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Verghese Kurien’s answer to Lal Bahadur Shastri and the genesis for NDDB

This story (from Verghese Kurien’s I too had a dream) continues from Why Lal Bahadur Shastri wanted to spend a night in a Kaira district village.

I assured the Prime Minister that all his observations were absolutely correct but that there was one difference, which he had failed to notice. The solitary difference was that Amul dairy was owned by the farmers themselves. The elected representatives from among the farmers managed it. These elected representatives had employed me as a professional manager to run their dairy. I was an employee of the farmers.

In this dairy that was owned by the farmers, therefore, my job as a Manager was to satisfy the farmers who supplied milk to the dairy. I had to provide the infrastructure to the farmers to help them increase production. I had to ensure increased production so that they benefited. I could never refuse to collect the milk they supplied. This was a dairy that was sensitive to the needs of farmers and responsive to their demands. I explained to the Prime Minister that just as in Anand, in all advanced dairying countries, the dairies were owned by farmers. I pointed out to Shastriji that all we had done at Anand was to prove that what was true for New Zealand, Denmark, Holland and even the US, was also true for India.

They employed me, a professional who, in their judgement, was capable and honest. They were satisfied with my trustworthiness, competence and honesty. They left me free to run the cooperative as I thought best. What is more, they had protected and supported me during the initial stages until I found my feet and did not allow anyone to interfere with my work.

The Cooperative Societies Act of India is a stagnant act. It does not encourage the creation of truly democratic institutions. It is nothing but an appendage of the cooperative department of the government. But the Kaira Cooperative – Amul – in spite of such an act was a true and functioning cooperative because of the efforts of its Chairman, Tribhuvandas Patel, who was selected by Sardar Patel, and the farmers had complete trust in him. I explained all this, at great length, to our Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister, who had been listening to me avidly, looked excited and said, ‘Kurien, this means that we can have many Anands. There are no special reasons to have an Anand only in Gujarat.’

I nodded my head in agreement.

‘So then, Kurien,’ he continued, ‘from tomorrow you shall make it your business to work not just for Anand, not just for Gujarat, but for the whole of India. The Government of India will give you a blank cheque, it will create any body, any structure you want, provided you head it. Please replicate Anand throughout India. Make that your mission and whatever you need for it, the government will provide.’

I heard him out and then told him that before I could agree to his request, I had certain conditions. The first was that I would remain an employee of farmers. I would not be an employee of the government. I would not accept a single paisa from the government. When Shastriji wanted to know the reason for the condition I told him that an employee of the government inevitably has to please his superiors; an employee of farmers has to please only the farmers.

My second condition was that the new body, responsible for replicating Anand throughout the country, should not be located in Delhi. ‘People in Delhi think about many things but they hardly ever think about farmers,’ I reasoned. ‘In Anand, we think of nothing else other than farmers, agriculture and dairying. We have no other interests. So whatever body the government creates must be located at Anand. I refuse to move to Delhi.’

The Prime Minister agreed to both these conditions.