“I’ll make shoe polish in it!” The speaker of that thundering line, depending on the narrator, is either India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru or Verghese Kurien whose birth centenary we celebrate today, on November 26. The event was the inauguration of India’s first milk drying plant, a part of the Anand Cooperative Milk Union (Amul) in 1956. The reason for it was that a committee of international dairy experts had opined that buffalo milk, which is what Amul collected from its thousands of members, could not be dried by using the same technology employed abroad to dry cow milk. Either way, it shows Kurien’s ability to defy handed-down wisdom. Invariably, this defiance was for the greater good of small farmers in India.
In 1956, Kurien was just 35, having had the experience of managing India’s first dairy cooperative for seven years. But he was convinced that the lot of his members, almost all of whom had o
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