Elusive Nobel

EducationWorld December 2021 | Magazine Postscript

The centenary birth anniversary of Dr. Verghese Kurien, the brilliant visionary who engineered India’s White Revolution (1960-80s) that transformed chronically milk deficient India into the world’s largest producer thereof, was grudgingly celebrated by way of a few paid ads in the Times of India.

Given the posthumous encomiums showered upon him these days, it’s difficult to believe that during his lifetime Kurien was as much vilified on public platforms — including Parliament — as he is glorified today. One of the great achievements of your correspondent is a significant role in foiling a communist conspiracy to destroy Kurien and the White Revolution aka, Operation Flood.

According to one Claude Alvarez, a freelance writer of uncertain antecedents commissioned by self-styled poet Pritish Nandy then editor of the Illustrated Weekly of India, Kurien was an agent of the European Union dumping its huge surpluses of dairy products in the Indian marketplace through the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) which was passing them off as Amul milk powder, butter, cheese etc. This feature in the Weekly generated a huge furore in Parliament with comrades leading a chorus for Kurien’s immediate resignation.
At that time as editor of BusinessWorld, your correspondent responded with a 12-page cover feature titled ‘Operation Flood: Case for the Defence’ (1984), explaining that far from being a EU agent, Kurien had persuaded the Union government to canalise surplus dairy products that the EU was poised to dump in India as aid to GCMMF which calibrated their release in the Indian market. With the sales proceeds Kurien built GCMMF’s hi-tech milk processing plants that converted winter milk surpluses into milk powder which was “recombinated” into liquid milk for shortages-prone summer months.

The GCMMF model was subsequently replicated countrywide by NDDB (National Dairy Development Board) conceptualised and chaired by Kurien for several decades. Thus within two decades the income of millions of farmers was augmented.

For his heroic contribution to rural development Kurien received numerous awards and accolades during his lifetime including Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan and the World Food Prize (1989). But the Nobel Prize which he yearned for, eluded him. Kurien should have been awarded it. Lesser individuals have.

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