisfactory..He further added that the teleprinter message was passed on to chairman`s office.

By then I had already handed over the teleprinter message in question, to Shri Arvind Gupta, then Executive Assistant to Chairman. which Dr.Aneja had marked to the Chairman. 

Dr.Kurien was furious as to why he was not shown the teleprinter message till then. He was upset with Arvind Gupta and expressed his displeasure at the top of his voice, which almost brought the roof down!!

He roared ~~ Don’t you know how concerned I am for Dr.Chothani. He then angrily asked me that henceforth I should rush all such messages concerning Dr.Chothani to him (Dr.Kurien) directly . I nodded my frozen head ….yes sir!!

To the best of my memory, Dr.Chothani continued his stay at the Aga Khan hospital and returned to Anand only after a couple of months or so, that too with a heavily plastered body!! Since he had gone to Bombay on official duty, he was allowed to take leave with full pay so long as he wishes to, i.e. till he resumed his office.

Since he started getting a stream of his colleagues and friends at his quarters, a circular was issued by the Administration, at the behest of the Chairman, that nobody should disturb Dr.Chothani .

Why this website and these blogs

How it all began

Who am I ? don’t know but I know that I was born in a small village Banduari in eastern UP in a farming family known for being “just” given the times that we lived in those days and depended upon agriculture and animal husbandry and also for love of wrestling. I am told that our ancestors lived in that area for hundreds of years …But….

Like my father and his two younger brothers, I too left the village when I was about 21 years old. Prior to that as family stories go my great grand father sent my grand father to study beyond fifth standard to the city some 30 kilometres away. However, after 10-15 days my great grand father started missing his son and undertook a journey to go to the city and get back his son on his pony. Father and son met some halfway in between and came back to the village. That was end of story as far as my grand fathers formal higher education was concerned!

I was considered “good” in studies. My father was the first one in the family to pass matriculation examination and the first post graduate in our village. I also studied as I was expected to get a job and see the world and support the family.

I left the village but the village has never left me.

It was the same case with my father. He too lived away from our village most of his life but kept visiting the village regularly.

My father took the most unproductive ancestral land in the village and made it productive by hard work and investments over a decade and planted hundreds of trees trees and named this small plot of land as VrikshaMandir.

I attempt to continue the work started by my father by planting more trees undertaking agricultural activities and am attempting to develop this place so that it is used by the community especially school going students. .

Some old and recent pictures of Vrikshamandir
Banduari to Anand

My first job was with the National Dairy Development Board of India (NDDB)

NDDB has a website and the address is https://nddb.coop .

I was perhaps the 14th employee and I had the kitchen of a two storied two bedroom building ( Waghasia Building) that existed in 1968 next to AMUL dairy in Anand.

NDDB Office 1968

NDDB campus 1970 some pictures

A major change occurred in my professional life and outlook. In 1974 I was appointed as Executive Assistant to Dr. V Kurien the founder Chairman NDDB, Anand. Although my career graph grew and changed but connection with Dr. Kurien’s office in one way or the other continued till he left NDDB in 1998. NDDB Annual reports have a tradition of publishing name of officers on the rolls of the organisation in different functions. I would find my name appearing in two places a line function like Head of Oilseeds and Oil Wing or Head of Human Resource Development and a staff function like the Office of the Chairman NDDB. I did not last long in NDDB after Dr. Kurien left. That’s a long story and it is better kept for some other time .

Anand to Gurugram

Next seventeen years were once again start from the scratch. In the year 2000 my friend Anil Sachdev had just started Grow Talent Company Limited (GTCL) and I became second employee of GTCL. The company started the School of Inspired Leadership (SOIL https://www.soilindia.net) in 2008.
I have been associated with this organisation since 2000. I will be posting a separate blog on this novel experiment in leadership development higher education with the vision To Develop Leaders with Character, Competence ans Enthusiasm.

The story isn’t complete yet

I decided to launch this website and post blog for documenting life experiences, incidents, and insights observed and reflected upon from time to time by me as well as of those whom I came in to contact with; some of whom deeply impacted the course of my life journey. I am deeply indebted to them. There will be pages on this website and blogs dedicated to their life stories written by me or contributed by them.

Depending upon time of the year I can now be found at Gurugram, Toronto, Gorakhpur and at Vriksha Mandir in my village or any other place on the planet!

Dr MPG Kurup and RK Nagar are already contributing blogs on this website. Many other friends and former colleagues have said that they too will contribute. I hope they will do so soon. I am excited.

I would like to end this by a link to a mantra from Rig Veda. These Mantras are recited at the convocation of the Institute of Rural Management at Anand ( IRMA).