The Royal Commission of Garucikutre constituted in the pre-independence era famously noted that ‘Where Cooperation fails, there fails the only hope of rural India’. The commission rightly estimated the role of cooperatives in India. Dr. Verghese Kurien was a true visionary as he inaugurated a series of establishments that ensured India became the world’s largest producer of milk. His formation of the world’s biggest food marketing business AMUL and the subsequent White Revolution or Operation Flood is exemplary. He took incredible support from cooperatives to realize the vision of achieving double the per capita milk availability. With the white revolution, India finally got access to milk having both hygienic and abundant nutrition. Not only this it assisted in enhancing the dairy sector’s growth and boosting the employment opportunities in rural areas.
History of the White Revolution
Dr. Verghese Kurien for his inspirational contribution has got the reputation of ‘Milkman of India’. His assistance helped in revolutionizing the dairy sector in India. It was embarked on the 13th of January 1970 to make India self-sufficient in milk production. However, the outcomes were better than anticipated as India soon became the world’s largest producer of Milk. It was named a revolution as the idea was to have a milestone achievement in enhancing milk production. The other name for it was Operation Flood and worked on the back of a strong cooperative movement at the rural level. It incorporated great involvement of the masses at all levels of decision-making. The experiment of Anand Milk Union Limited (AMUL) taking advantage of cooperatives proved to be a game changer for ushering in the white revolution. Dr. Verghese Kurien’s leadership at the helm and his creative method of tackling challenges ensured the onset of a watershed moment in the history of India.
The stages of the white revolution or operation flood in India are as follows
Step 1 – The customers in major metropolitan cities I.e. Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai were connected with milk sheds in India. The idea was to ensure an interrelationship between milk producers and milk consumers on a larger scale. It would help both in increasing the score of milk availability and ensuring regenerative prices for producers.
Step 2- The milk sheds were further raised to a total of 136. In this phase I.e. from 1981- 85, the doorways for milk also extended. The focus was also given to boosting the production of milk powder domestically along with promoting marketing by cooperatives. The long-term benefits of domestic production of milk powder had wider repercussions on the prospects of India as a self-sufficient country in the context of milk. The problem of access to quality milk was in the direction of getting a permanent solution.
Step 3- In this period of 1985-96, the emphasis was on ensuring quality and adding strength to the already prospering cooperative dairy sector. The infrastructure was strengthened to enable the procurement and marketing of milk production. The stress was laid on bettering the status of animals. Veterinary services, first aid health care, and feed were extended to farmers. It assisted in assuring the longevity of cattle and also enhanced their potential.
Tribhuvandas Kaishibhai Patel had an important role in leading the White Revolution in India. He laid the first stone of the AMUL in 1946 and was its chairperson till his retirement. He took the help of Dr. Verghese Kurien in the field of technical and marketing aspects of the organization. The idea of AMUL is rooted in the prevalent unfair trade practices that used to hurt small and marginal dairy farmers. It was this impediment that ignited farmers in Kaira on the advice of T. Patel and Sardar Patel to set up a cooperative society in India. It was a battle against the Polson brand that had the monopoly of milk supply in Mumbai after collection from Kaira. With the onset of the cooperative moment, milk production was decentralized to local communities. After taking cognizance of the success of this model, the Prime Minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri decided to replicate it worldwide by setting up the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB). Cooperative societies were behind the onset and progress of the White Revolution in India.
The objective of Operation Flood
- Boost to milk production- the plan was to ensure surplus milk production in the country to meet the demands of people and also to meet any future contingencies. ● Achieving self-sufficiency in milk production and curtailing dependence on imports from outside. It would help in reducing the expenditure incurred on importing burden. ● Providing employment opportunities in the dairying sector- the opening up of more opportunities was definite due to upcoming new avenues for people in rural areas. Operation Flood was designed to make the dairy sector more competitive and rewarding. ● Rural incomes should be improved- with White Revolution in place, the aim was to increase the remuneration to farmers.
- Consumers should get the commodities at reasonable prices- with more production, there will be no shortage of supply of milk. Thus consumers will not be charged skyrocketed prices.
- Ensuring a continuous supply of milk in the country was another objective of operation flood. White Revolution would allow us to put brakes on unanticipated supply shocks and the related repercussions.
Benefits of the White Revolution
- In 1955 India imported butter imports worth 500 tons per annum. With the success of the White Revolution, the cooperative alone accounted for 12000 tons of butter each year.
- Within years of experience in the field of strengthening cooperatives and enabling the process of the White Revolution, one could witness a considerable increase in the quantity of milk production.
- Revolutionizing the dairy sector was realized due to the white revolution. The hidden potential was exposed and India took full advantage of the rich dairy sector.
- Farmers’ concerns about decreasing agricultural incomes were resolved as an alternative occupation was available for them.
- It helped in evolving the largest production hub out of a country that was deficient in ensuring production for its residents.
- The people got access to quality milk at low cost due to the scaling up of production.
- Women and other sections significantly benefited from this scheme of things as cooperatives were the backbone of this revolution.
- Import bills were lowered with increasing production within the country.
- It strengthened rural society due to the opening up of new avenues.
Operation Flood scripted a golden chapter of attaining self-sufficiency in milk production in India’s history. It helped India to become the largest milk-producing country in the Globe. Along similar lines, India also had a green revolution with the objective to make India self-sufficient in food production. Now, the talks are going on to encourage an evergreen revolution that encompasses all domains from food grain to the environment.