Dr Verghese Kurien did not like drinking milk, but as the father of the White Revolution, he turned India into a nation of milk drinkers. At 1.15am on Sunday, India’s best-known milkman, Kurien, 90, passed away in a hospital in Nadiad town because of complications arising out of kidney ailments. In the six decades he spent in Anand he ensured India’s transformation from a milk-deficient country into one of the world’s biggest milk producers.
Dr Kurien is survived by wife Molly, daughter Nirmala and grandson Siddhartha. His body was brought back to Anand, which was his home since 1949. As the news of his death spread, scores of visitors trooped in to pay their tributes. President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and chief minister Narendra Modi sent their condolences, among several other dignitaries.
It was under Dr Kurien’s leadership that small town Anand became the milk capital of India with institutions like the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) and the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA).
Dr Kurien’s beginnings, however, were humble. After returning from the US with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Michigan State University in 1949, he was assigned to the government creamery at Anand to serve his bond period for a scholarship that he had taken for his studies. His only intention then was to obtain a release from the bond and get out of Anand.
He was all set to leave Anand by the end of 1949 for Mumbai, but the then chairman of Amul Dairy, Tribhuvandas Patel, requested him to help install machinery at the dairy. Kurien agreed, and then never left.
In 1976, Dr Verghese Kurien roped in filmmaker Shyam Benegal to tell the story of ‘Manthan’—the success of the White Revolution. Half a million farmers, who were milk producers associated with CMMF gave around Rs 10 lakh for the film.
Nov 26, 1921 : Verghese Kurien born in Calicut (now Kozhikode in Kerala) to a Syrian Christian family. Father Puthenpurackal Kurien a civil surgeon in Cochin, mother an accomplished pianist
1944 : After graduating in physics from Loyola College, Chennai (1940), gets a BE from College of Engineering, Guindy
1944 : Joins TISCO Technical Institute as graduate apprentice, then starts his career as office apprentice
Gets a govt scholarship to train for 9 months at Imperial Institute of Animal Husbandary & Dairying, Bangalore
1948 : Completes a master’s in engineering from Michigan State University, US, with dairy engineering as a minor subject. Ranked 7th
13 May 1949 : Arrives on central govt deputation at the Govt Research Creamery, Anand, to serve out his bond period. Does not like his stint
1949-end : Relieved from bond, is about to leave Anand when requested to stay back by Tribhuvandas Patel, chairman of Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union Limited, formed in 1946 at the initiative of Sardar Patel
Joins the cooperative and is soon asked by Patel to help set up a dairy processing plant, which sees the birth of Amul
June 15, 1953 : Marries neighbour’s daughter, Molly, whom he met just days earlier, on May 28. They have a daughter, Nirmala
Oct 31, 1955 : Amul (Anand Milk Union Limited) launched. Name taken from 'amoolya', meaning priceless, as suggested by a quality control expert in Anand. Amul plant, largest in Asia, inaugurated by Nehru who embraces Kurien
Kurien credited with being the first to produce powder from buffalo milk in the plant
1965 : PM Lal Bahadur Shastri creates National Dairy Development Board to replicate Amul’s success nationally. Kurien is chairman
1965 : Awarded Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan a yr later
1967 : Ad agency ASP creates iconic Amul girl as a response to rival Polson's butter-girl
1970 : NDDB launches ‘Operation Flood’ which helps make India the world’s largest milk producer. NDDB has since integrated 96,000 dairy cooperatives in a milk grid following the ‘Anand pattern’
1973 : The Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) that now owns and markets Amul comes into being. It has since grown into a $2.5 bn entity and has 32 lakh farmers in its fold
India’s milk procurement has increased from 20 million metric tonnes per year in 1960s to 122 MMT in 2011
1998 : Steps down as NDDB chairman after 33 years
1999 : Given Padma Vibhushan
2006 : Resigns as GCMMF chairman amid controversy
The Gujarat government did not give a state funeral to Kurien. In the past, social worker Ravishankar Maharaj, VHP leader K K Shastri, former justice P D Desai and Congress leader Prabodh Rawal have been given this honour.