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When Kurien met Lal Bahadur Shastri

Anand, once a dusty, serene farming village, is today a symbol of modern nationalism. What started in 1946 in a village in Gujarat as a small co-operative effort to bring economic freedom to farmers by releasing them from the clutches of self-serving middlemen, has developed into a movement that involves millions of farmers all over the country, and into an incredible Rs 120 billion (US$2.4 billion) company!

The iconic statue at the Amul Dairy Complex in Anand.
The brand of India: The iconic statue at the Amul Dairy Complex in Anand. The company is a multi-billion dollar brand. File pic/AFP

When invited to commission the cattlefeed plant at Anand in 1964, then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri wished to spend one night at a farm, unaccompanied by anyone. Hesitantly, Dr Verghese Kurien, then general manager of Amul Dairy, took on this task. Shastri and Dr Kurien sneaked out to a village where farmer Ramanbhai and his family welcomed their guest, unaware that he was the prime minister!

Amul

Next morning, a relieved Dr Kurien met Shastri, who had spent the night talking to farmers about their lives and problems, and their experiences with the co-operative movement. So impressed was he that he requested Dr Kurien to replicate this in the rest of the country. Thus was born the National Dairy Development Board, headquartered at Anand. For the first time, a national institution was located in an obscure village rather than in India’s capital city.

— Extracted from the book ‘Amul’s India’ with permission from HarperCollins Publishers 

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