Operation Flood: India’s White Revolution

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One of the most successful initiatives in Modern India was Operation Flood, which turned India from a milk deficient nation to a leading milk producer in the world.

In 1964, Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri visited Anand, the headquarters of the Amul dairy in Gujarat. He wanted to see how Amul had scripted its success. That is, how a milk cooperative had transformed the lives of farmers in Gujarat.

Kurien with Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1964 | Wikimedia Commons
Kurien with Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1964 | Wikimedia Commons

At the time, India was importing 55,000 tonnes of milk powder every year even though the country had the largest number of cattle heads in the world. Milk production was among the lowest in the world.

After his Anand visit, Shastri wrote to the Chief Ministers of all the states, saying he wanted to set up Amul-like cooperative diaries across the country. The National Dairy Development Board was set up to implement the programme.

The Amul trinity Kurien Shri TK Patel HM Dalaya | Wikimedia Commons
The Amul trinity Kurien Shri TK Patel HM Dalaya | Wikimedia Commons

The brain behind Amul, Verghese Kurien, was asked to head the board and he called the project ‘Operation Flood’. Launched in 1970, it created a nation-wide milk grid that linked milk producers across India with consumers in 700 towns and cities.

This reduced seasonal and regional price variations and eliminated middlemen. It also meant that dairy farmers got a major share of the price that the consumers paid. But the bedrock of Operation Flood were village milk producers' cooperatives.

Operation Flood not only led to the White Revolution and turned India into a major milk producing country, it empowered dairy farmers across India as they had a say in their own development.

In spite of its flaws, Operation Flood created a vast grid that connected rural farmers directly to consumers, generated employment in the process, augmented rural incomes, and provided fair prices for consumers.

Whenever you see brands such as Mother Dairy, Mahanand (Maharashtra), OMFED (Odisha) and WAMUL and its Purabi brand (Assam), think of a Prime Minister and his vision for a better India, and a man who had the gumption to see it through.


Cover Image: Wikimedia Commons

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