By Anuva Kulkarni:
On the 9th of September 2012, the ‘Amul girl‘ wept on billboards across the country as her father figure, Verghese Kurien, passed away at the age of 90. He was best known as the “Father of the White Revolution” for his ‘billion-litre idea‘ Operation Flood, which proved to be the world’s biggest agricultural development programme. (Source: Wikipedia)
Born at Kozhikode, Kerala, in 1921. He graduated in Physics, and then obtained a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Madras University. Later, he went to New Zealand to study for a master’s degree in dairy technology on a government scholarship. This scholarship had a bond period, and Kurien was employed at the government’s experimental creamery in Anand, Gujarat. His training in New Zealand taught him all about co-operative movements, and thus, along with his colleague Tribhuvandas Patel, Kurien carried out groundbreaking work at the Amul plant and led the co-operative movement, which went on to uplift so many farmers.
Under Kurien’s leadership, India transformed from a milk importer to a milk & milk-products exporting nation. Within twenty years, we were self-sufficient, and even surpassed the USA in milk production in 1998, becoming the largest milk producer in the world that year. New technologies were implemented, and milk powder, condensed milk and similar products began to hit the market. When the Amul model proved to be successful, the program was replicated nationwide by the National Dairy Development Board, of which Kurien was chairman.
Carrying out the co-operative movement on such a large scale, Verghese Kurien helped millions of farmers out of their misery and brought them prosperity. Operation Flood has been a huge success, and he was the recipient of the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian honour, along with the Magsaysay AwardÂ for community leadership, which is considered to be Asia’s Nobel Prize.
Soon after his death, an online petition was floated out, urging President Pranab Mukherjee to confer the highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, on the late Verghese Kurien. Featured in an online campaign portalÂ and launched by Sucheta Dalal, a business journalist from Mumbai (here), the campaign lists 10 very compelling reasons why Kurien deserves the Bharat Ratna.
There have been articles in leading newspapers all over the country, justifying why Dr. Kurien rightly deserves this prestigious award. A column in the Economic Times says, “He built India’s first, modern, organized retail chain, linking primary producers to final consumers through a very short, high-tech supply chain that increased income for the producers while lowering cost for the consumer.”
The Business Line featured an article where Dr. Kurien was referred to as “the uncrowned Bharat Ratna” while praising his bravery and strength of character.
The Bharat Ratna (Jewel of India) is India’s highest civilian award, for performance of highest order in any field of human endeavour.And Dr. Kurien has indeed, achieved that highest level of performance. Can we think of many examples where one man’s vision has managed to transform and revolutionize an entire nation in a particular sector? Amul and other dairy organizations have transformed everyone’s lives in the past few decades and this impact is significant becauseÂ “India has no other brand of a similar stature even from the private sector in the 30 years or even in the 20 years after economic liberalization.”
Amul butter, cheese and ice-cream is a huge part of our daily lives, and the Amul advertisements bring cheer to every memorable occasion, be it a cricket match or the release of a blockbuster movie.
The Bharat Ratna must go to the most deserving Indian, who is an icon, and idol, and who has achieved something no one else did. The Amul co-operative movement has been unique, and will be studied in detail, so that we may learn how to implement such movements on a large scale in a diverse country like ours. Dr. Kurien did what no one else had dared to do — he dreamt of a day when India would achieve the seemingly impossible. And he showed us the power of dreams, and made our country Utterly, Butterly, Delicious! In my opinion, Dr. Kurien, the man who gave us Hausla (courage), Pragati (the development of farmers) and Anand (the place where it all began), deserves the same honor as C. V. Raman, J.R.D Tata, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and other recipients of the Bharat Ratna. I, along with the Amul girl, whole-heartedly salute him.