Amul : The Complete Story
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You are Here: IndiaDairy.Com / Facts & Figures / Amul: The Complete Story

ON THIS PAGE:
Amul - The start of a revolution.
Obstacles: Springboards for success.
Milk by products: An excuse to expand.
Cattle: A transition from stumbling blocks to building blocks.
The Kaira experiment: A new beginning in more ways than one.
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Amul: The origin

The mighty Ganges at it's origin is but a tiny stream in the Gangotri ranges of the Himalayas. Similar is the story of Amul which inspired 'Operation Flood' and heralded the 'White Revolution' in India. It began with two village cooperatives and 250 liters of milk per day, nothing  but a trickle compared to the flood it has become today. Today Amul collects, processes and distributes over a million liters of milk and milk products  per day, during the peak, on behalf of more than a thousand village cooperatives owned by half a million farmer members. Further, as Ganga-ma carries the aspirations of generations for moksha, Amul too has become a symbol of the aspirations of millions of farmers.Creating a pattern of liberation and self-reliance for every farmer to follow. 

The start of a revolution

The revolution started as an awareness among the farmers that grew and matured into a protest movement and the determination to liberate themselves. Over four decades ago, the life of a farmer in Kaira District was very much like that of his counterpart anywhere else in India. His income was derived almost entirely from seasonal crops. The income from milch buffaloes was undependable. The marketing and distribution system for the milk was controlled by private traders and middlemen. As milk is perishable, farmers were compelled to sell it for whatever they were offered. Often, they had to sell cream and ghee at throwaway prices. In this situation, the one who gained was the private trader. Gradually, the realization dawned on the farmers that the exploitation by the trader could be checked only if marketed their milk themselves. In order to do that they needed to form some sort of an organization. This realization is what led to the establishment of the Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers' Union Limited (popularly known as Amul) which was formally registered on December 14, 1946.

The Kaira Union began pasteurizing milk for the Bombay Milk Scheme in June 1948. An assured market proved a great incentive to the milk producers of the district. By the end of 1948, more than 400 farmers joined in more village societies, and the quantity of milk handled by one Union increased from 250 to 5,000 liters a day.

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Obstacles: Springboards for success.

Each failure, each obstacle, each stumbling block can be turned into a success story. In the early years, Amul had to face a number of problems. With every problem came opportunity. A chance to turn a negative into a positive. Milk by products and supplementary yield which suffered from the same lack of marketing and distribution facilities became encumbrances. Instead of being bogged down by their fate they were used as stepping stones for expansion. Backward integration of the process led the cooperatives to advances in animal husbandry and veterinary practice.

Milk by products: An excuse to expand.

The response to these provided stimulus for further growth. For example, as the movement spread in the district, it was found that the Bombay Milk Scheme could not absorb the extra milk collected by the Kaira Union in winter, when the production on an average was 2.5 times more than in summer. Thus, even by 1953, the farmer-members had no assured market for the extra milk produced in winter. They were again forced to sell a large surplus at low rates to the middlemen. The remedy was to set up a plant to process milk into products like butter and milk powder. A Rs 5 million plant to manufacture milk powder and butter was completed in 1955. In 1958, the factory was expanded to manufacture sweetened condensed milk. Two years later, a new wing was added for the manufacture of 2500 tons of roller-dried baby food and 600 tons of cheese per year, the former based on a formula developed with the assistance of Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore. It was the first time anywhere in the world that cheese or baby food was made from buffalo milk on a large, commercial scale. Another milestone was the completion of a project to manufacture balanced cattle feed. The plant was donated by OXFAM under the Freedom From Hunger Campaign of the FAO.

To meet the requirement of milk powder for the Defense, the Kaira Union was asked by the Government of India in 1963 to setup additional milk drying capacity. A new dairy capable of producing 40 tons of milk powder and 20 tons of butter a day was speedily completed. It was declared open in 1965. The Mogar Complex where high protein weaning food, chocolate and malted food are being made was another initiative by Amul to ensure that while it fulfilled the social responsibility to meet the demand for liquid milk, its members were not deprived of the benefits to be had from the sale of high value-added products.

