Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute Dimensions of Development
New Delhi, March 9, 1988
Opposition to Change
The Anand Pattern : A Case Study
By V. Kurien
National Dairy Development Board
Anand 388 001
Mr. Chairman, my distinguished respondents, Mrs. Howe and Professor Menon, and friends. It is indeed an honour to have been asked to participate in these discussions. The Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute symbolises much that binds our two nations, representing as it does a joint intellectual enterprise characterized by mutual respect. I find it a particular pleasure to participate as it was our late Prime Minister, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri whom your Institute honours, who was instrumental in the creation of the National Dairy Development Board in 1965 and who asked me to head it and gave us our mandate – the replication of Anand in other parts of India.
Having expressed my appreciation and pleasure at your kind invitation, I must balance that with mention of my apprehensions. I have been asked to present a case study on rural development to a gathering replete with distinguished social scientists and other experts. As a mere engineer and practitioner, you will understand that I feel somewhat inadequate and out of my depth in such a gathering. I have always found myself in the thick of action, always a participant. Never had I the privilege of being a spectator, watching the action from the sidelines and commenting on it. I take heart, however, in the knowledge that Mrs. Howe and Professor Menon are here to correct my errors of omission and commission.
The case study which I wish to present to you is one that I have titled “Opposition to Change”. The change to which I refer was and is a rather inoffensive one; and increase in the milk produced in India. Consumed in modest quantities, milk is not dangerous to health, addictive or contributive to immoral behaviour. Yet, from the very outset, there has been opposition to our efforts to increase the production and availability of milk. It has come from village leaders, from traders, from bureaucrats and technocrats, from politicians, from journalists and academicians, from multinational companies, from within India and from outside. While I would be the first to admit that we may have made some mistake and that we could well have done some things differently and better, it is difficult to comprehend how even the worst of our errors could have attracted the type of vitriolic, persistent and intense criticism in has.
You may pardon me if I suggest that what we have achieved has been significant. I would even be so immodest as to suggest that if you scan the development horizon, you may agree that few other programmes have reached as many and produced such a significant effect. Let me stress that we have not achieved all that we have set out to achieve; and we recognize that there are important problems which must be addressed. Even so, nearly 5.5 million farm-families have come within the ambit of Anand Pattern cooperatives and I sincerely believe that almost all of them have benefitted from their participation. May I therefore suggest, that examining the opposition we have attracted may be instructive for those associated with other activities, whether in India or elsewhere, that seek to achieve success of a similar order. For, paradoxically, it seem to be the successes rather that the failures that engender opposition. So, perhaps our case study will proved informative and useful to others; if only to alert them to some of the unexpected results their successes may produce.
What I propose is to first provide a brief sketch of what we have undertaken for the benefit of those of you who may not be that familiar with the Anand Pattern and Operation Flood. I would then examine some of the opposition we have faced before offering some conclusions for your consideration.
Angered by this state of affairs, the farmers called a strike and refused to supply milk. Political leaders such as Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Morarji Desai and Tribhuvandas Patel encouraged the farmers to form a co-operative and assisted them to win the right to also collect milk in the district and to sell it to the government. The co-operative began with an initial collection of just 250 litres of milk per day. This was the beginning of the Kaira District Co-operative Milk Producers’ Union, better know today by its trade name of Amul.
Today, Amul’s more than 3,75,000 members supply during the flush season nearly 8,50, 000 litres of milk every day. During 1986-87, Amul’s turnover was Rs.1,525 million and its assets stood at Rs.243 million. It manufactures a wide range of products including milk powder, butter, cheese, chocolates and malted beverage. More important, Amul produces and supplies its members with 500 tonnes of balance cattlefeed every day; it operates a network of veterinary first-aid and artificial insemination centres; mobile dispensaries ensure that emergency veterinary services are available whenever needed. The lesions of co-operation have been sufficiently compelling to have stimulated successful co-operatives in a variety of other areas as well as a unique rural health service operated by the Tribhuvandas foundation.
