A Sudha Milk kiosk at Sarjana Chowk in Ranchi on Thursday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
The state, grappling with severe water and power crises, has a third one on its hands, as milk from Bihar has reduced to a half of normal supply, badly crippling Jharkhand kitchens.
Bihar State Milk Cooperative Federation Limited (COMFED), makers of the popular Sudha brand of dairy products, which normally exports 3 lakh litres of semi-processed milk to Jharkhand everyday for further processing at its plants here, is sending only half the amount since early this week.
It means the three COMFED plants in Ranchi, Bokaro and Jamshedpur are processing and packaging whatever they get from Bihar, a shortfall that Jharkhand’s consumers — homes, eateries, sweetmeat and tea shops, wedding parties and others — are finding hard to live with.
On Thursday, for instance, Ranchi residents had to make do with 49,000 litres of Sudha branded milk when demand exceeds one lakh litre.
Jonaki Sengupta, a homemaker in Burdwan Compound, conceded her search for a Sudha milk pouch proved futile. “I went to the market and bought packaged milk powder costing Rs 360. It has affected my budget, but milk is a necessity,” she said.
Asked, COMFED chairperson Harjot Kaur said the shortage was due to many reasons.
“In summer, we can’t meet Bihar’s needs, as milk collection from dairy farmers falls in the heat and yet local market demand shoots up due to marriages and festivals. Still, we are trying our best to meet the demands of Jharkhand, a milk-deficient state,” said Kaur.
She added transporting semi-processed milk from Bihar to Jharkhand had become tougher since the past 10-12 days as plying of heavy vehicles was banned on under-repair bridges over the Ganges near Patna and Mokameh and fewer vehicles ferried milk on a longer route via Bhagalpur and Deoghar.
Asked, Jharkhand’s dairy development director Alok Pandey admitted: “COMFED can’t be compelled to supply more milk to Jharkhand”.
Jharkhand’s own dairy project hasn’t grown beyond cottage industry status. Its milk processing plant under the brand name Medha in Ormanjhi block, Ranchi district, barely produces 15,000 litres a day.
Now, a desperate Jharkhand is trying to strike deals with Odisha and focussing on expansion of Medha with National Dairy Development Board support. But as these are time-taking processes, a quick end to the crisis seems unlikely.
“The demand for packaged milk is an urban phenomenon. There are virtually no takers in villages. It is true that milk production in North Bihar is high and perhaps negligible in modern Jharkhand. But Jharkhand should have worked out its modalities to hike milk production. We can’t be held responsible for crises in Jharkhand,” Kaur stressed.
Bubbling on the sidelines of the crisis is the sour milk of strained relations. After Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar in 2000, the new state wanted the three COMFED plants in Bokaro and Jamshedpur during the distribution of assets and liabilities.
COMFED and Bihar had flatly refused.
Are you able to buy your pouch of Sudha milk?