Debating India

GUJARAT

Verghese Kurien quits

Tuesday 21 March 2006

Special Correspondent

"People abroad appreciate me, but at home I am being hounded"

ANAND (Gujarat): The doyen of India’s cooperation movement and "white revolution," Verghese Kurien, on Monday resigned as member and chairman of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) in anticipation of a no-confidence motion.

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Verghese Kurien

He has been chairman since the inception in 1973 of the GCMMF, which markets the Amul brand milk and milk products. Only three months ago, Dr. Kurien (84) was unanimously re-elected for three years by the same board of directors, which, he said, turned against him suddenly now. He was "anguished and pained" at the move to remove him and suspected that it could be an "orchestrated act involving people at a very high level."

Dr. Kurien, who was chairman of the National Dairy Development Board from its inception in 1965 until he voluntarily resigned in favour of Dr. Amrita Patel in 1999, was not sure about his future in another institution he built up, Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA).

Right now he was not quitting as IRMA chairman, but considering his age, he would take a decision "very soon." Dr. Kurien convened a media conference at the IRMA on Monday morning to announce his resignation after he was informed of the move to adopt a no-confidence motion at a meeting of the GCMMF board later in the day. He said the board had "become a pawn in the bigger game plan of some vested interests bent upon capturing the cooperative body, which had withstood many such attempts in the past."

Future plans

Asked about his future plans, Dr. Kurien said he would be willing to provide advice to any farmers’ cooperative. He had not yet decided to accept Pakistan’s "open invitation" to set up a cooperative on the lines of Amul in the country. He doubted whether a cooperation movement would be possible under a military junta. He had also received invitations from several African countries.

While people abroad appreciated his contribution to the cooperation movement in India, at home he was being "hounded out," regretted Dr. Kurien.

Adding to the controversy surrounding the move to remove him from the GCMMF was a petition in the Gujarat High Court challenging his "co-option" as member. Dr. Kurien regretted that he was being questioned 34 years after he became chairman.

On his resignation, his one-time prot?g? turned-foe, Amrita Patel, who is believed to be among those behind the no-confidence move, said she was "deeply saddened" by his decision, and lauded his "invaluable contribution" to the cooperation movement.

Dr. Kurien cautioned farmer-members against "designs" to destabilise co-operatives, which served as an instrument of their empowerment. This, he said, was also at the root of his differences with the NDDB chairman, who, in defiance of an Act of Parliament, under which the board was set up, virtually turned it into a company.

The NDDB, Dr. Kurien said, wanted to control marketing through its direct and indirect subsidiaries, in which farmers would have no control. Nor did this move have government approval.

Refuting the allegations, Dr. Patel said she had made no move to corporatise cooperatives but only registered the NDDB subsidiaries under the Companies Act to make their functions more professional, efficient and transparent.

See online : The Hindu

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