In 2014, dairy majors of the country along with the Indian Dairy Association decided to celebrate National Milk Day in India on November 26 to pay tribute to the birth anniversary of Dr. Verghese Kurien
National Milk Day is celebrated in India on November 26 to honour the memory of Dr Verghese Kurien, who is fondly known as the father of the White Revolution. Kurien was also called the Milkman of India as his ideas and efforts to build a system of farmer cooperatives helped transform the country from an importer of dairy products to the world’s largest milk producer. National Milk Day also highlights the importance of milk in human life and its benefits.
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History: The White Revolution
In 2014, dairy majors of the country along with the Indian Dairy Association decided to celebrate National Milk Day in India on November 26 to pay tribute to Dr Verghese Kurien on his birth anniversary.
Kurien was deputed to a creamery in Anand, Gujarat, where he worked as an officer in the dairy division for five years. Kurien met Tribhuvandas Patel in Anand when the latter was trying to unite the farmers to form a cooperative movement in a bid to fight exploitation. Kurien was inspired by Patel, who formed the Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union Limited in 1946. This later came to be known as Amul Dairy. Despite pressure from the competing dairy business, Polson Dairy, Kurien supported Patel’s movement.
It was Kurien’s friend and dairy expert HM Dalaya who introduced a way to make milk powder and condensed milk from buffalo milk. Till then these processed items were being made from cow’s milk only.
Following the success of Amul Dairy, then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri asked Kurien to replicate the model nationwide in 1965. The National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) was thus founded with Kurien as the chairman and Operation Flood was launched.
Prior to Operation Flood, India was a milk-deficient nation. The movement swiftly turned the country into the world’s largest milk producer. India surpassed the US in milk production in 1998 and held 17 percent of global output in 2010-11. The dairy board created a national milk grid linking producers across the country with consumers in over 700 towns and cities. This also ensured that producers got the major share of the price paid by consumers by cutting out middlemen.
This was known as the White Revolution and the ‘billion-litre idea’ of Dr Verghese Kurien.
National Milk Day is important as it raises awareness about the need for milk in human lives. According to the data available on the NDDB website, milk production in India has increased from 84.4 million tonnes in 2001-02 to 121.8 million tonnes in 2010-11 and 198.4 million tonnes in 2019-20.
Who was Dr Verghese Kurien?
Kurien was born on November 26, 1921, in Kozhikode, Kerala. He studied at Loyola College, Chennai, and graduated in Physics in 1940. He later qualified as a mechanical engineer from the College of Engineering, Guindy.
For some time, Kurien worked at the Tata Steel Technical Institute in Jamshedpur. However, he later moved to the US to do his Master’s in mechanical engineering at Michigan State University on a government scholarship. It was on his return in 1948 that Kurien was deputed to a creamery in Anand.
Kurien was key to the success of Operation Flood, which involved an investment of Rs 1,700 crore over 25 years. The initiative helped India’s milk production growth in value terms to Rs 55,000 crore per annum an output ratio which is incomparable with any other development programme in the world.
Kurien also worked to revolutionise the edible oils, fruits and vegetable sectors. In the mid-80s he started a pilot project for the procurement and marketing of fruits and vegetables in Delhi with the aim to provide a direct link between the growers and consumers. Prior to that, he introduced ‘Dhara’, which was the country’s top edible oil brand till the 90s.
He stepped down from the post of chairman of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) in 2006.
For his relentless service to the dairy and farming communities, Kurien was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award (1963), Padma Shri (1965), Padma Bhushan (1966), World Food Prize (1989) and Padma Vibhushan (1999).
The visionary died in 2012 at the age of 90 after a brief illness.
First Published: IST