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Guzarathukars and Palkarars of Erode...
After several meetings with farmers and discussions with Tamil Nadu Dairy Development Corporation, Dr E Madhavan got the government’s nod for replicating the Anand Pattern of milk co-operatives at Erode. It takes more effort to doing than saying...

The spearhead team  to execute the Anand pattern trial at Erode consisted of persons from various disciplines: veterinary, agriculture, dairy technology and commerce. The Team Leader was a person with several years of experience of having worked in the Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union, Anand (AMUL). Other members of the Team were fresh graduates with extensive training for over a year in the organisation of milk cooperatives imparted at Anand. Since the team was new to Erode, three persons (one Cooperative Sub-Registrar and two Cooperative Inspectors) from the local Deputy Registrar’s (Dairying) office were deputed to work with the team.

Unemployed graduates volunteered to give free service for one year and thereafter they were appointed as supervisors on a consolidated salary of Rs 300. Equipment and various registers required by the milk cooperatives were provided by NDDB. A revolving fund for making regular milk payments to the farmers was also provided by NDDB.

The spearhead team set up a small office at Erode and commenced its operations.

 

Cooperative that never served consumers or producers...

On a hot afternoon, I visited Chinniampalayam, a village ten km from Erode, to meet S K Paramasivan, a progressive farmer, cooperator and a former Member of the Parliament. I explained to him the purpose of my visit: to organise Anand Pattern milk cooperatives under the Operation Flood programme. With a cynicism, he retorted that cooperatives, as a whole, had failed in Tamil Nadu and that the people have no faith in cooperatives. He was a member of the Erode Cooperative Milk Supply Union and had a bitter experience: it served neither the producers’ nor the consumers’ interests. I listened his ventilating feelings on the cooperatives. At the end, I requested him to give me an opportunity to address the farmers of Chinniampalayam. He reluctantly agreed to convene a meeting.

 Along with members of the spearhead team, I reached Chinniampalayam at the appointed time and met Paramasivan. He was surprised and confessed that no government officer ever came at the appointed time! The farmers had already assembled for the meeting and about fifty of them were women. I had collected information in respect of Chinniampalayam in advance.

Addressing the farmers in broken Tamil, I told them about the problems they were facing in keeping buffaloes and producing milk. I explained to them how farmers in Anand solved these problems by forming milk cooperatives. I also told them about the Operation Flood programme and organisation of Anand Pattern cooperatives as a part of this programme. The farmers listened with attention and I could notice signs of willingness to try out the pattern.

 

Raju in Anand

When the meeting was about to conclude, Paramasivan got up and said, “We have a farmer in our village, Raju, who is a Communist. He is in the habit of opposing all good things saying good things happened only in Russia and China. You take him to Anand and let him see the developments there. If he is convinced, you can take it that our entire village is convinced.” The meeting ended on this sage advice.

As a part of the Farmer Induction Programme, Raju was deputed to Anand along with other farmers. He spent a few days at Anand, went around the villages and saw for himself the changes that had taken place thanks to milk cooperatives. On his return to Chinniampalayam, Raju told the farmers that if any good thing had happened anywhere in the world, apart from Russia and China, it was at Anand. Further, he said that was the last chance for them to develop their village and that they should wholeheartedly support the programme.

Chinniampalayam was one of the eight ‘Anand Pattern’ cooperatives, with Paramasivan as its chairman that we had organised in the first lot. It is today one of the most successful cooperatives.

 

The mongrel and the wasp...

As the activities of the spearhead team gained momentum, my visits to Madras became more frequent. Milk Commissioner Menezes was very cooperative and supportive of the programme. After several rounds of discussions, he agreed to introduce the kg fat system for buying milk in the buffalo dominated area, on trial basis for a month in Erode. Further, he cautioned that the system would be discontinued if it failed. The order that TNDDC issued on kg fat system, had specifically mentioned this condition! For me, it was a challenge but I welcomed it. I tried hard to get the price fixed at a higher level, considering the prevailing market price, competition from private trade and above all, the high cost of production. Menezes found me a tough negotiator. Finally, I agreed for the price that was offered. After the discussion, I took Menezes out of his room and asked him to look at a picture that was hung on top of the entrance door to his room. The picture showed a mongrel trying hard to drive away a wasp sitting on its tail and stinging. But, the dog was unable to reach the wasp and it continued to sting. The picture had a caption at the bottom which read “when you find something good, stick to it.” I told him the wasp was me and asked him to guess who the mongrel was. Menezes laughed and laughed until his face (very fair) became red!   

Guzarathukars’ who reformed Erode

As the spearhead team had come from Gujarat (Anand), we were known as Guzarathukar (Gujaratwalas) and Palkarars (Dudhwalas) in Erode. Whenever the team members travelled in the local buses, they were addressed as Palkarars. They thought we represented some private dairy in Gujarat!

My day, while at Erode, used to start at 5 am and end at 11 pm. My elder daughter, Seema, was two years old when we moved from Anand to Erode. At Anand, she was used to the thick, creamy Amul milk. At Erode, the milk that an old woman used to supply (at about 5 am) was watery. It contained about 3 per cent fat and 7 per cent SNF. In the beginning, Seema refused to drink it, but later got used to it but with the addition of malted food. The lady charged one rupee per litre. After a few months, she suddenly raised the price to Rs 1.25. When my wife asked the lady the reason for raising the price suddenly, she said that some Guzarathukar had come to Erode and started buying milk at higher prices. Therefore, the price of milk had gone up in the market! I overheard the conversation, came out and told the lady that I was that Guzarathukar and that the higher prices paid was only for better quality milk. I then explained to her about our activities in the villages and the reason for raising the price. She felt embarrassed and walked away!

 

A sea of change...

I met Sivakumar, District Collector, Coimbatore and explained to him about Operation Flood and its implementation in Tamil Nadu, more so in Erode. He evinced great interest in the programme and assured all support and help. Later, whenever he visited Erode, he had made it a point to visit the cooperatives. His visits to the village drew lot of attention from the villagers, as a Collector visiting villages was considered great. In the coming years successive Collectors’ involvement in our programme had made significant contribution to the success of the programme in Erode.  

When the first set of Anand Pattern cooperatives were ready, we had to open its accounts with a bank. The Deputy Milk Commissioner- Cooperation advised us to open the accounts with the nationalised banks, as the district cooperative bank was not efficient. I told him that being a cooperative, it was logical that the accounts were opened only with the district cooperative bank.

 The Coimbatore District Cooperative Bank had its branches all over Erode, including some rural towns, which made it easy for our cooperatives. I wrote a detailed letter to the Chairman, Coimbatore District Cooperative Bank explaining our programme and the expectations we had from the cooperative bank. The Board welcomed the offer and unanimously resolved to extend full cooperation to the Erode Milk Producers’ Union and its member

cooperatives. The Chairman of the Bank took personal interest in the matter and we got full cooperation from all its branches. Of course, we encountered some problems here and there, but we were able to sort out them. After a few months of transaction, I was told that the Chairman of the Bank had remarked that the bank’s association with the Erode Milk Producers’ Union and its affiliated cooperatives had greatly improved the efficiency of the bank!

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