Symposium on Socio-economic Impact of Operation Flood
National Dairy Development Board
December 10, 1983
SPEECH OF DR. V. KURIEN
Distinguished Minister of Dairy Development of Maharashtra, President and members o the western Regional Branch of the Indian Dairy Association, distinguished guest, ladies and gentlemen,
I take it, and I would like to believe it, that the Western Region honoured me by asking me to speak at this symposium because they were aware of the attacks being increasingly mounted on Operation Flood, on everything we stand for, and on me personally. It is, therefore, a measure of your support to Operation Flood, and if I may say so, even to me, that you have asked me to speak to you. But I am also conscious that in this audience there must be people who have grave doubts about Operation Flood. And therefore, when I accepted this honour of meeting with you today to inaugurate this symposium, I did ask the organisers what really was expected of me. And they said what was really expected was that I should explain before the Western Region what really is Operation Flood as I see it; and secondly, touch upon some of the criticisms that in my opinion are responsible and to which I should give adequate answers, or agree that some of the criticisms are justified. After all, this is the Indian Dairy Association, this is a professional Association, and there is nothing wrong if we openly say what is good about the programme, what is wrong about the programme, and what we should do to further improve the programme.
So though many of you may have heard this before, I will plead your indulgence to explain the basic principles underlying Operation Flood. The trouble with these principles is that they are so very simple. So simple that some people tend to overlook it and to could it with emotions and self-interest. Let me first explain Operation Flood.
How did Operation Flood come about? And that should explain a lot about Operation Flood. It came about, as you will know perhaps, because the then Prime Minister of India, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri, accepted the invitation of the Kaira Cooperative, ‘Amul’, to inaugurate their very modern cattlefeed compounding factory, which was set up in Anand, in Kaira District. It was one of the latest types of cattlefeed plants, computerised, automated, and we though such a plant deserved the Prime Minister of India to come and inaurgurate it. And so we invited him. And to our great pleasure he accepted it. And one day shortly after he accepted the invitation The Chief Minister of the State of Gujarat sent for me. And he said to me, “Dr. Kurien, I have received a message from the Prime Minister of India. He says that the programme we have suggested, he would like it to be modified.” And the modification he needed was that instead of staying in Anand in my house as the programme said (you know, you had to stay in my house those days, because there were no guest houses in Anand and no hotels of course) the Prime Minister would like very much to stay as the guest of a farmer in a village in Kaira District. Now this was an unusual request, because, as far as I know, our Prime Ministers have not stayed in a village after their becoming Prime Ministers have not stayed in a village after their becoming Prime Ministers. And therefore, there was this problem of having to arrange it. And so I told the Chief Minister: Sir, if this is to done (and since I have been involved in Prime Ministers’ programme before), you surely are going to depute 300 policemen into this village and the whole population of this village will be 300 or 400, and if you send 300 policemen, what is to happen to this village, and what will the Prime Minister of India see other than a police camp? So, why do you do this? Why don’t you do a new thing like the Prime Minister himself is doing, why don’t you ask Kurien to be the policeman, to protect the Prime Minister? I will protect him, don’t send any policeman.
The Chief Minister then sent for the Home Secretary, who immediately said, this is all very well, you know, but if something goes wrong, and if there is that one mad man or two somewhere in this country, who knowing that the Prime Minister is going to be unprotected in the village, come there and has a pot-shot at him, then it is not Dr. Kurien who will have to answer; it is I as the Home Secretary of Gujarat, who will have to answer. So I am not prepared to let it be handled by Dr. Kurien. But he said further, since I know Dr. Kurien and we are friends, and I know what he wants, please allow us, Mr. Chief Minister, to arrange this our own way and we will do it in absolute secrecy. Nobody will know that the Prime Minister is going to the village.
So, accordingly, as the Prime Minister was driving towards Anand from Ahmedabad, his car alone was diverted to a village. Now, I had picked a hut, no, a small house, (it was not a hut; it was made of bricks), and I had told the owner of this house, a farmer, that he was going to have some guests. And he said, why do they want to come here? I said, you know they are two foreigners who want to spend the night in the village. He said, Saab, why do these foreigners want to spend the night in this house, in this village?.
I said, you know all foreigners are mad. (I hope if they hear this I shall be forgiven).
