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.

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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.