Revisiting the tale of two white revolutions

DIMAPUR, NOVEMBER 14 : In the year 1946, a movement against the atrocities and exploitation of dairy farmers at the hands of milk middlemen and traders, particularly Polson Dairy – which allegedly procured milk from farmers at very low rates to sell to the then Bombay government – began at the city of Anand in Gujarat.

Farmers in the region approached a social leader – Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel who in turn appointed Morarji Desai to organize farmers and form small co-operatives. The cooperative movement, initially started as Kaira District Co-operative Milk Producers Union, consisted of only 2 villages.
It was the arrival of Dr Vergese Kurien, famously known as the Milkman of India, in 1949 that would revolutionise the dairy landscape in India. He went from helping farmers repair machinery to revolutionising India’s dairy industry with the White Revolution (or Operation Flood), the largest dairy development programme in the world.

Today, we know the cooperative by the name of Amul or Anand Milk Union Ltd. The rural revolution has found its way into urban lore today via the Amul girl – the blue-haired moppet in that familiar polka-dotted dress – with whom every Indian millennial can identify.

Besides being a household brand, it has also become one of India’s most active social satirists by way of the dairy-based puns it shoot off on everything from multi-billion dollar financial scandals to government corruption to celebrity gossip.

On a much slimmer scale, here in Nagaland too, we have witnessed the evolution – if not revolution – of Dimul, Nagaland’s best known dairy group. The common thread running between these two brands is not limited only to dairy products. Both are cooperatives. s

This parallel was presented by Dr Aotoshi, who is in many ways the architect of Dimul, while speaking at the inaugural programme of the 63rd All India Cooperative Week here at Dimapur on Monday.

In a very short but quite fascinating insight into the events that led to the emergence Dimul, Dr Aotoshi shared that initially, to be assigned at Komul – before its bifurcation with Dimul – was considered as “punishment posting” by the department employees.

It was in such a time that he returned to the state after a course at the Institute of Rural Management, Anand – the birthplace of Amul. According to Dr Aotoshi, he wanted to retire from service after his return but his superiors convinced him not to. He was assigned with the task of reviving the dairy wing “with full freedom”.

Within two years, he shared, it registered profit. The sales turnout for Dimul for the year 2014-15 was Rs 948.75 lakh. The point, according to Dr Aotoshi, was that “we could do it even with milk” – which he reminded, was not a food product staple to most Naga kitchens.

Then imagine what we can do with other food items that are familiar to us, he shared. And the best way to achieve it was through cooperatives, he said. “We Nagas are cowards, in the sense that we rarely can do things alone.

“But if we are in groups, then we are able to do things. And that is what cooperatives is about – groups. All we need is a little bit of entrepreneurial skills and proper organizational structure,” he said.

The cooperatives, he said, were the only ways to improve the economy of Nagaland. “If you want to show your patriotism, to Nagaland, then use the cooperative banks,” he said.

Also stating that hardly 7 or 8 cooperatives were truly functioning in Nagaland, he suggested the officials to liquidate the non-functioning ones and engage the younger generation “by setting an age-limit”. Another way to expand the cooperatives in Nagaland was to link it with the Look Act Policy, he suggested.

The chief guest of the programme was Wepe Ritse, the registrar of Cooperative Societies, Nagaland. This year’s theme of cooperative week has been provided as ‘Role of cooperatives in sustainable development and growth.’

According to the managing director of Nagaland State Cooperative Bank (NSCB) Ltd, Imtilemba Longkumer, there are 21 branches of the NSCB across Nagaland. It has establishments in all the districts, except Longleng. In Dimapur alone there are 4 NSCB branches.

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