1st Sardar Patel Memorial Lecture
January 29th, 1982
Now is the time for engineers to follow the call of Sardar Patel
By V. Kurien, F.I.E., Chairman
National Dairy Development Board
The Institution of Engineers (India)
Vallabh Vidyanagar Sub-Centre
Shri H.M. Patel, President, Shri C.K. Shah, Chairman and Members of Executive Committee of the Institution of Engineers (India) Vallabh Vidyanagar Sub-Centre and honoured guests –
It was with a mixed feeling of pleasure and apprehension that I received Shri J.C. Panchal’s letter, inviting me to present this, the first Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Memorial Lecture. I was pleased to be so honoured — but this feeling was tinged with apprehension. I have been increasingly out of touch with engineering (much more, the practice of it) for some 30 years, ever since I became a manager of a rural milk producers’ co-operative. Thinking about it further, however, I realised that I could perhaps appropriately honour the Sardar’s memory by talking today about how I, as a newcomer to Anand, saw his ideas take shape, under the leadership of the men he had chosen with such skill.
Sardar’s contribution to India’s independence, and to integration of the princely states into the Union, is already well known. What was, however, remarkable in his approach was his understanding that our rural population can be really free only when they are freed from the bondage of the money-lender, the middlemen and the landlord. His early understanding of rural exploitation helped to give the independence movement a special significance to the people in our villages.
The Sardar also clearly saw that India’s independence would be meaningless unless the people were freed from the indignity of bias based on the inherited privilege and prestige by an elite without the conscience. He saw independence not only as a political state — but as an economic state — and as a social state also … With his remarkable knack for choosing people, had he lived a few years longer, he would have built the institutions which his vision of independent India required — and though he did not live to see that job done he did leave behind him men he had chosen to do the job in his name.
He chose Bhaikaka for example. He had seen Bhaikaka’s drive and practical engineering skill in Ahmedabad. He chose him as one of his instruments for translating his social and economic vision into a practical reality.
Bhaikaka set about building institutions to increase the human as well as the material, resources available to the people in villages. He established the Charotar Vidya Mandal for building the rural university — and the Charotar Gram Udyog Sahakari Mandli, a co-operative venture for building rural industries. Thus, Bhaikaka brought together the support and work of the farmers, on the one hand — and his own very significant engineering skills, while also ensuring the autonomy of his new institutions by endowing them with income from viable, productive enterprises, which he established right in the heart of the Charotar Tract.
To meet the Charotar farmers’ demand for institutions of learning which would be suited to their needs, the Sardar started with an elaborate plan, first to set up a College of agriculture at Anand, and then a College of Science — and then a College of Engineering. He entrusted Dr Maganbhai Patel with the task of getting the College of Agriculture established — and he chose Bhaikaka to build up the Science and Engineering Colleges.
Until the end of the first half of 1900’s, dairying in India had been largely unorganised. What we had in those days, in the name of “modern” dairying, were pockets of improved animals at military farms, plantation areas etc. The milk business was controlled by the traditional traders and middlemen, who thrived on loans made to the poor milk producer in exchange for having a lien on his milch animal’s next lactation.
By the early 1940’s, one important landmark of Anand Town was a private dairy called Polson’s Dairy. Many years earlier, Polson’s had pioneered the process of making sour cream butter. During the Great Wars, they had supplied butter and cheese to the British Army. During the Second World War, when there was an acute shortage of milk in Bombay, the then Government had tried to start a milk scheme in the city, to supply subsidised milk to mothers and infants. This milk was to be obtained from the Kaira District — and Polson’s Dairy was given the exclusive monopoly over procuring the District’s milk and shipping it to Bombay.
By 1946, the milk producers had become furious about the milk price. They felt that they were not getting a fair share of the price which consumers were paying for their milk. So they went on strike and refused to supply milk to Polson’s Dairy at Anand.
But, simply going on strike would not by itself get the farmers a better milk price. They went to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel — and he advised them to set up co-operatives, so that they could, through their own elected representatives, manage their own milk business.
He asked one of his young lieutenants, Shri Tribhuvandas K. Patel, to work with the milk producers to help them organise their own milk co-operatives. The Sardar clearly saw how different things could be if the milk producers were actually to own their own processing and marketing facilities. That such a great man could lend his unstinting support to the rural milk producers — that he should so keenly espouse the producers’ cause — was to them quite amazing.
And it so happened that, when I found myself posted by chance in Anand, the Kaira District Milk Producers’ Union (better known by its brand name, Amul) was struggling to expand, under the leadership of Shri Tribhuvandas Patel who had become the Chairman of the Union. Anand was itself then a little more than a village and Kaira District had no all-weather roads. In those days, in the most progressive community of the area, infanticide was quite common, daughters were a liability to be avoided if possible.