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Cattle: From stumbling blocks to building blocks.

Traditionally dairying was a subsidairy occupation of the farmers of Kaira. However, the contribution to the farmer's income was not as prominent as his attachment to dairying as a tradition handed down from one generation to the next. The milk yield from animals, which were maintained mainly on the by products of the farm, was decidedly low. That together with the lack of facilities to market even the little produced rendered the scientific practice of animal husbandry irrational as well as unaffordable.  The return on the investment as well as the prospects of being able to market the product looked very bleak. It was a vicious cycle reinforced by generations of beliefs.

The Kaira Union broke the cycle by not only taking upon themselves the responsibility of collecting the marketable surplus of milk but also provided the members with every provision needed to enhance production. Thus the Kaira Union has full-fledged machinery geared to provide animal health care and breeding facilities. As early as late fifties, the Union started making high quality buffalo semen. Through village society workers artificial insemination service was made available to the rural animal population. The Union started its mobile veterinary services to render animal health care at the farmers' doorstep. Probably for the first time in the country, veterinary first aid services, by trained personnel, were made available in the villages.The Union's 16 mobile veterinary dispensaries are manned by fully qualified staff. All the villages are visited bi-monthly, on a predetermined day, to provide animal health care. A 24-hour Emergency Service is also available at a fee (Rs. 35 for members and Rs. 100 for non-members). All the mobile veterinary vans are equipped with Radio Telephones.
The Union runs a semen production center where it maintains high pedigreed Surti buffalo bulls, Holstein Friesian bulls, Jersey bulls and 50 per cent crossbred bulls. The semen obtained from these bulls is used for artificial breeding of buffaloes and cows belonging to the farmer members of the district. The artificial insemination service has become very popular because it regulates the frequency of calving in cows and buffaloes thus reducing their dry period. Not only that, a balanced feed concentrate is manufactured in the Union's Cattle Feed Plant and sold to the members through the societies at cost price.

Impressive though its growth, the unique feature of the Amul sagas did not lie in the extensive use of modern technology, nor the range of its products, not even the rapid inroads it made into the market for dairy products. The essence of the Amul story lies in the breakthrough it achieved in modernizing the subsistence economy of a sector by organizing the rural producers in the areas.

The Kaira experiment: A new beginning in more ways than one.

A system which involves participation of people on such a large magnitude does not confine itself to an isolated sector. The ripples of its turbulence affect other areas of the society as well. The cooperatives in the villages of Kaira are contributing to various desirable social changes such as:

  • The yearly elections of the management committee and its chairman, by the members, are making the participants aware of their rights and educating them about the democratic process.
  • Perpetuating the voluntary mix of the various ethnic and social groups twice-a-day for common causes and mutual betterment has resulted in eroding many social inequilibria. The rich and the poor, the elite and the ordinary come together to cooperate for a common cause.
  • Live exposure to various modern technologies and their application in day-to-day life has not only made them aware of these developments but also made it easier for them to adopt these very processes for their own betterment. One might wonder whether the farmer who knows almost everything about impregnating a cow or buffalo, is also equally aware of the process in the humans and works towards planning it.
  • More than 900 village cooperatives have created jobs for nearly 5000 people in their own villages -- without disturbing the socio-agro-system -- and thereby the exodus from the rural areas has been arrested to a great extent.
  • The income from milk has contributed to their household economy. Besides, women, who are the major participants, now have a say in the home economy.

Independent studies by various individuals and institutions have shown that as high as 48 per cent of the income of the rural household in Kaira District is being derived from dairying. Since dairying is a subsidairy occupation for the majority of the rural population, this income is helping these people not only to liberate themselves from the stronghold of poverty but also to elevate their social status.

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