For the past two years, the state government has been sitting on an ambitious plan that would supply 10 lakh litres of affordable and quality milk per day to Mumbaiites. What is even more surprising is that political reasons are said to have stalled the much-needed dairy project and the state is not required to invest financially.
In 2010, the National Dairy Development Board (NDBB) had agreed for a joint venture with the state dairy department and wanted to invest fully in a dairy unit. It wanted to brand the new product as ‘Aaray-Mother Dairy’.
Aaray was once a popular government milk brand, but ill-planning has reduced its daily supply to below two lakh litres in the city that consumes more than 80 lakh litres per day. Private dairies in the state and outside it, rule the rest of the city market even as adulteration and high pricing increasingly worry consumers.
A senior officer said that NDDB wants to replicate its New Delhi model in Mumbai. Two years ago, it had asked the state to lease land for the dairy in Kurla in exchange for a partnership. NDDB’s subsidiary, Mother Dairy Fruit and Vegetables will operate the new plant with a professional and corporate approach that has made it a major dairy player in the country.
“However, NDDB’s certain demands could be difficult to meet in view of political reasons. It wants the state and the politically influential milk producers’ cooperative to give it operational autonomy for making the project viable and sustainable,” said the officer on condition of anonymity.
Ruling parties Congress and Nationalist Congress Party control the milk producers’ cooperative in the state and their district cooperatives have their own dairy units, especially in western Maharashtra.
“Mother Dairy’s total control over dairy operations in the state would harm their political and financial interests,” said the officer.
A draft memorandum of understanding, which NDDB prepared in 2010 but went unsigned, said that NDDB would organise milk producers under one umbrella, determine prices, get the right to recruitment and enjoy freedom in matters related to animal breeding, nutrition and health services.
The board was also ready to help the state in promoting dairy in Vidarbha and Marathwada where milk production is much less than the rest of Maharashtra.
Dairy Development secretary Anil Diggikar said that the matter was still being discussed at the government level. “We will sign an MoU with NDDB very soon. The board will have to select land in Bhiwandi or Palghar.” Diggikar did not say whether the MoU would be revised this time.