That was the situation only thirty years ago. Today, Anand has grown to be an industrial centre. All around Anand there are engineering industries, plus many small-scale units which make, among other things, milk testing equipment, laboratory glassware and so on. Amul has helped five other co-operatives to come up in other parts of the State of Gujarat — and these six co-operative unions have together formed the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation, which provides Joint marketing programmes and common services for all its embers. This pattern — which in the 1950’s and 1960’s provided the model for dairy development in Gujarat — came to be referred to as the Anand Pattern. In this pattern, the rural producers continue to own and tend their milch cows and buffaloes as before. At the same time, through the Anand Pattern Co-operatives, the producers jointly acquire ownership of the dairy plant which processes their milk as well as of the organisation which markets the output of their dairy plant.
The policies of the Anand Pattern Co-operatives are set up by their Board of Directors, most of whom are elected representatives of the milk-producer members themselves. Each Board has, as one of its duties, the recruitment of a professional manager who shall be its Chief Executive and that Chief Executive’s responsibility is to get the Board’s policies executed.
The surest way to see that policies are producer-oriented is to let the producers make them. The best way to get those policies implemented is to enable the producers to employ their own professional managers to implement them. As employees of farmers, managers and other professional staff are going to be sensitive to their needs, helping them build up their markets efficiently — and deploying the best technical people in the business, to make sure that the farmers get access to modern science and technology for production-increasing services.
Another advantage of this pattern is that, because of the close rapport between the field extension workers and the producers , there is far quicker feedback from the producers to their professional managers — and this enables the managers to formulate increasingly realistic policies.
In short, demonstrating that the rural community can use modern technology to improve its productivity — and providing an institutional structure through which the community can command modern technology — is the most important function of the Anand Pattern. Adoption of this, the Anand Pattern co-operative approach on a national scale is a promising path which the country is now following increasingly, in order to achieve rural development which really will reach the rural poor.
The National Dairy Development Board was formed primarily to replicate the Anand Pattern Co-operatives. The first Operation Flood was designed by the NDDB in 1967-68. Its goal was to overcome the major problems which had so far prevented replication of the Anand Pattern outside Gujarat. The basic philosophy behind Operation Flood I was to stimulate milk production and procurement in the 18 rural hinterland milksheds of Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi and Madras by providing an efficient, year-round market for the rurally produced milk. Between the time when Operation Flood I was launched, in 1970, and its completion in 1980, the number of Anand Pattern Village Milk Co-operatives increased from 1,500 to 12,000. Through these co-operatives, an infrastructure was established for artificial insemination and veterinary services, plus supplies of balanced cattlefeed concentrates, to help the milk producers improve their productivity and increase their incomes.
The basic infrastructure created during Operation Flood I provided the foundation for Operation Flood II. This newer, larger programme’s overall objective is to create a modern dairy industry capable of self-sustaining growth — and to provide enough milk for a stable and nutritionally balanced national diet during the 1980’s. Building on the foundation laid during the first Operation Flood, the NDDB will assist Anand Pattern Co-operatives Federations in staffing themselves with competent managerial and technical personnel — and each will be responsible for getting its programme implemented in its own milkshed areas, including artificial insemination and related services, to breed up the milkshed’s share of the National Milch Herd, as well as co-ordinated co-operative procurement, processing and marketing of the members’ milk. Each Federation will be linked to the National Milk Grid, which will have storage and long-distance transport facilities for conserved milk products. Through the Grid, the Federations will market liquid milk to the four metro cities, plus some 144 other cities with populations of over 1,00,000, as well as to smaller towns in and around the milkshed areas. The Grid’s facilities will be used to even out regional and seasonal imbalances between milk demand and supply.
The Operation Flood experience demonstrates the fact that our rural people get access to appropriate modern technology only when they have their own institutions to process and market their produce. These institutions are sensitive to their owners’ needs and aspirations, if only because their managers and technicians are employees of the farmers.
Unfortunately, statistical presentations of the achievements of Operation Flood I tend to direct attention away from the social and economic changes to which the Operation Flood is contributing. The milk producers stand in a queue, when they come to the village co-operative to sell their milk. Thus, they get used to standing in line and taking their turn, irrespective of caste, creed and clan — and in this way, the village milk producers’ co-operative helps to break down social barriers. Then, again, seeing how the co-operative is disinfected to keep down the flies, helps to diffuse a sense of cleanliness and sanitation in the villages. The village co-operatives also provide a forum for discussion of cattlefeed and the problems of animal nutrition — and this naturally leads to discussion of problems related to human nutrition. Again, seeing how veterinary doctors really can cure sick animals leads logically to a new understanding of human health care. Learning about artificial insemination pens the way, by anology, to learning about family planning. The involvement of women into the various facets of the milk co-operatives’ activities helps them to emerge from the limited world of domestic chores and child bearing into the mainstream of social life.
