India has largely been an agrarian society for most of its history. This was especially the case in the two decades following the country’s independence, when it had a massive farmer population. And dairy farming was the primary source of income for most villagers.
However, the system was highly corrupt. The exploitation of local dairy farmers was common, as they were looted extensively by the middlemen. This remained the case throughout the 50s and the 60s and took the courage and vision of one man, Verghese Kurien, to transform the farmers’ plight for the better.
As someone who worked for the state government at Anand in Gujarat, Kurien was able to see the exploitation of the poor villagers firsthand. Such was the extent of his displeasure that, in spite of his plan to leave Anand, he decided to stay back to improve the lives of the poor farmers.
Kurien, along with Tribhuvandasbhai Patel, began thinking of ideas to improve the lives of the struggling villagers. This resulted in the birth of today’s dairy giant, Amul. The dairy startup of the time made such rapid strides that they quickly helped a large number of farmers earn a regular source of income.
Impressed with Kurien’s influence on the dairy industry in Gujarat, Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri asked him to replicate this success around the country. So, as part of the operation, he spearheaded project Operation Flood in 1970 and replicated the Anand model across India, helping India grow from a milk-deficient country to the world’s largest milk producer.
The project was aimed at making farmers self-sufficient and, in the process, develop rural India. It was a means to empower the poor and make them relevant not just nationally, but globally as well. Kurien made this possible, and then some, by providing ample resources to the farmers, who made use of them to grow into quasi-independent units, rather than dependents of an inept system.
The project transformed millions of lives in India and made a massive difference in the way the country produced and received milk. As many as 72,000 villages in India started producing milk under his project’s aegis. In this way, he completely transformed India’s dairy industry and made India the world’s largest producer of milk.