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"Milkman of India" dies aged 90

Verghese Kurien's "White Revolution" helped ease rural poverty

  • Swati Deb, New Delhi
  • India
  • September 10, 2012
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Verghese Kurien, the man who inspired an influential “White Revolution” that  helped alleviate rural poverty died yesterday after a brief illness. He was 90.

Kurien was fondly known as the Milkman of India for his work that transformed the country's dairy industry.

Shailendra Kumar, an associate of Kurien for more than four decades, said Kurien was cremated yesterday in the Anand district of Gujarat, which was his karma bhoomi - place of work.

“He used to love calling himself an atheist,” said Kumar of his friend, who was nonetheless an orthodox Christian.

As founding chairman of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), Kurien made a stellar success of the Amul brand of dairy products, which are now distributed worldwide.

The Amul group now comprises 15 local cooperatives with three million farmer members - the majority of them women - in around 16,000 Gujarat villages.

The Amul business model has been replicated in several states and the World Bank has identified it as a key tool in the fight against poverty.

Kurien won numerous awards including the Padma Vibhushan, which is India's second-highest civilian honor, and the Magsaysay Award.

His achievements with the GCMMF led to his appointment as founding chairman of the National Dairy Development Board in 1965.

“This was done to replicate Amul's success nationwide," said Kumar. "A key feature of the success with Amul was the invention of milk powder processed from buffalo milk. This changed the face of the dairy movement and of women's empowerment."

Senior leaders of the country expressed their condolences at Kurien’s death.

President Pranab Mukherjee said Kurien would be remembered as someone who made enormous contributions to the fields of agriculture, rural development and dairy processing.

In a message to Kurien’s wife, Molly, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Kurien's "contribution to the welfare of the farmer and agricultural production and development of the country is immeasurable. Kurien was an icon of India's cooperative movement and the dairy industry.”

Federal Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said: “the Green Revolution in the Seventies gave bread to millions of Indians, but the White Revolution added butter to it.”
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