You know they are all mad; they have strange likes and dislikes sometimes. And if they want to spend a night in your house, what does it matter? He said, all right Sir, why not? But, what shall I cook for them? I said, whatever you normally cook and eat; give them the same things you eat. He then cleaned up the house. The PM arrived then. No, one hour before the Pm arrived, I went to the village for a final check and then I told the farmer, your guests are two people as I said, but they are not foreigners; one is the Prime Minister of India and the other is the Chief Minister of the State of Gujarat. Whereupon, to my horror this farmer broke down weeping, and he said, the Prime Ministers and Chief Ministers are good people. They are also people like you and me, and there is nothing special. You just treat him as you would treat any guest. That’s all that is required. And now, goodbye to you, and good luck.
He said, you are going? I said, yes, I have no place here and my wife is awaiting the Prime Minister in my house, the guard of honour is there, there are Ministers come to my house to receive the Prime Minister. Somebody has to go and explain to them why the Prime Minister is not coming there. So, I went back.
The PM ate with the farmer, and then he proceeded to walk around the village... from 8 o’clock onwards in the evening. Most of the people kept awake while he walked from hut to hut, and he enquired, where do the harijans live, are there any minorities here? Yes, sir. There are some Muslims. Where do they live? May I go and sit with them and talk to them?
Accordingly, he went from ht to hut and he talked to them about cooperatives, about milk cooperatives of which they were members. And what was going on in the milk cooperatives, and were they satisfied? What were their complaints? And how was dairying? And how was milk produced by them? What about their cattle? What about their fodder? What about their feed? He went on like this till 2 o’clock in the morning and then he had to be ordered to bed because his programme next day started at 7 o’clock in the morning.
The next morning I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Shastri for the first time. I received him at the village milk collecting centre run by the village cooperative, and then he saw the working of the cooperative and then he came to Anand and stayed in my house. He inaugurated the cattle-feed plant, and after doing so, before he left, he said, come Kurien, sit down, you and I need to talk.
And he said, Kurien, I spent several hours last night in this village meeting farmers and talking to them and not to any officials for only one reason: I know that in India there are many dairies built by the Government, run by the Government, but I also know this is the one Dairy which is built by farmers and run by farmers and I also know that this dairy called the “Amul Dairy” is the greatest success (if you don’t mind my quoting the Prime Minister) among all dairies in India. It continues to grow, it continues to put out dairy products of excellent quality, it has established a reputation for its trade name ‘Amul’. And this is a cooperative.
And in my judgement, Kurien, cooperatives are all not successful everywhere, how is it that this dairy of all dairies is a success? How visit there is it that this dairy of all dairies is a success? How is it there are no other dairies like this in the rest of India? So I looked very carefully (he said) I looked first at the soil, good soil of Kaira District. But not better than the soil of the Indo-Gangetic plain. Vast lands in the Indio-Gangetic plain have better soil. I looked at the climate. It is cool in winter and very hot in summer, like in most parts of the country. Nothing special there too. I looked for availability of water and so on. I don’t see any special feature. Then Kurien, I looked at your buffaloes, and if you don’t get angry with me, the Prime Minister said, these buffaloes are not all that good, compared to the buffaloes I remember in Uttar Pradesh, where I come from. Those buffaloes are better. And, I looked at the farmers. Good people, as farmers always are; but not as hardworking, not as determined to succeed as the Punjabi farmers. And yet, there is this Anand here.
Kurien, I came and stayed in this village to try to understand, what is the secret of Anand? Now, Kurien, will you tell me what is the secret? I then sat down to explain a few of the principles.
And these, ladies and gentlemen, are the principles underlying Operation Flood. These are very ordinary things, all of you know them. But permit me to mention them once more. The first thing I said was, Anand is here because Bombay is there.
Production is here, because market is there. There cannot be production or anything unless it can be marketed at a price which is advantageous to those who produce it, which provides them with an incentive to produce more. There will be no Anand if there is no Bombay. There will be no production if there is no market.