The long and short of it is that, when we talk of Operation Flood, we are not merely talking of “development,” but of development of people — and that surely is what Sardar Patel perceived right from the start.
When Sardar Patel envisioned the agricultural college, the colleges of science and engineering, the rural industries of Charotar Gram Udyog Sahakari Mandli — and the milk producers’ own co-operative dairy industry — his vision was not a mechanistic one of impersonal “institutions,” as such. On the contrary, what he must have envisioned, long before the rest of us, was a set of human organisations which would not only put the tools of modern science and technology into the hands of the farmers — but which would also progressively enable the rural people to develop as a whole, complete human beings, who would be fully aware and confident of their ability to grasp the tools of development and use them in order to fashion, right in their own villages, a way of life which would incorporate what is best out of modern science and technology, in pursuit of their chosen social and economic objectives.
Now, no doubt, the institutions which Sardar Patel envisaged are already, achieving some parts, at least, of his original vision. But is it not time that we professionals took a fresh look at whether we are doing all that we could to make Sardar Patel’s vision a reality? And is this not particularly true of those of us who are engineers?
The process of rural development will be more effective if the infrastructure that is being created has an adequate supply of personnel with engineering training which is geared to meet rural people’s needs. Is it not sad that there is no course of education and training in rural engineering which will really equip a young graduate to serve people in the villages and help to involve them in their own development?
A modest beginning has been made in this direction, for example, in the establishment of the Institute of Rural Management at Anand, to meet the need for rural management graduates who will help to implement such projects as the NDDB’s dairy and oilseed co-operative projects. The Institute of Rural Management is born out of a conviction that all-round, sustained rural development requires specialised managerial manpower for rural producers’ organisations — and that these are crucial to the development of the rural economy.
The Institute seeks to generate appropriate managerial skills through management education, research and consultancy activities.
The distinctive feature of the Institute’s post-graduate programme in Rural Management is that it effectively blends education at Anand with field-based training in villages and in rural producers’ organisations. The Institute’s aim to build up practical, professional rural managers is reflected, on the one hand, by the strong application bias which is built into the courses — and, on the other hand ; by the emphasis placed on the two segments of field-based training, to which nearly one half of the programme period is devoted.
Surely, in similar ways, an education programme in Rural Engineering can also step in, to complement the efforts of the Institute of Rural Management.
The best way to approach the task of deciding what should be the functions and content of this new branch of engineering will be to begin by looking at the main problems which our villages encounter in development. These problems could then be viewed as opportunities for young rural engineers to apply their skills for the benefit of rural society.
Traditional academic courses in engineering subjects are supposed to qualify young graduates for a number of functions: research, development, design, construction, production and management of engineering industries. But I believe that you will agree with me if I say that the ways in which these aspects of engineering are taught are seldom oriented toward teaching the young engineering graduate how to help village people to use his skill.
In fact, the training of rural engineers will have to cut across the traditional specialisations of engineering. Moreover, while one appreciates the need to teach subjects such as space structures, nuclear science etc, to keep our level of technology updated, equal emphasis is needed on teaching the uses of cheap sources of energy and materials available in the rural areas.
Rural Engineering, as a new branch of our profession, can help to link the latest technologies to the needs of our rural population in the fields of agriculture, cottage industries, rural health, housing and sanitation etc.
So far as methods of disposal of human and animal wastes are concerned, the rural engineer will need to know sanitary engineering, as well as the fermentation processes and the bio-chemistry which underlies it. The rural engineer can be trained to plan the roads using locally available material, rather than sticking rigidly to the traditional materials and methods, which few rural communities can afford — and which often fail to serve their needs.
It would not be appropriate for me to attempt, here, even to outline the structure and content of an academic programme in Rural Engineering — especially as there are many others here who are more competent to do that. What I would like to say, Mr. Chairman, is, quite simply, the title which I have given to this lecture: “Now is the time for engineers to follow the call of Sardar Patel.”
In other words, now is the time for we engineers to consider how we can help to carry the work, which Sardar Patel started right here in the Charotar Tract, one stage further.
I believe that we can do this by establishing a new education programme in Rural Engineering. What could be more fitting than that the Institution of Engineers’ Vallabh Vidyanagar Sub-Centre Should take an initiative in this matter? Perhaps they could consider joining hands with the Engineering College, the Institute of Rural Management, and Amul, to devise a programme which will produce the first generation of Rural Engineers: young graduates who will be trained, educated and committed to the task of bringing the sciences and skills of engineering to our villages and putting them directly into the hands of our rural people.
That surely, Mr. Chairman, is what many of our young students would want — and it would be a fitting tribute to Sardar Patel that this new branch of our profession should spring from the tree which he planted, right here in Vallabh Vidyanagar.