Let me return now to the period when Amul was becoming established and learning to serve its members effectively. During this time, the State governments, supported by various central government programmes, were experimenting with a variety of approaches to dairy development. These included government sponsored dairy co-operatives, urban dairies and milk colonies. Each of these was considered an answer to India’s declining per capita milk production: each in its turn produced impressive numbers of officials and structures and increasing outlays of funds. Unfortunately, the per capita availability of milk which in 1951 had been 132 grams/day, had dropped below 1190 grams/day by the mid 1960’s. Total milk production had remained virtually stagnant.
It was in 1964 that the late Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri visited Anand. He spent a night in a Kaira district village as the guest of a farmer. During the evening and into the early hours he spoke with the farmers about how they produced their milk, the services provided by their co-operative, their incomes. He talked to poor and rich alike, to farmers of all classes and religions. What the Prime Minister concluded was that the Kaira farmer had no special advantages. The buffaloes of Kaira district were good buffaloes, but not as good as the murrah of Punjab and Haryana. The agronomic conditions were certainly favourable, but not nearly as favourable as those found in the Indo-Gangetic Plain. The climate was like that of much of India. The farmers were decent and hard working much like the farmers throughout the rest of the country. Therefore, what the Prime Minister concluded was that it was because the farmers owned the dairy, because it was their elected representatives who managed the societies and the district union, and because these elected representatives had the good sense to employ competent professionals to manage their business, it was for these reasons that Amul was sensitive to the farmers and responsive to their demands. And, because Amul served the farmers honestly and competently, it had succeeded.
Having seen first hand the success of Anand, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri felt that it could and should be replicated throughout India. He therefore decided that the Government of India would create a body whose job would be to “transplant the spirit of Anand in many other places.” It was thus that the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) was created in 1965.
It was one thing to create an institution; it was quite another to implement a programme. It became obvious that if the NDDB was to achieve its intent, it must have its own funds. It was thus that Operation Flood was evolved.
In 1970, the NDDB succeeded in getting the Government of India to approve Operation Flood and to accept its financing through the innovative use of commodities donated through the World Food Programme (WFP). The first phase of Operation Flood aimed to capture a commanding share of the milk market in the four major metropolitan cities of India. These dairies were to be supplied with liquid milk from modern dairies located in rural milksheds, supplemented by skim milk powder and butter oil. The rural dairies helped balance seasonal fluctuations through separation of milk into fat and other solids during the surplus season and storing them for use during the lean. Since 1970, Operation Flood has extended its coverage to half of the districts in India. Some 5.5 million farm-households are members of almost 52,000 societies. The rural dairies created under Operation Flood can handle more than 12 million litres of liquid milk daily. On an average they are receiving close to 10 million litres in the flush season.
What lies behind the statistics is more important and, I believe, more impressive. In India, dairying is primarily an occupation of the poorer segments of our rural population. Of the 5.5 million families participating in Operation Flood, more than one million are landless. Another 3.5 million own less than four hectares of land. About the same number have only one or two milch animals while only about half a million members have more than four.
The success achieved by Operation Flood has resulted in the demand for application of the Anand Pattern to the production, processing and marketing of other commodities. Today, there are nearly 4,00,000 members of oilseeds growers’ co-operative societies organized on the Anand Pattern. Just recently was dedicated the first phase of an Anand Pattern project in fruits and vegetables which will link the producer to the consumer through a co-operative system that includes 200 retail stores in Delhi.
Let me again make it clear that not everything we have done has been a success. We have experienced failures and have learnt from them. We will fail again in the future and, I am confident, will learn equally from that experience. We have made mistakes. Some have been corrected; others have proved more difficult to rectify. We continue to try. While India has made significant progress in milk production, it is not all due to Operation Flood; others deserve much credit for their contribution. Much remains to be done; it will be done through the efforts of many people and institutions.