And I went on to explain: Sir, you must understand that we have excellent people in our Department of Agriculture. Our Directors of Agriculture of all States are very fine people. They have Ph.D.s and so on from foreign universities. They will talk of agricultural development, they will say provide better fertilizers, provide better irrigation, give them better seeds, use pesticides. But, sir, they will never speak of marketing, because they are unfamiliar with marketing. They don’t know it. If you take the Director or Animal Husbandry, he will speak about semen, he will argue about the semen, the quality of the bull, he will talk about proven bulls and non-proven bulls. Some other fellow will say, no, we will have to have our native breeds; we don’t want these foreign ones. They will talk about foot and mouth disease vaccine, they will talk about better feeding, fodder, they too will not speak of the market. They too will not say that if you want to produce anything, or if you want to sell what you are now producing, it must be to the advantage of the farmer. Would you not assume that the farmer is not a fool? If you give him any profit in production, he will produce more. So I said that the first secret was Anand is here because Bombay is there. And I am particularly happy, Sir, to pay my tribute to the Bombay Milk Scheme. No Bombay Milk Scheme, no Anand.
Secondly, I pointed out to the Prime Minister, if you try to create an Anand next to Bombay, let us say within 30 miles or 40 miles of Bombay, you will not succeed. He said Why? I said, because in Anand we have an organisation, a cooperative. We have a pasteuriser, we have a Kurien and company, and when we combine all these, the Bombay market becomes open to us. Without this the milk cannot go to Bombay. So you have these institutional structures, these organisational structures which are necessary in order to take that milk to Bombay, and therefore Anand succeeds. And if you try to build this within 20 miles from Bombay or 30 miles from Bombay, you will fail. Why? Because, you don’t need that pasteuriser to take the milk 30 miles into Bombay city. You don’t need this Kurien and his pasteurisers, his technical and administrative colleagues are not required. On a bicycle, a bhaiya will take the milk and sell it. Therefore if you try to create an Anand very close to the market you will not succeed, because, how will you bear the overheads?
Classical example: Delhi Milk Scheme. They restricted collection to 30 miles radius. And when you restrict the collection to 30 miles radius, and you build a large dairy with a large staff, you will find that the bhaiya will get the milk. And the pricing of milk is unfortunately a political decision. Delhi Milk Scheme decided to sell the milk at a lower price; now with its lower price and higher overheads, who will get the milk? Not the Delhi Milk Scheme but the merchants. In winter, you will get the milk because there is surplus production, but in winter everybody has milk, and you cannot sell it. In summer you don’t get the milk but you have the market so what to do? So I pointed out that an Anand should be created a few hundred miles away from the city. That was the second principle.
The third principle – and you will see that these principles are all very simple – is this: that if you set up, as my distinguished colleagues did in Baroda, a dairy in Baroda and organise village cooperatives around it in Baroda District and collect milk and try to market it, you will not succeed. Why? Because if you are collecting milk and marketing it, then the assumption is, you will market what you collect, no more, no less. Milk is perishable. So if you are collecting milk, you have to sell that much milk, and as the collection increases, the assumption is that the market will increase to the same extent. In other words, procurement and market must rise in unison. Any marketer will tell you that this will require some miracle. And what happens when summer comes and production goes down? The market will not shrink. So, if you collect and market will not shrink. So if you collect and market it, you will not succeed. And most of our milk schemes, which have started under the first, second, third, fourth, five year plans, all of them ignored these very simple principles.
What was our solution to Baroda? I invited the Chairman for a discussion and he said, we collect 25,000 litres, we are selling 25,000 litres. To get that 25,000 litres in summer is extremely difficult. In winter, if more than 25,000 litres of milk comes in, we cannot sell the extra milk. So, Dr. Kurien, we are in trouble. I said, all right, here’s the solution – and this is one of the basic principles underlying Operation Flood – I will give you another 25000 litres from Anand, I will give it to you in summer, you go and capture the market in summer. To which he said, at what price? I said, you are my brother, you are from a brother cooperative, the price is not relevant. You take it, you market it, you deduct your expenditure, give me whatever is left. So the Chairman said, if that is so and Anand milk is good quality, then you give me 25,000 litres, I will certainly sell 25,000 litres in summer. So, he took it and sold 25,000 litres in summer. What was the implication? Those who were getting milk from other sources, from bhaiyas, from merchants, from all the others, their market was captured by the Baroda Cooperative Dairy and then, where will their milk go? Their market was lost. So the Baroda Dairy found that as they captured an additional 25,000 litres market, their procurement rose by 25,000 litres. So, we were operating in a close circle. We proceed on the assumption that in the city of Bombay or in that city of Baroda, everybody gets some milk at some price, of some quality. And, therefore, if you capture that market, the milk which you were previously using, will come through the procurement systems of your cooperative. So, capture the market. This implies that you should have some milk, which normally is not coming to Bombay or to Baroda. And that is the milk powder and butter oil from Europe, which we used to capture the market with. And as we capture the market, the procurement comes as long as your pricing is right.
