A visionary who architected India’s White Revolution with his ‘billion-liter idea’, Dr. Verghese Kurien. He was the architect behind the success of the largest dairy development program in the world, christened as Operation Flood.
Verghese Kurien is the founder of the milk cooperative, Amul Dairy, which not only spurred India’s White Revolution, but also became one of the country’s largest and most trusted food brands which also expanded into overseas markets. As the founding chairman of the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), he founded around 30 institutions of excellence (like AMUL, GCMMF, IRMA, NDDB) which are owned, managed by farmers and run by professionals.
After a lifetime of struggle and conviction towards serving the nation Dr. Verghese Kurien breathe his last on 9 September 2012 due to a brief illness at Anand.
Early Life & Education
Dr. Verghese Kurien was born on November 26, 1921 to an Syrian Christian family in Cochin, Kerala. His father Puthenparakkal Kurien was a civil surgeon in British Cochin and his mother was a highly educated woman as well an amazing piano player. He was named after his uncle Rao Sahib P.K Verghese.
Dr Kurien attented Loyola College in Madras and attained his degree in B.Sc in Physics (1940). He was also very active in sports and represented the college in cricket, badminton, boxing and tennis.
He loved to learn and furthered his education by joining the Tata Steel Technical Institute, Jamshedpur. Later, he moved to U.S on government scholarship, to study Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan State University (1948).
Dr. Verghese Kurien married Susan Molly Peter on June 15, 1953 and they had one daughter Nirmala Kurien and a grandson, Siddharth. Dr. Kurein was the man responsible for turning India from a milk deficient country to the largest producer of milk in the world today.
He returned to India after completion of his studies and on May 13, 1949 he headed for Anand, a place in Kaira district of Gujarat where he was supposed to spend five years as an officer of the Dairy division in return for the scholarship paid by the government. Verghese had no interest whatsoever in dairy production. In fact he was not even fond of milk or milk products! How he ultimately became the Father of White Revolution was nothing but a quirk of fate which steered him towards what would become his life’s calling. On arriving at Anand, he found that the farmers were being exploited by the distributors of milk and the entire region was controlled by a shrewd but clever businessman called as “Pestonjee Edulji” who marketed Polson butter.
Looking at the struggle of these people to survive and mesmerized by the personality of their leader Tribhuvandas Patel who was trying to unite the farmers and form a cooperative movement against the exploitation, Dr. Kurien left his government job and joined forces with Tribhuvandas Patel and the farmers to start the Milk Cooperative movement in the region registered under the name of Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers Union Ltd (KDCMPUL). Dr. Kurien however wanted to give KDCMPUL a unique name which could be easily pronounced by all and which could also help in growth of the union. Suggestions were asked from various employees and farmers for an appropriate name. Soon, a quality control supervisor recommended the name “Amulya” which is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning priceless and implies unmatchable excellence. The name was modified to “Amulya” to make the union also a part of this name and hence brand AMUL- Anand Milk Union Limited, came into existence.
He worked towards bringing a White Revolution in India and executed the much needed programme of “Operation Flood”. Under his inspiring leadership many important institutions were established namely the GCMMF (Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd) and NDDB (National Dairy Development board which played a significant role in shaping the Dairy Cooperative movement across the country and led the replication of Anand model of cooperative dairy practiced all over the country.
Awards & Recognitions
Dr. Kurien always considered himself as an employee of the farmers who would do anything for their properity.
In his 50 yrs of service, he attained 15 honorary degrees from different institutions of the world as he believed that learning should never stop. His enduring personality, spirit, and conviction won him many accolades such as the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership (1963), Padma Shri (1965), Padma Bhushan (1966), Krishi Ratna Award (1986), World Food prize (1989), Padma Vibhushan (1999), Economic Times award for Corporate Excellence (2001) and several other awards, but the best award that the people of the country gave him was the title “Milkman of India”.
- This famous personality, known as the Father of White Revolution, never drank milk himself!
- Even though he was born into a Christian family, he became an atheist later in life.
Dr. Verghese Kurien will always be remembered as the person who redefined the meaning of milk as a powerful tool for economic development.