Let me return, then, to the “Opposition to Change.” I would hope you would agree that the increase of a nation’s milk supply is a relatively benign activity. If it had been otherwise, increasing numbers of producers would not have voluntarily joined Anand Pattern co-operatives; increasing numbers of consumers would not be purchasing the products of these co-operatives. India is a free country and no one can be compelled to join a particular organization, to market through a particular buyer, or to buy from a particular seller.
But despite the inoffensive nature of the change we seek, and despite the widespread acceptance it has achieved, there has been and it, opposition. That opposition has been strenuous, vigorous and even violent. It has been persistent and occasionally pernicious. And it has come from some of the most unexpected quarters as well as from those whom we would expect to complain. Some of our officers have been killed, some violently attacked, our cooperative oil mill has been set on fire seven times.
The opposition of traders can be expected: before the establishment of a society, they often operate without any real competition. The price they pay is the only price the village knows. The co-operative pays a fair and remunerative price and takes the producers’ milk year-round. Transactions are recorded in a passbook; weighing and testing of milk are done openly and with equipment that the farmer can see. It is not surprising then, that the trader who has cheated and exploited the producer, hates to see this type of competition?
There is sometimes a deeper opposition in the villages though, and that comes from the village leadership. Anand Pattern co-operatives are run by the producers themselves. All members are equal. Think for a moment of what happens when a Harijan not only stands in the same line as the Brahmin but stands in front of the Brahmin because he came first. And, what does the Brahmin learn when he stands in the same line as the Harijan, and behind the Harijan because he arrived after him? What about women standing ahead of men? Does this not teach a lesson in fundamental equality at our grassroots? And, when our Anand Pattern co-operative members find that their leadership is not serving them well, they can and do vote them out. Is this, too, not a lesson in democracy which will be applied in other elections? Perhaps, then, it is for these reasons that our Anand Pattern co-operatives have attracted opposition from leaders in the villages of India.
Until Operation Flood began, most of India’s dairies and dairy programmes were run by government departments and agencies. If a dairy lost money, there was a subvention from the government to cover that loss. If extension and veterinary programmes failed to reach the farmer, there was certainly no group strong enough to complain. What the NDDB had proposed was that these officials work for the farmers and not for the government. I can tell you from years of experience that the farmer is a much more demanding employer than the government. Once the farmer knows that you are managing his organisation and his money, he is simply not going to allow you to go on losing money in an inefficient dairy operation – not when it is his plant and his loss! And, once the farmer knows that you are working for him, he is not going to sit quietly if you don’t send a veterinarian to care for his sick buffalo; or if you fail to send feed on times; or if his buffalo fails to conceive from your artificial insemination. It is, therefore, not surprising that the bureaucrats and technocrats felt uneasy at the idea of working for the farmer and without the exchequer to compensate for any inefficiency, ineptitude or misuse of funds.
There is, too, another aspect to this problem. Many years ago the British colonial government thought that co-operatives might help to solve the problems of the farmer. But they didn’t trust us Indians with the money and other resources involved. So , they created a Registrar of Co-operatives. This Registrar, almost invariably a British officer, was vested with considerable powers with respect to the affairs of a co-operative. He could create, change the bye-laws, supercede the board, or liquidate the co-operative – all by the stroke of a pen.
One would have thought that, with Independence, we would dispense with such institutions which were alien to our culture and to our genius. Regrettably, while political power was transferred, the approach to co-operation remained the same. While the numbers of co-operatives multiplied, our leaders and officials paid scant heed to Mahatma Gandhi’s words, “Co-operation, which is rooted in the soil, always succeeds,” Rather, many Registrars of Co-operatives and their departments have seen it as their duty to uproot co-operatives that have sprung from our native soil: instead they have sought to spread co-operatives merely as extensions of government departments, firmly rooted in the bureaucracy, a soil in which they may exist, but where they will never flourish. We have sought, and fought, to protect Anand Pattern co-operatives from arbitrary and unreasonable restrictions and regulations. Where democratic elections have been resisted, we have not rested until they were held. Perhaps for these reasons we have engendered opposition.