What is the next principle underlying Operation Flood? That is best explained from the fact that Bombay had 100000 buffaloes kept within the city of Bombay or in its neighbourhood. These 100000 buffaloes are kept here, and you went into it in your last symposium, to produce, let us say roughly, 600000 litres of milk a day. Now, we all know, as dairymen, that buffaloes produce milk for their calves, not for us. So, to bring a buffalo into production, it must drop a calf. No calf, no milk. So, 100000 buffaloes are brought into the city of Bombay with 100000 calves. And, you know that these calves are a liability in Bombay city. If you keep them here, they drink milk and leave you with less milk to sell. Therefore these 100000 buffalo calves are a liability and it so happens that within a period of 15 days of these calves arriving in Bombay, all of them, without any exception I m told, die. They die not because we are not holy people. We are holy people. We don’t kill them, we merely don’t feed them. We dip their mouth in a bucket of water till they die or we trample on them. Whatever we do, 100000 calves are destroyed each year in Bombay city alone.
And in Calcutta, cattle are brought from as far away as Haryana, the finest of our cow herds, because Bengalies like cow’s milk. They prefer to make sweet things like rasgulas from cow’s milk rather than buffalo milk and Bengalis have a sweet tooth, apart from being very sweet people. So they take these cows to Calcutta and they milk them dry. But there is a low that cows cannot be killed, useful cows cannot be killed. So they break their legs, and now they can be defined as useless cows and can then be killed. Calcutta has ravaged the national milch herd from our best milch animal pockets of Pubjab/Haryana.
And if 100000 calves in Bombay, and probably in Calcutta about 175,000 calves, are so destroyed, what a sad thing it is. Buffaloes cannot give milk in perpetuity; after 7/8 months, they will become dry. And in Bombay city, there are not many bulls. So these animals when they become day, they are not pregnant. If they are not pregnant, what shall we do with those dry animals in the city of Bombay? As you know Bombay does not grow fodder. How will you feed an animal which is not producing anything? And who will feed the animal? So, these animals which have become dry are a liability. So they are sent into the rural land 400 miles away to meet the bull, become pregnant and drop the calves and then they will make their second journey into Bombay. But when a buffalo has passed its fourth lactation or so, I understand that it is sent to the slaughter house.
We can argue about the actual figure if you wish. But I don’t think we can argue about these facts. Bombay city alone destroys 100000 calves, the progeny of the finest buffaloes in India – because no one brings to Bombay city anything but the finest under the adverse economic situation of Bombay city. You cannot keep useless cows or low-producing animals and make money, so they pick up the best from the rural hinterland as far away as Rohtak, bring the fines of them here, kill the calves within 15 days and half the buffaloes when they are dry.
Now that is the way, you know, milk comes to Bombay city on four legs, that was the traditional way of doing dairying. So did all other countries in Europe, in America, but as they developed the technology to move milk instead of cows, they kept the cows where they could most economically be kept, to produce milk under the most suitable agro-climatic conditions and brought the milk in tankers to the city to market.
But we learnt the technology over 30 years ago, thanks to Bombay Milk Scheme, and we still continue to do this. Now, if you will look into this further, assume for a moment that Kurien is a magician and he has willed these 100000 animals, which are in this city of Bombay, to outside this city, let us say 100 miles away, where there is water and feed. Assume that he has shifted them tomorrow. How much milk will these animals produce in rural conditions? My answer is that they will produce the same as they produced in the city. They will produce 600000 litres here too. So by shifting the animals, you don’t lose milk. How much will the heard produce in the second year, if 50,000 of them are not destroyed in the slaughter house? The answer is not 6 lakh litres but 9 lakhs, assuming that the area produces more fodder and food to support this extra milk production.
Text year 1.2 million litres, the next 1.5 million litres. But now, in the fourth year the female calves that you have destroyed in the city – the 50,000 of the 100000 calves are females – would come into production. Let us draw a graph showing what this heard in a city like Bombay will produce if they are kept in the rural areas and allowed to remain there where they should belong. Then, the answer is, starting with 600000 litres of milk, the milk production will go up to 8 million litres, provided you increase the fodder and feed availability to support this increased production. Or provided, as someone said, that the area continues to support 50000 of the lower type of buffaloes for the meat market, of Bombay may be then you do not have to produce more fodder and food also, because the herd size will be kept reduced; but now this time the cullage will take place from those who are not the best producers.
