| Kurien: Tragic departure
Anand, March 20: Verghese Kurien, the father of India’s white revolution, quit today asking why he should step down and not why not.
“Having served the co-operative dairy sector for over five decades with dedication and commitment, do I deserve this kind of treatment'” he asked while announcing his resignation as chairman of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF).
Kurien, feted the world over for starting from a garage to build a farmers’ cooperative that made the brand Amul famous, quit because, otherwise, the people he mentored would have thrown him out.
Eleven of the 12 members of the board of the federation had sponsored a no-confidence motion that was to be moved on March 24 against the man who has had a 33-year association with the cooperative.
Kurien is 84, but he has held on to several posts despite being under pressure to give up and celebrated estrangements with proteges like Amrita Patel, who ' once handpicked by him ' heads the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB).
Known as the Milkman of India, Kurien expressed “anguish and pain” that one-time loyalists now wanted him out “and have even restrained me from carrying out my functions as chairman’’.
He leaves behind a Rs 3,600-crore cooperative and Amul, a brand known in all corners of India ' utterly famous.
Kurien came to Anand in 1948 and built a network of cooperatives as well as the NDDB, National Cooperative Dairy Federation of India and the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA).
His decision to quit the federation came when he learnt yesterday afternoon that another “trusted loyalist”, the federation’s managing director B.M. Vyas, had joined hands with his opponents.
A board member had handed Kurien a letter, signed by most fellow members, asking him to convene a board meeting because they wanted to pass a no-confidence motion. “The board member told me that Vyas has also turned against me.”
The statement has all the sound of the voice of a tragic hero which Kurien should not be simply because of his sheer achievement.
But he seemed determined today to strike that pose. “It takes a clear vision and life-long dedication with determination to build great institutions like Amul, NDDB',” he said.
The mechanical engineer from Madras University with a degree also from Michigan State University continued: “I have more respect elsewhere than in my own country where I have served.”
He has received numerous national and international awards.
Kurien is not stepping away from the limelight with the ultimate award of his working life: that is to hang up his gloves at a moment of his choosing. Instead he’s going down, throwing punches.
Asked if he might quit IRMA, too, he was partially evasive: “At my age, the answer could not be a ‘no’. Sooner or later I will step down.”
Like many other pioneers before him who have had problems with bowing out, Kurien voiced the “after me, the deluge” sentiment.
He alleged that some of the cooperative institutions, set up to empower farmers with “direct ownership and control”, were “drifting away” from their mission. He urged farmers and those associated with Amul to keep their eyes and ears open.
“I hope no attempts will be made to destabilise and deform other institutions like IRMA,” Kurien said. He has in the past accused the NDDB of trying to take over the cooperative dairy sector.
The battle, in which he and Patel were engaged in, was over control of cooperatives and markets.
Kurien alleged that an “orchestrated act involving people at a very high level” was behind the move to get rid of him. “Vested interests” were out to capture the cooperative bodies, using the board as a “pawn”.
He said the board had just three months ago elected him chairman for a further three years. “I am sure I have not caused any harm to GCMMF or the farmers to warrant a no-confidence move.”
Anand, which inspired the Shyam Benegal movie Nishant that was made with a Re 1 donation each from dairy farmers, may have no use for him, but Pakistan wants him.
“During my last visit, the Pakistanis had showered loads of respect and hospitality on me. When I returned, I told the leaders in Delhi that this was the way one should treat Kurien.”