It was one of the best moments of my life when I met the Great Verghese Kurien in Anand. Out of curiosity, I asked him what made him settle down in a small village like Anand, when he had a Masters degree from a US university. With a gentle smile he replied, “True development is the development of men and women, and this idea made me stay in this little town for more than 50 years as an employee of farmers, and I was never able to give this up for what many call a better life. I hope to enthuse young women and men to adopt my passion as theirs”.
As a member on the board of management of IIM, Ahmedabad, Dr Verghese Kurien suggested IIM–A students should serve the nation for at least three years before going in search of greener pastures. Upon hearing this, one of the members on the board, who was a top industrialist from Ahmedabad, took his cigar out of his mouth and said, “So, Dr Kurien, you want our graduates to go and milk cows?” Dr Kurien stood up and replied: “No, you continue to teach them how to suck on cigars”, and then resigned from the board. This event led to the birth of a unique institution — Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA).
Recently, the Organising Committee of Agriculture Leadership Awards, under the Chairmanship of Professor M. S. Swaminathan, pioneer of India's Green Revolution, presented the Agriculture Leadership Award 2011 to IRMA, under the Development Leadership category. The decision was arrived at, keeping in view the transformational role that IRMA has played in rural development through academics, research, and developmental initiatives. With the rapid increase in management professionals, most management institutes are doing all they can to emphasise their 100 per cent placement figures, attract MNCs, flaunt those staggering salary packages, and send their students to corporate offices in leading cities across continents. Unlike most of the institutes that prepare professionals for this rat race, IRMA strives to improve the lives of millions of people in the rural areas.
While we look at cities like Mumbai or Delhi as big markets, the fact is that the smaller towns are changing rapidly, and also serving as extremely important centres for the growth of manufacturing, industry and services. IRMA is consistently contributing to policy formulation, advocacy and research pertaining to the rural economy and the development sector.
It doesn't come as a surprise that the rural development ministries of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat are doing well; they have been recruiting IRMAns for the past few years in their tribal, rural and development-related departments. Innovations such as E-choupal, that won the Stockholm Challenge award 2006, or the various cooperative societies that are being spearheaded in many rural pockets are just a few of the social and economic contributions of IRMA .The Rs 25 crore grant to IRMA in the Budget is just a token of recognition.
(The author is an alumnus of IRMA and works in the development sector. )