Our bureaucrats and our technocrats also comprise a portion of our so-called elite. It is an unfortunate characteristic of the elite that they think little of those outside their limited circle. And so, I expect, the bureaucrat is sceptical about the ability of the farmers of India to take decisions. Because the bureaucrat works for a government, and not for the farmer, he has not had the opportunity to learn that the unlettered villager is often the wisest of men. We have contended with the arrogance of those who decry the ability of our nation’s farmers to take decisions about the resources that they produce. It is not unlikely that in doing so, we have created opposition to a change which places the power of decision-making in the hands of our farmers.
Unfortunately, it is one thing to wield a pen; it is quite another to feed a cow. Our elitist society gives for greater importance to those who wield the pen and that too in English, than to those who feed the cow, despite the fact that the latter requires an equal or greater competence and courage. What is therefore regrettable is that our own academicians, and those from other parts of the world, have too often not maintained the humility and objectivity necessary if one is to avoid assuming that one’s own values are superior to those of others.
I find that we agree –even whole-heartedly – with many of the concerns expressed by the national and international academic community. Where I depart is when they attempt to measure the achievements of Operation Flood against their own pre-conceived notions of what should be achieved by the programme.
I also depart from those purportedly academic studies which blend fact, opinion and pure fiction into a composite image of Operation Flood as an anti-development programme that serves the interests of a privileged few; or which exploits women; or which denies opportunity to tribals; or which is detrimental to India’s national self-sufficiency in dairy products.
I would be the last to suggest that all academic criticisms are unjustified. Quite to the contrary, some have been well-directed and well-supported by verifiable evidence. We have welcomed such criticisms and have tried to incorporate them in our programme so as to benefit from such insights. We will continue not only to accept, but to seek such constructive criticisms.
What we do not accept, however, is the type of academic criticism which begins from the conclusion that the Anand Pattern is bad and which then marshals evidence – real and imaginary – in the attempt to prove that conclusion. In this regard we have benefitted from the exhaustive and exhausting publications of the Institute of Social Studies at the Hague. Is it not at least modestly surprising that in the volumes of studies on Operation Flood done under the aegis of this Institute, there is not a single paper, or a single observation suggesting even the possibility that Operation Flood may have conceded one or two benefits to a few poor farmers? Is it not equally amusing that this group has yet to raise questions about other development programmes, some of which may be notoriously ineffective and even corrupt?
We cannot help but notice that while Operation Flood is criticised on the ground that it would make India dependent on imports, notice is not taken of the fact that India’s imports are less than half of a percent of its milk production, and that all the dairy products on the shelves of the shops of India are made in India from Indian milk. If this is compared with the situation of our neighbours, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India’s achievement in dairying stands out. The Phillippines for example, imports 98 per cent of the milk it consumes, and yet the Institute of Social Studies and Development Studies is silent. India imports some 1.5 million tonnes of vegetable oil a year, nearly one third its consumption and yet no criticism from Europe or Canada. China has copied our Operation flood after sending three delegations to Anand and having two of our delegations visit them and we hear of no comments from The Hague.
We can therefore only assume that India’s progress in dairying is upsetting the commercial interest in dairying of developed countries particularly, as 86 countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America want to follow the Anand Pattern. One of the finest compliments paid to Operation Flood was by Pakistan, when it invited the World Bank to mount a dairy mission to that country and further wanted that Kurien of India should lead the mission.
They have floated the theory that government to-government food aid is bad. It leads to support of governments that are best allowed to fall, it leads to misuse of aid, does not reach those for whom it is meant, and leads to corruption. Operation Flood happened to be the largest government-to-government food aid project in the world and must therefore be criticised in support of their theory.