So, what is the Operation Flood? Operation Flood is really that if you stop taking the milk to the city on four legs, leave the animals where they belong the help those people who normally keep them to improve their production – provide them marketing facilities, create an Anand for them wherever they are settled, and tankers to bring their milk in – then a flood of milk will take place. So that is how the word Operation Flood came into being. On thinking back, may be it was not a very wise one I selected, I suppose, but anyway that is Operation Flood.
I also selected this phrase “Operation Flood”, because the World Food Programme, who was helping us, from whom we got all these commodities free, they said this product’s name is “WFP-618”. Now I didn’t want this “WFP-618”. I wanted it to be, India’s “Operation Flood” and not “WFP-618”. I had some pride.
Now there is yet another principle of Operation Flood. I am one of those who believe that no one will give you anything until you are in a position to take it if you are not given it. It is no use farmers shouting that they want better terms of trade. They will get better terms of trade only when they get organised. There is no doubt at all about this in my mind and I have experienced this. Labour in India was a grossly exploited commodity before India became free. The labourers, workers in factories, were treated worse than buffaloes. They were just a commodity, they had no rights. After freedom they got organised, their bargaining power came into play. Next they began to bargain, they began to get more and more of the good things of life. They were in a position to demand a higher wage. May be some of you may feel that they have now reached the stage when they get a little more than they deserve, but that is a point which does not concern Operation Flood. The point I am making is that labour got a fair deal only when they got organised.
Underlying Operation Flood, therefore, is this thesis. Here is an opportunity to organise the farmers around a union, you may call it a Kaira Union, you may call it a Baroda Union, you may call it any other union, viz. A Maharashtra Union. The farmers’ Union gets combined with professional management. And you know, I am as good as anyone else to espouse the cause of farmers who employ me. I am as good as the Tatas’ or Birlas’ Public Relations men in exposing the cause – just causes, sometimes unjust causes if you wish –of farmers. And I can thump the table in front of people who make policy and present the case of the farmers. This is the only way in a Democracy, you know. Decision making is made by Governments in a democracy under pressures and pulls. And, if the farmer is not going to be organised to apply and pressure or any pull, then you will have a situation where the cities will get everything. They will get a planetarium, they will get Jaslok hospitals, they will get race courses, they will get fountains with coloured lights, they will get fountains with coloured lights, they will get everything.
There is nothing wrong in building flyovers in Delhi. After all, Delhi is my capital also. There is nothing wrong. It only becomes wrong when you have not built an approach road to a village. There is nothing wrong in having coloured fountains with coloured lights. After all, Delhi should be beautiful. I should take pride in my capital. But it becomes wrong only when we have not provided drinking water in our willages. There is nothing wrong if you have a Jaslok hospital or the All India Medical Research Institute. These are good thing. After all if Kurien gets cancer, where else can he go, and he will live another two years perhaps. But it becomes wrong when you have not arranged to have two drops of disinfectant put into the eyes of a new-born child in a village and that child gets blind. That disinfectant would have cost you almost nothing, and you have spent crores of rupees in building five-star hospitals.
And now why has this happened? Because policy-making is in our hands. We the elite are making policies, and naturally, perhaps even unconsciously, when we make these policies, we make policies that suit us. And as we usurp these resources somewhat shamelessly to benefit ourselves the charitable interpretation is that we do it unconsciously.
Now, therefore, if the imbalance between the cities and villages, the imbalance between industry and agriculture, is to be corrected, then it becomes necessary that farmers should be organised.
I started my life as an officer-apprentice, before freedom, in the Tata Iron and Steel Co. The steel plant was not being run by Mr. Tata. It was being run by his American General Manager. The professional management he hired. He combined it with his money power, with his common sense, with his ability and with his character. But without professional management, this would never have happened. Today, India is the tenth largest industrial power in the world. How? Because we combined our native shrewdness with such money as our industrialists had and we made this country the tenth largest industrial power in the world. I put it to you that the biggest power in India is the power of its people. Six hundred million farmers and their dependants! What will happen to India if you mobilise these six hundred million farmers? Combine this farmer power with professional management, what can they not achieve? What will India not become?
