the man behind the success of Amul. Kurien is called as the “father of the white revolution” in India. He is also known as the Milkman of India. Kurien, set up the Anand model of cooperative dairy development, engineered the White Revolution in India, and made India the largest milk producer in the world.
With a background in mechanical engineering – his education included a Master of Science with distinction – Dr. Kurien began work as a dairy engineer in Anand in 1949. At the time, private dairies, middlemen, and inefficient collection and distribution systems resulted in milk of varying quality being erratically available across the country, often at high prices to consumers but with little profit for the producers. Dr. Kurien used his experience to work with the manager of the local Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union to build an in-house processing plant and organize the cooperative to handle its own marketing directly to consumers.
After years of initial struggle, the cooperative began to produce dramatic results, involving over two million farmers. Based on its successes, Prime Minister Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri created the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) in 1965 to replicate the model nationally.The Prime Minister cited Dr. Kurien’s “extraordinary and dynamic leadership” upon naming him chairman.
When Operation Flood began in 1970, total annual milk procurement was only 190,000 tons, with 278,000 farmers involved in the program. By 1998, at the time of Dr Kurien’s retirement as chairman, the NDDB’s programs involved more than ten million dairy producers in 81,000 cooperatives, supplying almost five million tons of milk annually to over 1000 cities and towns throughout that country. Reaching nearly 250 million people, Operation Flood was the largest agricultural development program in the world. India has also emerged as the largest producer of milk in the world, surpassing the United States.
During the last 40 years, India’s annual milk production has increased from 23.3 million tons (1968-69) to 107 million tons (2005-06) and to a projected 110.2 million tons in 2006-2007. Daily per capita milk consumption in India has more than doubled from a low of 107 grams in 1970 to over 230 grams; the country’s dairy supply continues to grow 3.8 percent annually, while population only grows 2 percent, thus increasing the per capita availability of dietary proteins, especially in areas identified as suffering from nutritional deficits. Domestic milk prices have stabilized, India’s towns and cities receive an adequate supply of hygienic milk, and the 12 million small farmers and landless laborers who make up the majority of dairy cooperative membership now have a regular source of income. In addition, 95 percent of the equipment used in NDDB cooperatives is domestically produced.
Despite these achievements, perhaps Dr. Kurien’s greatest contribution with Operation Flood was to put the farmer in command as the owner of her or his own cooperative – a pivotal factor in the program’s success. “These cooperatives created a grassroots foundation underpinning India’s democracy,” said Lalit Mansingh, Charge d’Affaires for the Embassy of India in the United States. Endowed with decision-making capacities, some leaders in cooperative-member communities have built facilities like libraries and healthcare centers with their profits. The success of the Operation Flood management model led to its application to other commodities. Fruits and vegetables are now produced and marketed through a cooperative system involving a network of over 250 farmer-owned retail stores in Delhi.
Dr. Kurien remained an active member of the international community, holding positions ranging from the Chancellor of the University of Allahabad since April of 2006 to a member of the Advisory Committee of the South Asian Network on Fermented Foods, and chairman of the Viksit Bharat Foundation. His honors and awards are numerous, but most notable are the Carnegie Foundation’s Wateler Peace Prize in 1986, International Person of the Year Award by the World Dairy Expo in 1993, Ordre du Merite Agricole by the Government of France in 1997, the 1999 Padma Vibhushan Award- India’s second highest civilian honor, and the 2000Regional Award from the Asian Productivity Organization in Japan. Known as the Father of the White Revolution and also as the Milkman of India, Dr. Kurien has received over 15 honorary degrees from universities in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and India.
“Innovation cannot be mandated or forced on people,” Dr. Kurien has said. “It is everywhere, a function of the quality of the people and the environment. We need to have enough skilled people working in a self-actuating environment to produce innovation.” To this end, Dr. Kurien was instrumental in establishing and continues to chair the Institute of Rural Management in 1979, which has trained over 8300 specialists in the management and development of rural cooperatives, non-governmental organizations, and civic groups.
“Without effective methods of distribution, food has no way of reaching the tables of the world’s population,” Dr. Borlaug said upon conferring the 1989 World Food Prize on Dr. Kurien. With almost 60 years of ongoing dedication to improving the practice and teaching of effective food distribution, Dr. Kurien continues to educate and inspire food producers around the world.
Dr. Verghese Kurien passed away in the wee hours of Sunday, September 9, 2012, at Nadiad near Anand in Gujarat at the age of 90,
Some useful Links
- THE AMUL SAGA by Verghese Kurien
- Dr. Kurien, 1989 World Food Prize Laureate
- White Revolution
For his contribution to the dairy industry, Kurien has received top awards not only in India but also overseas.
- 1963 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership
- 1965 Padma Shri
- 1966 Padma Bhushan (from president Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan)
- 1986 Krishi Ratna Award (by the President of India)
- 1986 Wateler Peace Prize Award (of Carnegie Foundation )
- 1989 World Food Prize Laureate
- 1993 International Person of the Year (by the World Dairy Expo, Madison, Wisconsin, USA)
- 1999 Padma Vibhushan
- [not known] [godfrey philips bravery award]
- Verghese Kurien’s autobiography: I Too Had Dream
- An Unfinished Dream by Verghese Kurien
- Milkman from Anand: The story of Verghese Kurien
- Enakkum Oru Kanavu (Tamil)
- VERGHESE KURIEN (Gujrathi)
- Sapana Jo Poora Hua (Hindi)
- The Man Who Made the Elephant Dance (Audio Book)