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Mumbai: Patients will suffer if Aarey dairy shuts milk supply

The dairy department has written to state- and civic-run hospitals across the city, intimating them that it is straining to meet their milk requirements

The drying milk supply at the government-run Aarey dairy is set to hit the thousands of patients admitted to various civic- and state-run hospitals, who would not get the free milk from the facilities, which get milk from the dairy at subsidised rates.

Also read: Are politicians milking Aarey dry to sell Rs 4,000 crore land?

The Aarey dairy at Worli; milk production has slipped to 18,920 litres
The Aarey dairy at Worli; milk production has slipped to 18,920 litres

The dairy department has already issued letters to the hospitals across the city, stating that it is straining to meet the demand as supply has dipped drastically. On Thursday, the dairy’s total milk production hit a new low of 18,920 litres, which was distributed to various hospitals, government-run establishments and prisons, dairy officials said.

They added, “Of the 18,920 litres of milk, 10,920 litres was supplied to south Mumbai customers, while 3,000 litres was distributed in the central suburbs, which used to be catered to by the Kurla dairy. The remaining 5,000 litres produced in Goregaon dairy was distributed in the western suburbs.”

mid-day’s cover story on the embattled Aarey dairy, on Wednesday
mid-day’s cover story on the embattled Aarey dairy, on Wednesday

Apart from the three major BMC-run hospitals KEM, Sion and Nair 11 peripheral hospitals and 52 maternity homes across the city, Aarey also supplies at subsidised rates to state hospitals, prisons (Arthur Road and Byculla), children’s homes, Thane mental hospital and other institutions, said a senior dairy official.

While private milk brands are available at over Rs 40 per litre, Aarey is sold at R33 to consumers, and the per-litre price is further brought down to Rs 30 for regular bulk purchasers including hospitals. Dr Pankaja Agal, assistant deputy dean of Nair Hospital, confirmed to mid-day of receiving the dairy department’s letter about shortage of milk due to which their regular supply may get affected.

The 1,304-beds hospital has been informed in advance to make necessary alternate arrangements. However, she said that so far their milk supply has not been affected and they are getting their daily requirement of 640-660 litres. Asked about their fallback plan in case the supply runs out, she said, “We will have no other option but to prioritise patients.

For instance, our priority would be to give milk to newborns and expecting mothers, to pediatric patients and then the others. We may even go for milk powder. We are used to Aarey’s quality; it is the best. So we can’t even think of any private brand.” A dietician from a 400-bed peripheral hospital said, “We only give eggs and milk as a first-class protein diet to indoor patients.

Each patient is given 400 ml of milk a day. If adequate supply is not received from the dairy, the patients will be deprived of a healthy protein diet.” An official from Rajawadi Hospital in Ghatkopar said, “Our daily requirement is 200 litres for our 350-400 patients. Of the 200 litres, 12 litres is for making tea for patients, 6 litres is for making curd, which is served to them with meals, and the remaining milk is served two times to them.

“The BMC will have to make alternate arrangements for supplying milk, but we can assure you that Aarey milk has been the best for patients; it is never adulterated.” The dairy once had a daily cash collection of R12,80,000 from sale of milk, which has fallen drastically. “The uniform sale prices of milk and its products are cited for the fall in Aarey’s sale across institutions.

Those who switched over to private brands were given substantial concessions by private dairy companies, which was not possible with Aarey,” explained a senior Mantralaya official from the dairy department. Nevertheless, it is the state’s lethargy that is responsible for the situation Aarey is in today.

If the government is so concerned, it should have insisted that BMC supply Energee instead of flavoured milk procured by private parties to the 4.50 lakh students studying in the 1,188 schools covered under the midday meal scheme, officials said.

What ministers says

Abdul Satar Abdul Nabi, State Dairy Minister
I have decided to bring up the dairy issue in the cabinet on Wednesday. I have already made certain proposals, which will be sent to the Chief Minister for approval.

They include increasing the procurement and sale prices of Aarey milk. Only after the cabinet’s nod can we increase the prices and pay farmers more for the milk. Meanwhile, I have already instructed all the 11 cooperatives to compulsorily part with 10 per cent of their daily supply to Aarey to start with.

Sachin Ahir
Sachin Ahir

Sachin Ahir, minister of state for housing and environment (and MLA under whose constituency the Worli dairy falls)
I have already spoken to State Dairy Minister Abdul Satar Abdul Nabi to have a meeting with senior leaders in the government and clarify the state’s stand on the future of the dairy. Also, we won’t allow any patients to be deprived of free milk from Aarey. It is unfortunate that a situation like this has come up.

Defence-less
Earlier, Aarey had over 250 institutions including the army, navy and air force, among its clients. The daily milk supply to defence establishments and its residential places in Colaba was over 80,000 litres.

The navy also uploaded milk on its warships, partly because of its quality, but also because of mandatory government norms to procure milk from Aarey.

The defence, unlike other government institutions, paid Aarey in advance, but now Aarey has lost this chunk of clientele. Today, only the Mumbai Port Trust and Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) follow the practice.

Voices

Yogesh Dhanjani (25)
Aarey, the city’s largest milk producing colony, is a boon to Mumbai. The reduction in its milk supply will shoot up prices and make a basic necessity hard to purchase for the common man. The government should really look into this.

Vinita Devendra (20)
My mother prefers Aarey products for our family. I don’t think she would switch to another brand even if supply decreases. We are loyal to the brand, so we will stand by it. We appeal to all Mumbaikars to raise their voice in unison, so the dairy is not ignored.

Abhishek Jadhav (28)
Decline in supply would affect families because the milk industry could manipulate the fluctuating prices and may raise prices whenever it feels. The public should support the dairy, and the concerned authority should check the facility’s infrastructure and the reasons behind its downfall.”

Nagesh R Bhakta
Patronising of private dairies by those in power is a sure way to put down the state-owned dairy. People in cities are willing to pay more for quality, so talk of controlling prices for the common man is gibberish.

The main reason for the dereliction of the dairy is the huge tracts of real estate, as your paper has pointed out. Why is the government not talking of disinvestment of Aarey?

With such huge land, anyone in the dairy industry will be interested. It gives them free fodder for at least a few months. Since private players in this field are growing by leaps and bounds, there is no reason why Aarey should not do well.

Finally, just by selling their famous Masala milk and other products all through Mumbai suburbs, Aarey can earn huge sums. If only the Government acts, and the land sharks are put to rest...

Dayanand Ahire
I think the dairy management, minister for the dairy department and the entire secretariat are a failure. They are unable to meet the challenges the dairy faces, and should step down from their posts in the larger public interest, and assist those who are up to the challenge.

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