It is good that individuals and countries, who have more food than is good for them, should give it to the hungry. It is good for our souls. Reducing food production in a world which has a large starving population is bad. It would debase our souls. May be some institute of social studies should look into this. But let us recognize the fact that feeding the Horn of Africa for so many years has not removed hunger there. On the contrary, a case can be made that it has worsened the problem. Giving food to the hungry at best can alleviate hunger while the aid continues, but does not attack the causes of hunger. I would therefore rather advocate that food aid is used less for alleviating hunger and more as an instrument of development of the same food in the country to which it is donated. This is exactly what Operation Flood is.
In fact, Operation Flood was evolved by us in 1968 because we realized that dairy surpluses were accumulating in Europe and America and this would become a threat to dairy development in India. Some kindly European gentleman was bound to conclude that since public opinion in his own country would not allow him to destroy good food when many in the world are starving, he will have to give it away to reduce his storage charges. How then can he ignore a country like India of 700 million, where millions are underfed. So he is bound to turn up in Delhi and offer the surplus as a gift to India and our wise men here will grab this offer and mount vast give away programmes for milk. Once started, such programmes cannot be stopped and the country will become more and more dependent on imports – commercially, once the gifts stop. And, gifts will stop once the surplus disappears. What is worse, such free or subsidized distribution of milk will depress the price of milk and dampen any attempt to stimulate production. This is why we at the Dairy Board were worried. We got some of the best brains in the country together to discuss whether this threat could be converted into an opportunity. Whether this surplus can fund dairy development. This was Operation Flood,. It was originally called by the World Food Programme which donated the dairy commodities, WFP-349 or some other number. We did not like it—so we called it India’s Operation Flood.
Such a programme will thus not be liked by the non-governmental agencies, which are proliferating all over the developing world. It will not be liked by Christian missionaries who feel they would have received more loaves and fish to distribute but for Operation Flood, and who could have saved more souls. As an Indian working in India, I know how impossible it is to play God in one’s own country and to have his ego massaged. But I suggest Europe and North America need religion more than India does and it is best to leave the propagation of Christianity to Indian Christians like me.
The charge raised recently has been that Operation Flood is unfair to the private sector corporations which operate in the dairy sector. It is possibly coincidental, but somewhat unusual, that a similar argument was presented to the World Bank in a petition from a federation of Indian businessmen requesting that the World Bank refuse finance to Operation Flood III, a view, it is understood was also presented by the development agency of at least one donor country.
It would seem that the complaint of the multinationals in India is that co-operatives restrict their ability to compete. They don’t seem to have any objection to the traditional milk trade which continues to dominate the business . It is the co-operatives which provide inputs and services, which supply the fluid milk to our cities, and which pay the farmer a fair and remunerative price for his milk that they feel are inhibiting competition.
It is well to remember that it was the co-operative at Anand that pioneered the manufacture of milk powder from buffalo milk for the first time when internationally famous experts of several countries opined that it was not technically feasible. When a multinational company was asked to produce condensed milk in India, instead of importing it, they said they could not do so if it was to be entrusted to their native employees as it was too complicated and difficult a product to manufacture. The Government of India had therefore to ask co-operative to pioneer, and when this was done at Anand and imports banned, the multinational company pleaded for permission to set up a plant in India and agreed to let the natives run it. When again another multinational refused to manufacture baby food in India instead of importing it, again it was the co-operative dairy at Anand that was asked by the government to initiate its manufacture, forcing multinationals to follow. And when yet another multinational which made malted milk food in India declared a dividend of 90 percent in the second year of their operation, 100 per cent dividend in the third year and 110 percent divided in the fourth year, it was again the no co-operative that was asked to discipline them.
India is a large country. There is plenty of room for competition and our only request is that it be a fair competition It is not fair for a co-operative to bear the costs of providing feed at cost, if it cannot procure the increased milk that results; it is not fair if a co-operative provides veterinary cover and the milk from the healthy animal is purchased by a milk contractor; it is not fair if the co-operative provides 70 per cent of its milk for sale in the cities and must compete with a firm that produces only higher priced value-added products.
