The White Revolution, changed the course of dairy industry in India and helped bring opportunities to the marginal farmers, especially women in rural parts of India. The Anand Milk Union Limited, more dearly known as AMUL was the first of its kind milk co-operative that set the milk pails rolling. The shift of focus from mass production to production by the masses, in a system built by Dr. Verghese Kurien and Mr. Tribhovandas Patel, brought radical change in the lives of many, and its benefits are still being reaped today. The campaign hailed for its inclusivity where women and low caste farmers and farm workers found new avenues of income, ushered a new era for them.
What is Operation Flood?
In 1946, the Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers Union, was set up by activist Mr. Tribhovandas Patel. In 1949, the team was joined by Dr. Verghese Kurien, known to us by his sobriquet as ‘the Milkman of India’. Together, they designed a 3-tier model:
- Milk collection at village level through Dairy Cooperative Societies;
- Milk processing in plant at district level milk unions, such as AMUL; and
- Milk distribution plus marketing done at state level milk federation such as Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation.
This model was highly successful at the regional level and in 1960’s, the then Prime Minister of India, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri, who gave us the indomitable slogan of ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’, commissioned the Operation Flood. The AMUL or Anand model was to be replicated across India. The Operation was to be conducted in three phases over a span of 20 years.
Operation Flood has been lauded for tackling the malpractices by milk traders and mercenary merchants and ultimately helping in eradicating poverty. The milk cooperatives that have been set up across the country have funded much of the village development works, including construction of roads, schools and primary health centres which have all aided in upliftment of the poorest of the poor in India. The White Revolution has been more successful than the Green Revolution (agricultural) in part, because owning and operating animal husbandry and dairy farms require less capital, have short operating cycles and steady returns, and even the landless farmers could participate in the programme.
Today Operation Flood survives as the Rashtriya Pashudhan Vikas Yojana, and combines erstwhile dairy and livestock schemes including: National Programme for Dairy Development; Dairy Entrepreneurship; Assistance to Cattle Institutes; National Programme for Bovine Breeding; Livestock, Health and Disease Control Programme, etc. One dairy farmer exclaimed: ‘You have a veterinarian on call, artificial insemination of cows is done at a nominal rate or for free, you get cattle feed at factory prices and avail interest-free loans from the cooperative’. If these benefits do not spell success for you, read on further to see how the white revolution also assisted in empowerment of rural women in India.
White Revolution and Women Empowerment:
90’s kids grew up watching public interest advertisements: we all remember the ‘mile sur mera tumhara’ unity in diversity song, and we all remember seeing Ms. Smita Patil in the Amul commercial informing about the White Revolution. The plot however, thickens: the clip of Ms. Patil, was purposefully picked up from the movie ‘Manthan’ and chosen as the face of the commercials. The campaign, which was launched in 1970’s and ran successfully through the early 2000’s, celebrated the economic independence of women dairy farmers. It showcased how women in rural villages have become entrepreneurs by supplying milk to millions in India with the help of Amul.
The message highlighting women’s involvement and role in the White Revolution, was aimed at changing social perceptions about women. Women were changing their role in society, from homemakers to entrepreneurs. Women dairy farmers attended special training sessions in modern animal husbandry practices under the Operation Flood schemes. It gave them a sense of confidence and encouraged more women to participate. The number of women members in dairy cooperatives has increased from 6 lakhs in 1896-87 to 35 lakh in 2011-12.
The second wave of commercials released in 2011, focused on men acknowledging women as financially independent and celebrating their role as the ‘Shethani’. The milch cattle in India are mainly tended by women. National Dairy Development Board has realized this and built women empowerment activities as an important component of dairy development programme. Special incentives were given to all women Dairy Cooperative Services to encourage participation of women in governance of dairy cooperatives. With the establishment of the Women Dairy Cooperative Societies in the third phase of Operation Flood, women found themselves financially empowered. They were now authorised to make their own decisions by way of holding meetings outside the home. Income from participation allowed women to make most household expenditures without being dependent on their husbands.
Nutrition, Women and Operation Flood
The White Revolution holds the promise of raising the nutritional status of underprivileged sections in India. Operation Flood has been recognised as a nutrition sensitive programme, “whose primary object is not nutrition but that they have the potential to improve the food and nutrition security”. OF can be used to target health issues such as stunting, undernutrition, anaemia and low birthrate. Reports by NDDB indicate that the per capita protein and energy consumption was higher in households engaged in dairy farming (owning milch cattle) than others. The vulnerable section of the rural population including children below six years, and expectant and nursing mothers in the co-operative villages had, by and large, better nutritional status than their counterparts.
Some believe that the famous Amul mascost, the beloved utterly butterly girl draped in red and white polka dots, was an intentional marketing choice. It was designed to convey the social message to promote nutrition for the girl child, further highlighting the various roles of women in the White Revolution, as producer and consumer. In the 1970’s when India was largely dependent on milk powder, the idea was considered radical. If you add to that, the appalling malnutrition statistics in girl children in India, you would want to give Amul a standing ovation for using media to spread awareness about a deep-rooted social problem.
Building on the momentum…
The White revolution has brought with it prosperity to the rural households in India. Taking in its folds the lower caste landless farmers and women. It offers scope for employment of women in the dairy industry with favourable consequences for family health and nutrition. India is now one of the largest producers of milk in the world.
In recent years however, there has been a decline in the quality of milk supply in India. The World Health Organisation has issued an advisory warningto the Government of India stating that without adequate tracking of milk adulteration, 87 of citizens could be at risk of developing serious diseases, such as cancer by the year 2025. The NDDB would need to ensure that there is adequate education about animal husbandry and healthcare and quality control at each level of the milk cooperatives operation. Education about the harmful effects of additives in milk etc is now imperative.
While women dairy farmers who have received economic tools to work in animal husbandry and dairy farming, they must also be given financial education and adequate healthcare protections, to further empower them.