National Investment and Finance Weekly 34th anniversary, New Delhi
Presentation of NIF Man of the Year Award, 1974,
By the President of India Shri Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed
V Kurien, Chairman
National Dairy Development Board, Anand
20th December 1975
I suppose that there are a few who would have the courage, when honoured as man of the Year, to say “Thank you very much for this Honour. I agree that I deserve it” – and then sit down. Frankly, however, I lack such courage – and, if I were to speak purely personally today, I would have to say that I certainly do not deserve this Honour.
On the contrary, there is only one stand-point from which I could accept it – and that is the fact that I have, for over twentyfive years, enjoyed what must be considered an even greater honour: namely, that of being in the service of the small farmers, the landless labours and the resourceless widows, who are the majority of our country’s rural milk producers. Therefore, I have accepted this honour as the representative of the small milk producer – because he, surely, is the Man of this Year.
Indeed, if you live in Bombay, or Delhi, or Calcutta – or as far away as Madras – I need hardly tell you that this is the year of the small milk producer. You must all have noted how your supplies of fresh milk have improved – by an extra three hundred thousand litres a day in Bombay alone, for example – and how babyfood, cheese, milk powder, ghee and butter – how the supplies of these important products have improved; how their prices have stabilised – and, in some cases, even declined of late.
To a large extent, these changes have come about because the programmes entrusted by the Government of India to the National Dairy Development Board and the Indian Dairy Corporation – of which I am joint Chairman—are beginning to succeed in the helping the small milk producer in the efficient production and marketing of his milk. Of all these programmes, I suppose the programme popularly known “Operation ‘Flood” is the best known. Certainly, it is the largest; the largest of its kind in the world, in fact. And Operation Flood is without doubt now making its impact.
Twentyfive years ago, we had one Anand Pattern milk producers’ cooperative (which is now best known by its brand name “Amul”). By the late 1960’s, we had five of these Anand Pattern milk co-operatives – all of them in Gujarat, where the milk producers had come to place their full faith in this pattern of co-operation. Then the National Dairy Development Board was formed, under the aegis of the Government of India, and it promulgated Operation Flood, as part of the assignment given to it by Government, to replicate the Anand pattern in all the milksheds of India. Subsequently, the Government of India formed the Indian Dairy Corporation as its financing and promoting body for such ventures in dairying – and now, jointly, the Indian Dairy Corporation and the National Dairy Development Board are helping to get Operation Flood implemented.
In 1976, one new Anand Pattern dairy will be commissioned every three months. Anand Pattern milk producers’ cooperatives are being established in the major milksheds of altogether ten States – and the milk producers (especially, the poor majority, for whom milk production is the major source and sometimes the only source of livelihood) are being helped to increase their milk production – and, let us never forget, thereby enabling people like you and me to improve our standard of living.
I must say that I do not think that we can be very self-congratulatory about this progress. After all, our rural poor have been with us for centuries – and have been the responsibility of those who are better-off in our country since 1947. Moreover, the effectiveness of the Anand Pattern, in helping poor rural milk producers to increase their milk production and to improve their income, has been well proved for many years. Yet it is only now that, grudgingly (and still far more slowly than is necessary), the country is mounting a genuinely effective programme to reach out to such people as our poor rural milk producers, to help them without discrimination against creed, caste or community. Only lately has the seriousness of this responsibility been recognised. Only now are we, the privileged elite, admitting that we have for too long bowed to the power, the privilege – and also the perquisites – commanded by those who have a vested interest in the status quo.
It is still a fact that, for example, the majority of those who have even a little milk to sell mortgage their milk for a year, even before it has been produced, for a petty loan at an extortionate interest rate. It is still a fact that private interests can manoeuvre against public policy, when it comes to the formation of socially aware bodies, such as milk producers’ cooperatives – and that these vested interests often receive the covert support of the bureaucracy, in defiance and derogation of the national objectives which that bureaucracy is supposed to served.
These are unpalatable facts – and perhaps you would have preferred it, had I not mentioned them on this happy occasion, when you have invited me here, Sir, to honour me. But, I hope you will agree that this is a fitting occasion for us all to acknowledge that now is the time for the System to change. The small farmer is the backbone of our country; the longest-suffering, hardest working provider of our food. I suppose for the first time in our history, he is coming into his own. He has for a long time been aware of his responsibility to the community – and now, he is becoming aware of the community’s responsibility to him.
Surely, we must welcome this change. It is good for our society that we should recognise the value of honest labour and productivity. It is good for our social health that we should not have to hide away, in the back of our minds, every time we eat a decent meal, the fact that there are millions who would reach out for only a morsel of what we consume in one meal without thought.
Yes, Mr. Chairman, it is in this sense, I feel, that it is good—indeed, it is to me heart-warming – that your honouring me today is really a recognition of the small, rural milk producer as the Man of the Year – and, in the sense that I can be said to represent the small milk producer, I acknowledge this honour with true and humble gratitude.