VERGHESE KURIEN ‘MILKMAN OF INDIA’ has narrated an instance from his own professional life recently. That is the way a great man is different. And many in the public sector even today have a lot of such challenges. Why couldn’t HAL with world-class facilities produce LCA or for that matter, any product with a significant global or domestic market till date? Why couldn’t BHEL develop its capacity and globally competitive clean technology to meet even the domestic demands of power equipment? Kurien succeeded and made himself a legendary. India is today the largest producer of milk. And we all know if all the states of the country just emulate his model of milk cooperatives of Gujarat, the life of a lot many people below the poverty line can get improved. Kurien has told this story for TOI.
I remember the time when almost everybody, including experts in the dairy industry, had snubbed our idea of producing milk powder from buffalo milk. Experts, especially from New Zealand, which was selling milk powder in India, held firm that milk powder cannot be produced from buffalo milk. When noted dairyman and director of dairy research in New Zealand Professor William Riddet visited Anand, he told me that he was happy to know that I had made a significant name in the dairy industry at such a young age.
Then he asked me: “But, why are you such a bloody fool? Why are you working on a project that is bound to fail?” I told him that I would make it. He asked me if there was anything on earth that could dissuade me from embarking on a project that was bound to fail and I replied “nothing.”
It was on October 31, 1956 – Sardar Patel’s birthday – that Jawaharlal Nehru came to Anand to inaugurate the Amul dairy. When he was leaving Anand, Morarji Desai told Nehru that many had tried to dissuade me from going ahead with my project to produce milk powder from buffalo milk, for it was never done before. Nehru came towards me, put his hands around me in an embrace and said: “I am glad that India has such people who can get done things that cannot be done.”
We had succeeded in producing milk powder from buffalo milk, just 24 hours before Nehru inaugurated the dairy. It shocked dairy experts in New Zealand. The country did not want India to produce milk powder, as we were a major market for them. Now, India produces 1.65 lakh tonnes of milk powder, much more than what New Zealand produces.
I still remember how I rubbed milk powder on the forehead of dairy expert and my companion HM Dalaya just 24 hours before Nehru’s arrival in Anand.