EMPHASISING THAT the gap between the rich and poor had widened due to liberalisation process, pioneer of ‘Operation Flood’ Dr Verghese Kurien on Sunday said cooperatives were the solution to bridge this gap.
“We need to find ways to build India where all sections of our people can enjoy the fruits of development. In my view, cooperatives can and should play a greater role in India’s future growth,” Padma Vibhushan Dr Kurien said in his talk as part of the ‘Dynamic Resurgent India’ after the second special convocation of Devi Ahilya Vishwavidyalaya.
“Cooperatives are required to be recognised as a distinct economic sector and integral component of the socio-economic system deserving special status from our government. If governed properly, cooperatives have the potential to solve many of our problems, especially in rural areas,” the agile octogenarian said.
Nearly 70 million Indian households own a total of 98 million cows and buffaloes with a majority of milk producers having only one or two milch animals, and these account for 70 per cent of milk production.
“Using milk as a tool, we have transformed the lives of millions of small and marginal farmers and landless labourers,” the Ramon Magsaysay Award winner for Community Leadership, who gave India the ‘utterly butterly’ Amul, said. By the mid-1960s, the Amul Cooperative had become so successful that then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, after a visit to Anand, asked if this kind of model (Anand pattern cooperatives) could be replicated elsewhere in the country.
The core feature of the Anand pattern model is farmer control at three stages following production, i.e. procurement, processing and marketing milk and milk products.
That was when the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) was formed in 1965, of which he remained the chairperson for 33 years but did not take any salary from the government as he said he “wanted to continue as an employee of the farmers.”
Earlier, at the start of his talk, after thanking DAVV for conferring the honorary doctorate, Dr Kurien urged the youth to resist the temptation to go and work where they will receive maximum monetary reward.
“Rather they should work with rural-oriented organisations where their talents are most required,” the former chairman of Institute of Rural Management (Anand), said.
Kurien was honoured with an honorary D Litt (management stream) by Madhya Pradesh Governor and Chancellor of Universities Balram Jakhar at the second special convocation ceremony of Devi Ahilya Vishwavidyalaya on Sunday. While Kurien was present to receive the degree, other stalwarts who were awarded the doctorates - Dr Karsanbhai Patel, Dr Rahul Bajaj, Dr B Ramalinga Raju (management stream) and Dr N R Narayana Murthy, S Ramadorai and Shiva Nadar (engineering stream) - were not present to receive the honour. The function was held at the University Auditorium on the Khandwa Road campus. The convocation ceremony was organised after 17 years.
Stating that the University was honoured by Dr Kurien’s presence, Jakhar said, “He is an institution in himself. A man struggling with Mother Earth and cattle, he has created history.”
Advising the students to read his book ‘I too had a dream’, Jakhar said, “Kurien not only dreamt, but also realised his dream. I wish there were scores of Kuriens. I would like to see a few Kuriens amongst you.”
Appreciating that more girls had received medals at the convocation, the Governor asked the boys not to underestimate girl power and change with the current trend. He also became nostalgic for a few moments, as he remembered his graduation ceremony at Lahore in 1945.
Terming youth the ‘hope of the nation’, he said, “There is a lot of responsibility on you, not just of your family but of the whole country. Put to use for the country whatever you have learnt.”
‘Big companies no threat’
EARLIER IN the morning after the convocation answering mediapersons’ queries on why other cooperative experiments were not as successful, Dr Kurien emphasised on two factors - integrity and hard work. “One has to be a servant of farmers. I have been one myself and spent all my life at Anand.” To a question if small cooperatives would be able to fight globalisation, he said, “When Amul started, we had giants like Glaxo and Nestle. If we can survive, why not others?
Plus, the cooperatives can diversify into other products too, like vegetables.” He also allayed fears about threat of big companies and MNCs in retail segment. ‘‘There are 176 Anands in 22 states in the country.’’