So, well, we had an opportunity of erecting a structure called “Operation Flood”. I, throughout my life have been an employee of farmers and I wish to assure you gentlemen that it is not because I could not get employment in the city of Bombay or in any other city or anywhere else. It is only because I felt I had the best job that I could ever get. I did not do it out of nobility of character. I did it because I had the job which gave me the greatest pleasure, the greatest satisfaction. Money is not the only satisfaction one can seek. There are several other forms, these were available in Anand. Therefore I would have been a fool had I left Anand.
Now when I think back to 1949, it was a sheer accident. I hated it all. By shear accident I landed in Anand. I was not trained to be a dairyman. I did not know anything about dairying. I had no degree in agriculture or animal husbandry or veterinary science. I had studied nuclear physics and I had studied engineering. I had studied physics and metallurgy. I happened to go to Anand, because I had to go there, because I was on a contract with the Government of India, And I met a farmer leader called Tribhuvandas Patel, and he told me that he needed me to put up a dairy, to operate a dairy. The farmers of Anand would be grateful if I remained there and did not go away – though my resignation was accepted by the Government. I was very happy that I lit 13 lights, 13 wicks. The day I went to Anand was a Friday, the 13th. And I was told that it was a very unlucky day. I said it is very good, now I will be able to leave Anand very quickly.
So In Anand, this thing happened that I met a farmer leader. He took a fancy to me. I recognised, in what he was telling me, an opportunity not only to serve myself, because your real pleasure comes when you serve others. And this is another of the lessons I have learnt. If you work only for yourself, real pleasure does not come. Only money comes. When you work for others, something more come and the money is not less also. Incidentally, in any case, it is better than Government.
So, I got mixed up with this Tribhuvandas and his farmers and his cooperatives. What has this combination done? Whether you like it or not, you will agree that this accident has made dairying in India a little different from what it was before. It may have been an accident, but it is certain that dairying has not been the same because this accident happened. This is why I have started the Institute of Rural Management with the help of the Government of India and the Swiss Government and so on to train one hundred managers. But this time, they shall not go by accident, they shall not go after they have studied nuclear physics, they shall go there after having studied agro-business, management of agriculture – with a rural orientation. Then even if five per cent or five Kuriens are turned loose in the field of agriculture each year, will agriculture be the same, just as dairying has not been the same?
So, all I am submitting is that when I had the privilege, and my colleagues had the privilege, of erecting a structure called ‘Operation Flood’, planning for it, we thought, was also necessary. Now I was fortunate, because I had colleagues who were well educated, who understood something of economics, who understood something of sociology, who understood something about planning. They were not just dairymen only. And therefore when operation Flood was being drafted, the question came, what is true development? What we wanted was development of man and that too the most neglected of our men in India and that is our farmers. And this could be done only if we dragged them into the processes of development. Give them the responsibility, you know what the British told us? What are these damn Indians going to do? Why do they want freedom? What will these Gandhi copies do? They cannot even speak English properly. This is what the white man said. Why, is give them freedom, they will only mess it up. How strange; how every strange, that our own people do not trust our own people! Our grate grandfathers must have been farmers because there was no industry here. And we say, how can we let the farmers run the dairy? We officers are all that is required. Yes, we are required. Just as Mr. Tata needed a manager, we too are required. But as employees of farmers, not as their bosses. And that is the only way, Ladies and gentlemen, I have tried to explain the principles underlying Operation Flood.
And naturally, I ran into trouble, I ran into trouble because dairying was already dominated by the Governmental structure. Over 100 dairies had been built in different parts of the country. Whenever there is a problem, a department is created. A commissioner is appointed, a joint commissioner immediately follows, and an additional commissioner. A whole hierarchy is created. Our approach in India has been to gradually and certainly make this country a country of officers, ruled by officers, for the officers. Now I personally feel we should learn a lesson from other countries which have developed dairying, be it New Zealand, be it Denmark, be it Holland. There too dairying has developed. There is no milk commissioner in Copehagen, there is no milk commissioner in Wellington, New Zealand, but there is milk there. Here, in every one of our cities, we have milk commissioners and until recently there has been no milk. So, there are some lessons to be learned.
