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Kurien visits Erode...
Milk production, particularly from buffaloes, has two seasons: lean and flush. The lean season is March - May and the flush is June-February. Buffaloes produce three times more milk in flush compared to the lean season production. Therefore, while deciding the capacity of the dairy plant, this factor is taken into account so that the dairy could accept all the milk offered by the farmers, particularly the flush season surpluses.

Tamil Nadu Dairy Development Corporation (TNDDC) had introduced a ‘quota system,’ whereby flush season milk will be accepted only in a ratio decided by the Corporation. As per this, a farmer should have delivered a certain quantity of milk to the cooperative in lean, to accept a certain quantity in flush. The ratio decided by TNDDC was 1: 2 (lean: flush), whereas, the actual lean: flush availability was 1:3.

 

Quota system scrapped

The Anand Pattern cooperatives organised in Erode faced this problem during flush: farmers’ milk was being refused while at the same time, large quantities of skim milk powder and butter oil were being used for recombination. Farmers were put to great economic loss as a result of refusal of milk as they were not able to find market for the rejected milk. They were forced into a distress sale situation.

I took up the matter with the managing director. TNDDC was more concerned about its balance sheet, as recombination worked out cheaper than buying farmers’ milk. My repeated pleas to accept all milk offered by the farmers didn’t yield any positive response.

I was left with no option other than seeking the help of C Subramaniam. I explained to the Minister the plight of the farmers as a result of rejection of milk by TNDDC. He immediately called for a meeting with MD, TNDDC. In the meeting, Menezes tried to justify the stand of TNDDC for resorting to recombination and rejection of farmers’ milk. The minister would have none of it.

Menezes realised, though late, that the quota system was impractical and against the interest of the farmer. The only way to encourage the farmer to produce more milk was to offer him an assured and remunerative market for all the milk produced.  TNDDC followed this dictum and never resort to quota system again!  

 

Feeder balancing dairy for Erode  

By 1975, more than hundred Anand Pattern cooperatives were formed collecting about 20,000 litres of milk per day. Considering the total milk production in the Unions’ area (around one lakh litres) and the potential for increasing the production as a result of the assured and remunerative market created, it was proposed to set up a feeder balancing dairy of 100,000 litres capacity with a ten tonne powder plant, two milk chilling centres (at Sathyamangalam and Dharapuram) and a 100 tonne cattle feed plant, under the aegis of the Erode Milk Producers’ Union. TNDDC advocated a feasibility study to decide on the matter. Clearly, these were tactics to delay the matter.

We had extensively toured the Unions’ area of operation, carried out field studies and were convinced that the Union needed a one lakh feeder balancing dairy, as proposed. Such a dairy would be owned and managed by the Union, as had been advocated under the Operation Flood Programme. Collection of milk, processing and manufacture of products and provision of production enhancement activities would all come under the purview of the Producers’ Union. TNDDC’s role would be limited to that of marketing milk and milk products supplied by the District Milk Unions.

A site measuring 65 acres located on the NH 47 at Chithode was selected for the Feeder plant. The site was 13 km from Erode and close to Cauvery River (3 km). It took several days of continuous dialogue with the landowners who finally agreed to part with their precious land for a noble cause. The Union’s Board decided to purchase the land at Chithode out of this fund.

The Union’s Board consented to allot ten acres (out of 65 acres) to NDDB to set up its Regional Demonstration & Training Centre. This training centre was to impart training to the employees of the primary milk cooperatives and the district milk unions in the southern states. Needless to say, all the southern states welcomed this gesture of NDDB.

 

Rural Health Foundation

Erode was known as an important health centre right from the days of the British. There was a well-equipped government hospital and several private hospitals in Erode. In all, there were more than 300 medical practitioners in Erode. People from all over the district came to Erode for availing medical treatment. I discussed with the members of the milk cooperatives in Erode regarding the Erode Milk Union providing rural health services to the farmers. They welcomed the idea and desired to initiate appropriate action in the matter.

