Gujarat 100 Years Ago Was Tipped As Denmark of India For Milk Production

A classical example of the foresight some people possess and create an idea for successful endeavours.......

A news item appeared in the daily “The Tribune”, published from Lahore date-lined February 13, 1915 i.e. over a hundred years ago under the caption “The Denmark of India”. Excerpts of the news are quoted below:

Speaking in Baroda about on the subject of agricultural improvement in Gujrat, Dr. Mann, the Principal of Poona Agricultural College, pointed out how the country was best suited for dairy farming owing to the excellent breed of cattle and how Gujrat can become the “Denmark of India” in supplying milk, butter, &c, to the whole country. In no other part of the world, said Dr. Mann, was there the facility for this that Gujarat possessed……….”

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How prophetic were these words was subsequently proved when village level milk producers cooperatives were organized and federated as Kaira District Milk Producers’ Union in the mid-1940s. “AMUL” was formed and registered as a union of village level cooperatives in 1946 by the milk producers. (AMUL stands for Anand Milk Union Limited). This cooperative is now jointly owned by about 3.6 million milk producers. The cooperative was formed in response to the exploitative practices perpetrated by the Polsons Dairy upon milk producers. Exploitative practices by the Polsons made everyone happy except the milk producers of Kaira district who were suppliers of milk from Gujarat to Bombay. After hearing about the woes of milk producers of Kaira district, Sardar Patel deputed Shri Morarji Desai to go and organize a cooperative of milk producers. The society has had the advantage of and the grit through its members and their leadership to withstand and proper despite the presence of private sector enterprises and decentralized private milk trade.

The entity rose to its commanding heights under the enlightened leadership of the tenure of Dr. Verghese Kurien (1973 to 2006) who created it as an outstanding brand “AMUL” and the famous slogan – “The taste of India”. AMUL has the distinction of being the world’s largest “Vegetarian cheese” and “Pouched milk” brand. Its products are exported to 40 countries and it competes with the world’s best dairy brands. The success story of the milk cooperatives of Gujarat also became a celebrated Hindi film titled “Manthan” meaning “churning” in 1976. The “Operation Flood” programme, which is synonymous with ‘White revolution’ in India was also piloted and carried through by Dr. Verghese Kurien. India became the world’s largest milk producer as a result of this effort. Dr. Kurien received the “World Food Prize” which is an alternative “Nobel Prize” for food in 1989 and was conferred upon the second highest civilian award “Padma Vibhushan” in 1999.

This little story is a classical example of the foresight some people possess and create an idea for successful endeavours. Dr. Mann mentioned the idea in 1915 and its time came in the mid 1940s. Nothing stops an idea whose time has come and this story proves it.

Devinder Kumar Sharma, a former Principal Adviser and Secretary Planning, Government of Himachal Pradesh, is a visiting professor and an economist. He lives in Shimla.

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