What we have to do is to organise people, place them in command, be their employees to give them the technical, administrative and other infrastructure and then you will see our farmers will become powerful. And I submit to you ‘Operation Flood’ is the project which places its faith in the people of India, a faith which in my opinion is fully justified, because all the good people of India are those who live in our villages. They live close to nature, they commune with nature. They are not ambitious – all the ambitious fellows have already left, and have come to Bombay and Delhi. All the good ones are left in the villages. And it is necessary that we mobilse these good people, who only want to live and let live, who have no ambitions other than to have a better standard of living for themselves and their children. We must involve them in the process of development.
Ladies and gentlemen, whatever criticism you may have and I may have of the Government and its structure and its bureaucracy – and I am one of the most violent critics – we must also accept that in 35 years this nation, with all the handicaps, with all the criticism, has become the tenth largest industrial nation in the world. India is a mighty country. I have therefore no doubt whatsoever that in the next 25 years this nation will fly its flag among the most powerful nations of the world. Of that let there be no doubt. Whatever the government, whatever the messing up we may do, whatever bad things Operation flood may do, India is bound to become a very very powerful nation. But then you know and I know that power is not a good thing, that when that power is exerted, is used by a few, when the power is in the hands of people who are not good, it can be an instrument for evil, a bad thing. So, I am afraid of India’s power and I therefore put it to you that before the next 25 years lapse, we must bring up the good people of India to put their pressure on evolving the policies of the country.
I want that farmers should play an effective role in shaping the policies of India, before India becomes very powerful. I want these good people to bring pressure on our policy makers, so that our policies are good, so that power in the hands of our people will not be a danger to us or our neighbours. It will be a power that will be used for the good of our nation. So I put it to you that it is necessary to involve them and not to keep power in our own hands, not to keep power in the hands of those who are educated – who have a college education – in the hands of those who are wearing good cloths and have a full belly; let the poor also participate. And then this power will ensure that India will not only fly her flag among the most powerful nations of the earth but she will also hold aloft the flag of all good causes of all oppressed nations. Then the power of India will be a good thing. You may consider us as visionaries; we may say that we are not only dairymen; as developmental economists, as people concerned about other people, it was necessary to erect a structure that would drag our people into the decision-making processes and underpin democracy in Delhi, with democratic institutions all the way right down to the village level. What is the meaning if there is democracy in Delhi, but there is no democracy at the grass-root level? How can that democracy sustain itself? Democratic institutions are the only way.
What is a village society, if not a school, where our future leaders are learning how to manage their own affairs? What is the district union, if not a college where elected representatives go and get “post-graduate training” in management, business and money? Are they not required, if tomorrow our leaders are to be responsible people, used to handling power? So, it is with all these in mind that we thought of Operation flood.
Now I will tough upon one or two questions – or shall I say criticisms – about Operation flood. One I would like to take up, because I think it is criticism well meant, is that Operation flood is merely transferring nutrition from those who probably need this nutrition more to those who are like us, it is nothing but a scheme that transfers nutrition, deprives villagers in order to feed the city people. My answer is very simple. It is true that the poorer the farmer, the grater the temptation to sell all the milk, and to make a little money because his child or his wife is sick or needs money to buy some school books. Whatever the reason may be you must understand that the milk consists basically of two important components, one is fat and the other is protein. Milk fat is three times the price of vegetable fat and even though I am the chairman of the Indian Dairy board, I shall not be able to put forward the thesis that milk fat is more nutritional, better and superior to vegetable fat. Milk protein is three times the price of vegetable protein. But here I will argue that the protein efficiency ratio is slightly better than that of soya protein or pulses and so on, but these arguments have no meaning to a starving man, so he takes protein and fat, available fat and protein, at one-third the price of milk fat and protein.
So I put it to you that is it not really correct to say that this expensive food must be eaten by the poorest of the poor. Instead I put it to you that he should keep a buffalo and produce milk and sell it to us, and spend one third the money he get to recoup what he has lost and the other two-thirds to meet his own needs. The problem – I think everyone know in this country – of nutrition in India is calories. Our poor get one meal a day instead of getting two or whatever they need, only because they are poor. Malnutrition is the function of poverty and the cure for it is to increase the income.