These rules for fair competition are not seen as fair by the private corporations –multinational and Indian – that operate in the dairy sector. Therefore, we find that they, too, are opposing change.
Similarly, when there has been political opposition to Operation Flood, it has been because the Anand Pattern did not accommodate the interest of political personages whose objective was to use co-operatives as a means to other ends. We are fortunate that this opposition has been substantially offset by more enlightened leadership that has a sustaining long-term vision of the contribution of co-operation to our national development.
The opposition we encounter from our intellectual elite is perhaps more troubling and less understandable than that from the village leadership or from our politicians. In part it may be due to the inherent intellectual arrogance of an elite which finds it disconcerting that t villager can be entrusted with the responsibility of managing his own affairs. Whatever the ideology, the intellectual often assumes that his views are inherently superior and that they should take precedence over those of the pastoral masses. One is reminded of Tolstoy’s remark: “I sit on a man’s back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and other that I am very sorry for him and wish to lighten his load by all possible means – except by getting off his back”. This all too accurately characterizes the attitude of some of our elite towards our farmers.
I regret that I find some of the same arrogance in the international academic community. Would it not be presumptuous for an Indian to suggest, despite its millions of co-operative members, that Canada’s co-operative structures are inappropriate to the needs of its people. Yet this, precisely, is what some members of the international academic community have said with respect to Operation Flood and the Anand Pattern. The say this despite the fact that year after year there are marked increases in memberships, in supply of milk to the co-operatives and in other measures of voluntary participation. I fear, perhaps, the international academician may occasionally suffer from the same ills as are displayed by our own intellectual elite towards the rural Indian.
It is a matter of great concern to me that we have attracted the opposition of the multinationals and other firms involved in the dairy and oilseed sectors. No matter how successful we have been, we cannot begin to match the financial strength and resources of these firms. I can assure you, however, that we will not bend in the face of their threat. We will continue to insist that if they wish to compete, they do so on an even playing field, not one titled to their advantage.
In the last analysis, it can only be a source of satisfaction to us that opposition to change only results when there is change. Had we not achieved some measure of success, there would have been no opposition. So the fact and the quantum of opposition is, to some extent, a tribute to our effort – though a pat on the back is far more welcome than a kick directed at other parts of the anatomy.
I also take some consolation from the fact that today, we more often find a welcome and even an invitation from village leadership than we do antagonism and opposition. Similarly, many of the bureaucrats who once opposed us are now counted among our staunchest supporters. Such opposition has declined over time—not because the local leaders or the bureaucrats were defeated, but largely through a process of education and experience. Local leaders learnt that democracy at the grassroots is not a bad thing; bureaucrats and technocrats learnt that farmer-members can be fair and responsible owners, that government structures, their rules and regulations are not suitable for dairy plants.
One can hope that, over a period of time, some of the more strident and less-informed opposition we find among the academicians and journalists will also diminish with experience and education. However, at the same time, were there to be no opposition to change, I for one, would be concerned that we were no longer pursuing the correct course. Similarly, were there no criticisms, I would fear that we would become self-satisfied and lose the will to learn and improve.
Perhaps, then the lesson is that change – successful change—will produce conflicts and will almost invariably produce opposition. In some instances that opposition will arise from fear of the unknown, from the disturbance in the social and political equilibrium. In other instances, it will engender opposition because it threatens vested interests that stand to lose from the competition resulting from change. In still other cases, opposition will arise out of envy, out of jealousies, out of the unfortunate human propensity to attack that which is successful. Those who attempt to promote change must be prepared for such opposition. Even more so, they must be prepared to distinguish between opposition which is inspired by base motives, and that which is well-intentioned. The former must be defended against, with vigour and courage. The latter must be heard and answered, with care and concern. I am here because of this belief.