Book Giveaway #010 I Too Had A Dream

Today’s Book: I Too Had A Dream by Verghese Kurien as told to Gouri Salvi

This is the story of Verghese Kurien – ‘Father of White Revolution’ or the ‘Milkman of India’ who helped India become the world’s largest milk producer from a milk-deficient nation.

He managed to achieve this all and work with several Prime Ministers, despite being often ignored by governments, sometimes even being opposed by governments and once even fired by a minister (dismissed by Jagjivan Ram for refusing to set up a private dairy for his constituency).

In his own words:

“I have found, in over fifty years of confronting governments and defending cooperatives from political and bureaucratic interference, that when you begin demanding what is rightfully yours, there are many people even within the bureaucratic system who ensure that you retain those rights.”

– Verghese Kurien, I too had a Dream

He was disliked by MNCs too:

“Interestingly, at one stage, Glaxo approached us, willing to give a manufacturing contract for its baby food to Amul. I said we could consider it on the condition that it would carry the Amul brand name. This so incensed the Glaxo boss that he is said to have declared: ‘Amul will never be able to sell its brand of baby food and when their tins begin rotting on the shelves, I will have them collected and thrown into the Arabian Sea!’ Such was the arrogance of multinationals.”

– Verghese Kurien, I too had a Dream

One looking to find a solution, come what may:

“In 1962, the clouds of war against China darkened the nation. I got a call from the Prime Minister’s office asking me to come to Delhi for an urgent meeting. Also present at the meeting were some Generals and a senior bureaucrat, Shivaraman. I was informed that the Indian Army needed milk powder, and they asked me how much we could provide and how soon. I said, ‘A thousand tons and within six months.’ One of the Generals looked at me and said, ‘That’s not enough.’ I said, ‘Okay, then 1,500 tons.’ They said that, too, was not enough. ‘I suppose we stop wasting time, and you tell me the quantity that you need?’ I asked. ‘We need 2,750 tons,’ came the reply. I asked for a piece of paper as an idea began forming in my mind. I was aware that there was another milk powder plant in Rajkot, which belonged to the Government of Gujarat. It was a small plant, but I knew that if we put together all the powder and gave it to the army, sacrificing the entire civilian market, then we could fulfil this commitment in six months.”

– Verghese Kurien, I too had a Dream

The second part of the above conversation:

“So I did a swift calculation on a piece of paper and said, ‘It will be done. Now, can I go?’ The General expressed apprehension, ‘Supposing you let us down?’ ‘That is not the way to speak to Mr Kurien,’ Shivaraman said. ‘We have the highest regard for his words. If he says that he will do it, he will certainly do it. And besides, may I know what other alternative you have?’ That quietened the General. Then Shivaraman asked me, ‘What can the government do for you?’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘Loans? Grants? Anything you want?’ I said, ‘Mr Shivaraman, you said there is an emergency, and if Amul uses this emergency to squeeze money out of the government, then it is an unworthy organisation. I want nothing.’ From that day onwards, Shivaraman was an ally.”

– Verghese Kurien, I too had a Dream

On rural urban disparity:

“There is nothing wrong in building flyovers in Delhi. What is not fair is when we do not also build an approach road to villages across the nation. There is nothing wrong in having fountains with coloured lights in the capital. After all, Delhi should be beautiful. But it is unjustified when we have not provided drinking water to all our villages. There is nothing wrong in having a modern, private hospital in Bombay, or the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi, or other large medical institutions in our big cities. But it is not justified when we have not arranged to have two drops of a medicine put into the eyes of a farmer’s newborn baby, and that baby goes blind. While this would have cost us nothing, we have preferred to spend crores of rupees in building five-star hospitals in cities. Why does this happen? Because policy making is in our hands – in the hands of the elite – and naturally, even unconsciously perhaps, when we make policies we make policies that suit us; we usurp the resources of this land somewhat shamelessly to benefit ourselves. The most charitable interpretation of it is that we do it unconsciously.”

– Verghese Kurien, I too had a Dream

Hope you get to read this book and it helps you EXECUTE your own Highest Vision!


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