The Inspiring Story Of The Amulya Man Who Turned India Into The World's Largest Milk Producer
People know him as ‘the father of white revolution in India’, whose efforts turned India into the world’s largest milk producer, surpassing the United States. He played a major role in empowering Indian farmers through co-operatives. He was the man behind the success of world’s largest dairy development program, also known as ‘Operation Flood’, that led to nearly 72,000 villages turning into milk producers. He is none other than Dr. Verghese Kurien who revamped the face of India’s dairy industry.
It is believed that Kurien disliked milk at a young age and did not even want to make dairying his profession. He was rather interested in studying metallurgy. Today, he is fondly known as ‘the milkman of India’ because of his experimentation with milk powder produced from buffalo’s milk.
Hailing from a Syrian Christian family of Kerala, Kurien studied mechanical engineering from Chennai, after which he was selected for a scholarship by the government of India, to study Dairy Engineering in the United States. But as luck would have it, the institute (Michigan State University) he was accepted in did not have the course. So, he ended up studying what he loved i.e. metallurgy and physics. When he returned to India in 1949, he was assigned to a government creamery at Anand, Gujarat, where his sole purpose was to release himself from the company’s bond at the earliest.
When he was preparing to leave the village, the-then Chairman of Kaira District Co-operative Milk Producers Union asked him to stay in Anand and help him put his co-operative society’s dairy equipments together. That’s how AMUL was born and eventually he fell in love with the village and chose to stay there forever.
It was Dr. Kurien who sold the idea of cooperatives to the-then prime minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri. He arranged for the PM’s visit to a village in Gujarat and planned it so well that he had no choice but to stay in the village for a night. He further organized for a meeting with the farmers so that the PM could spend a good amount of time listening to their plight and issues. That’s how the idea was finalized and ‘Operation Flood’ began.
In fact, there is an interesting story behind the selection of the brand’s name too. When experts suggested Dr. Kurien to pick a name that sounded foreign, he insisted on keeping an Indian name. That’s when the name AMUL was introduced which is also the short form for Anand Milk Union Ltd. Also, it is said that Dr. Kurien gave a lot of freedom to the agency that created the AMUL girl; they were given the liberty to release the AMUL girl ads without waiting for the company’s permission. Now we know why the AMUL ads are so on point and never late to put forward their view.
In the year 1976, a movie called ‘Manthan’ was released that was based on AMUL. However, not many people know this that filmmaker Shyam Benegal lacked funds when he wanted to make this movie and Dr. Kurien asked his half a million member-farmers to contribute Rs 2 each. This can be recognized as one of the most successful crowd-funded movies in India since thousands of farmers went to watch the film, making it a box-office hit. The distributors were so impressed that they released it for other audiences too and the movie went on to receive national awards the following year.
Dr. Kurien won many awards and accolades during his entire career. He received Bharat Ratna, Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership, Krishi Ratna Award and Carnegie Waterler World Peace Prize to name a few. Dr. Kurien passed away at the age of 90 on September 9, 2012, in Nadiad in Anand, Gujarat.