The man who built these skyscrapers in Bombay, he has no house to stay in. Is the answer then to tell him till you build your own house, you are not to build my house. The man who wove this shirt does not have enough cloth to wear. Is the answer then that we close down our mills and tell him, you weave your own cloth? The man who produces our milk, yes, like the man who produces our rice and our wheat, he is not getting enough to eat. The answer is not that he stops his production or stops selling what he produces. The economic answer is that for the fellow who built my house, I offer wages so that he can afford to have, or build, his own house to stay. The man who wove my cloth is given a wage, so that he can also afford to have a shirt on his back, and the man who produces my milk should be paid a price so that he too can afford to keep back some for himself and his children. The answer is not, to say, do not sell the milk because if you do that you get in to the contracting cycle of production and we go back. And that is what I think the economists would accept.
So I put it to you that what Operation Flood has best achieved, is not something wrong. Is something that increases the income of our farmers. We know in Gujarat, they doubled their income. We know in Rajasthan it trebled their income – there the standard of agriculture is lower.
The other criticism probably is about the long delay that has taken place in implementing Operation Flood. Though I said I will do it in five years, I took 10 years. Yes, it is true. It is true that the cost of Operation Flood which was Rs.96 crores increased to rs.116 crores, but it is also true that I increased the selling price of my powder, so that I did generate Rs.116 crores. Food aid has this happy situation that you can increase the value of your food and you can make it to cover your inflation.
But the delay was due to the fact – and that is very well known to all of you – that Operation Flood began when I got this commodity from the European Economic Community through the World Food Programme. I recombined it in Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta and Madras. I needed these four cities in order to create 17 Anands and organise one million farmers. For these cities to recombine, I had to build mother dairies and for these mother dairies I put forward the thesis of bulk-vending. And everybody – all the pundits in the Government, particularly in the Dairy Division of the Government of India – said that bulk-vending would never work. If you put a coin in the telephone, you do not get the connection, you do not get the coin back, and if you, Dr. Kurien, keep this damn machine, the people of Delhi well come, put the coin in, lose the coin that won’t come back and the milk also will not come and there will be riots, there will be no law and order situation and the minister will lose his job. There will be questions in Parliament and all calamities will follow. And therefore, it was not approved. I fought for it for three years bitterly, but did not succeed, they were determined that I should not handle it. I even thought, Sir, that our Dairymen were against it because they wanted a margin of say 75 paise per litre to run their dairies, because they could cap the bottle with aluminium foils, and buy many other things, they were not happy to have only 17 paise margin, which is all that they needed for bulk vending. Anyway I did not get the approval.
Now if I do not build he mother dairy, I cannot get the commodities and recombine them. If I cannot recombine, I cannot get the money. So the time-bound Operation Flood got delayed by non approval of bulk vending. Well. Then I met my minister Mr. Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. A very fine gentleman indeed. I developed a great liking and respect for him even if he did not approve my bulk-vending. And he said to me, Sorry Kurien, I will not allow you to import this machine. But I said, Sir, what does 1.5 lakh rupees mean to India, now please allow me to import 200 and we shall have them made here in our country later on, No. Kurien, I am sorry, I tried my level best, but cannot. Then, Sir are you suggesting to me that if I want bulk-vending, I have to design and build it myself? He said, yes. He said, Kurien, I am sorry,. This is the only way out. So we designed and made it. And it took us 4 years or five years of the project to get it, and that was the main reason for the delay in Operation Flood.
I have taken the blame so far, but I think, this is the first time I say that the blame is not mine; the blame lies with those who said that bulk vending would not succeed and delayed project by 4 years. That does not matter. It is no use passing the buck, I am responsible for Operation Flood, I must take the blame and I take it.
And with this, since the time is up, I will terminate. I will only say this; we must, each of us given some responsibility, always remember that our job is not just to do that hob—getting the milk produced – but we must always seek the larger dimension of total development. It is our job to see that we involve our people in development. If I wanted only to build up Operation Flood, Sir, I would have designed it in such a way that all these dairies were built and owned by the Indian Dairy Corporation. After all it was our money. After all, Government of India built their own factories all over the place and owned them. After all HMT has built a watch factory in Srinagar, which they own. I could have built in Jalgaon my dairy as India Dairy Corporation’s and run it under our name. There is nothing to it. Particularly when you allow the foreign companies to build dairies in this country I could have done so, implementing Operation Flood without any effort, but the Dairyboard did not do it because it is not in the business building its empire. It is in the business of building the empire of farmers. There is no agency of Government, in the whole of this country, which after spending one thousand crores of rupees –what the Dairyboard and the Dairy Corporation will have spent – will own nothing. And I take pride in it.