T N Seshan was the Commissioner, Department of Agriculture, Tamil Nadu during 1976-78. Seshan was a dynamic, competent and able officer. At the same time, he was known for his imposing nature. He seldom listened to others.

Already there was resistance from TNDDC in empowering the Erode Milk Union, as it meant dilution of the role of TNDDC. Seshan was not happy that I was advocating total autonomy to the Erode Milk Union in managing its affairs, particularly on matters like milk pricing, recruitment of staff, etc.  Many a time, discussion on these topics ended up in heated arguments.

The Monitoring Committee brought Seshan and the Erode Milk Union closer. It was a unique opportunity for me to interact closely with Seshan and use him to the maximum advantage of the Union. Seshan was deeply impressed with the phenomenal progress of the cooperative and the benefits the farmers obtained. He complimented the NDDB Spearhead Team for the good work done.

 

Kurien in Erode...

Whenever I went to NDDB, Anand, on official work, I used to request V Kurien, Chairman NDDB to visit to Erode to look at the work of the NDDB spearhead team. Kurien agreed, but on condition that I took him to the school (Diamond Jubilee School) in Gobichettipalayam where he had studied. Kurien’s father was the Civil Surgeon at the Gobichettipalayam Government Hospital.

Sachithanandam, Principal of the school took Kurien around the school. Kurien recognised the classroom where he had studied, even the bench and place where he had sat! Kurien became emotional after visiting the school and tears rolled out of his eyes. He wrote in the school visitor’s book: “I am happy to visit the school where I studied fifty years ago. If at all my life had become purposeful, it was because of the strong foundation I received in this school.” From Gobichettipalayam, we drove to Vellankoil Milk Cooperative where the bonus distribution function was arranged. The entire village had turned up for the function and the meeting arena was illuminated and wore a festive look. The cooperative disbursed some Rs 23,000 as bonus to its members, during 1978-79.   

Kurien in his address to the farmers complimented them for their efforts in successfully replicating the Anand Pattern in Erode. He wanted Erode to be another Anand and wished every success in their endeavours. A few days after reaching Anand, I received a letter from Kurien conveying his thanks for the arrangement. To me, this was not just a letter. It was the most precious gift I could ever think of: a lifetime achievement award!  

 

Change of events at Erode

By mid 1978 the growing popularity and success of the Erode Milk Union had caught the attention of the politicians, and the elected government decided to replace the existing Board of Directors (none of them belonged to the party in power) with a new Board, all from the ruling party.  I had lost the confidence of the Board of the Union and therefore, I didn’t want to continue with the Union, as its General Manager, any longer. I put in my papers and got transferred to NDDB.

 

Operation Flood-II Programme

I was deputed to Trivandrum for six months, to initiate Operation Flood-II (OF-II) Programme in Kerala. After some clarifications of certain clauses, the Minister immediately dictated a note, in my presence, for the state cabinet, which was to meet shortly. The cabinet cleared the proposal and the OF-II Agreement was executed soon after that.

The next stop was at Bombay. After several rounds of  discussions with various ministers, secretaries and other government officials, Bombay Government signed the agreement. At the NDDB Bombay office, all the staff were jubilant hearing the glad news. The staff, nearly hundred, conveyed their happiness to me in a simple way, by affixing their signatures on a piece of paper and presenting it to me. I have preserved this invaluable gift, as a priceless memento.

I retired from the National Dairy Development Board in 1997. Thereafter, I worked in NDDB as an Adviser for a Livestock Breeding Project in Sri Lanka. Among others, I did a short term consultancy for the World Bank for a Dairy Development Project in Bangladesh. It was a challenging assignment as I noticed that the problems and constraints in dairying in Bangladesh were akin to the ones we faced while implementing the Operation Flood Programme.  Thus, “Anand Pattern” turned out to be ideal for Bangladesh and I recommended it in the report presented to the World Bank.

 

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