Dr Kurien, architect of the Operation Flood, passed away at the age of 90 at 1.15 a.m. on Sunday at Muljibhai Patel Urological Hospital (Nadiad Kidney Hospital) where he had been admitted last week due to old-age related ailments. He is survived by wife, daughter and a grandson.
Legend has it that when a delegation of farmers from his native Kheda district narrated their woes in 1949 to Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, who was extremely busy with the myriad matters post-Independence, the then Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister directed a young engineer to go to Gujarat: ‘Don’t return until you've solved their problems’.
Nobody knew then that the Iron Man of India was sending a man who will be fondly known as the Milkman of India.
The engineer, Dr Verghese Kurien, stayed back in Anand (literally meaning “Bliss”) for life, despite solving most of their problems through the White Revolution he fathered. Today, his baby, Amul, is the top Asian brand with a turnover of nearly Rs 13,000 crore, and counted amongst the world’s leading brands in any sector with one of the best recall values. The Amul model was emulated in other States of India and overseas. India, the world’s biggest milk producer, now accounts for 17 per cent milk production, globally.
A born fighter
Born on November 26, 1921, in what is now known as Kozhikode, Kerala, Dr Kurien was a born fighter like his mentor. The way Sardar Patel gave up legal practice and dedicated his life to public service, Dr Kurien, too, gave up a lucrative career in engineering to go to the roots of the Indian farmers’ problems.
He emerged as India’s most famous ‘farmer’, who integrated the country’s native wisdom of cooperative action with the world’s latest technologies. He organised the Kheda Cooperative Milk Marketing Union, which later became part of the state-level Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), set up by Dr Kurien in 1973. He served GCMMF as its chairman until 2006.
The Kheda Union, which itself was an expanded version of the original Anand Milk Union Ltd (hence the acronym, Amul), later loaned its famous brand to GCMMF which now markets its milk and other products in India and abroad. GCMMF comprises 15 district-level milk bodies in Gujarat with a farmer-membership of nearly 15 lakh.
In 1965, Lal Bahadur Shastri, the then Prime Minister, was so influenced with the Amul experiment that he created the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) to organise milk revolution at the national level and appointed Dr Kurien as its founder chairman. He served NDDB as its chairman until 1998.
For the grateful milk farmers of Gujarat, he was always a ‘God’. He also created other institutions, including the famous Institute of Rural Management-Anand (IRMA) which he served until 2006.