Verghese Kurien (26 November 1921 – 9 September 2012) known as the Father of the White Revolution in Indiawas a social entrepreneur whose “billion-litre idea”, Operation Flood – the world’s largest agricultural dairy development programme, made India the world’s largest milk producer, surpassing the United States of America by 1998,with about 17 percent of global output in 2010–11, from a milk-deficient nation, which doubled milk available per person within 30 years, and which made dairy farming India’s largest self-sustaining industry,with benefits of employment, incomes, credit, nutrition, education, health, gender parity & empowerment, breaking down caste barriers and grassroots democracy and leadership.
He helped establish the Amul cooperative, today India’s largest food brand, where three-fourths of the price paid by the consumer goes into the hand of the producing dairy farmer, the cooperative’s owner. A key invention at Amul, the production of milk powder from the abundant buffalo-milk, instead of from cow-milk, short in supply in India, enabled it to compete in the market with success. He found the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) in 1965, to replicate Amul’s “Anand pattern” nationwide.
He also made India self-sufficient in edible oils, taking on a powerful, entrenched and violently resistant oil supplying lobby.He is regarded as one of the greatest proponents of the cooperative movement in the world, his work having lifted millions out of poverty in India and outside.He was born on 26 November 1921 at Calicut, Madras Presidency (now Kozhikode, Kerala) into a Syrian Christian family He did his schooling at Diamond Jubilee Higher Secondary School in Gobichettipalayam while his father worked as a civil surgeon at the government hospital there. He graduated in physics from Loyola College, Madras in 1940 and then got a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from the College of Engineering, Guindy, Madras. After that, he joined the Tata Steel Technical Institute, Jamshedpur from where he graduated in 1946, but soon found himself wanting to get away from the hangers-on and yesmen of his uncle, who was the chief there.
So he applied for a government of India scholarship to the United States and returned with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering (metallurgy), (with a minor in nuclear physics) from Michigan State University in 1948.
Later, he would say, “I was sent to … study dairy engineering (on the only government scholarship left) … I cheated a bit though, and studied metallurgical and nuclear engineering, disciplines … likely to be of far greater use to my soon-to-be Independent country and, quite frankly, to me.”
He did however train for dairy technology later on, on a government sponsorship to New Zealand, a bastion of cooperative dairying then, when he had to learn to set up the Amul dairy