Verghese Kurien: A man of integrity

On September 9, 2012, milkman Verghese Kurien died at the age of 90 after a prolonged illness at Anand, Gujarat. The man behind Operation Flood, Kurien was the chief architect who made India the largest milk producer in the world

Verghese Kurien: A man of integrity

Verghese Kurien ran a business worth billions, but when he had to buy a flat for his daughter, he withdrew some amount from his provident fund.

"The situation would have been quite different had my father been like any other person," said Nirmala Kurien, the only daughter of Verghese Kurien, the Father of the White Revolution in India.

He was the man behind the world's largest agricultural development programme that made dairy farming India's largest self-sustaining industry and the largest rural employment provider.

A Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan winner, Kurien was born on November 26, 1924, in Calicut in Madras (now Kozhikode in Kerela) and died at the age of 90 on September 9, 2012, in Nanidad in Gujarat.

A man of integrity, that's how Late Dr Varghese Kurien's friend Rev Abril SJ described him in an interview to the BBN a few years back.

"A few instances that I have heard from him as a friend make him a very honest man. He was committed to his convictions," Abril SJ had said. He informed that when Kurien was interviewed about his secret to the success of the White Revolution and the largest cooperative system in the world, he had replied, 'Integrity'.

Kurien set up Anand (Gujarat) Cooperative Dairy Development and made India, the world's largest milk-producing country. In 1949, Kurien had so set the rural economy of the Indian state that it never faced recession over a period of 70 years. His works had lifted millions out of poverty.

This chairman of AMUL was so committed to his convictions that he quit his job out of fear of nepotism. When his daughter Nirmala was hired for a job in the very same the company where Dr Kurien was the chairman, he resigned as he didn't want to get criticized for nepotism.

Verghese Kurien made India, the world's largest milk-producing countryVerghese Kurien made India, the world's largest milk-producing country

"When Nirmala completed her higher studies and applied for a job in National Cooperative Dairy Federation of India Limited (NDCFI), a subsidiary of AMUL family, Dr Kurien, who was the then chairman of the company, resigned from the post. The incident affected the company's functioning. He said that he didn't want to stay in an organisation where his daughter worked as he would be criticized for nepotism. Thereafter, Nirmala too resigned from the company and left for a job in Chennai, far away from Anand," said Abril.

Abril said that when he visited Chennai for some business work. He also visited Nirmala's home. It was a decent flat worth Rs 40 lakh. "She told me that her father wanted to buy this flat, but as he didn't have enough money. In order to buy that flat, he took a loan against his provident fund. She told me that things could have been different had her father had a different perspective. It is not easy for a man, whose company has a turnover in billions of rupees, doesn't even have enough money in his bank account that he could buy himself a flat. But despite hardships, Kurien never went against his principles. He knew that even his family would support him throughout."

"After Milk, National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), started marketing of edible oils naming the project 'Dhara', it was then that Kurien made many enemies, who had a lot to lose if the project succeeded. Subsequently, Kurien's most loyal co-worker Mr Chotani was thrown out of a running train. It is believed that the accident was pre-planned by the enemies of the 'Dhara' project. Although Mr Chotani survived the accident, but it was rumoured that Kurien could be the next target. When Kurien was asked to hire bodyguards for his safety, he denied at once," informed Abril SJ.

Abril believes that Dr Kurien always believed in destiny. He used to say that no bodyguard can save me from whatever is already in his destiny. Thanks to his determination and conviction that his oil project pulled off.

Abril SJ narrated about an incident when he paid a visit to Kurien's home. He said, "When we were sipping coffee, he received a phone call. Kurien's replies were only in "Yes", and "No sir". When the call was disconnected, Kurien told me that it was from the Chief Minister. He asked him to cut down the market price of oil. And when I asked him what was his reply. He said, that he told him he can't change this. The conversation ended there and we moved on to another conversation."

"When Dr Kurien was appointed as the vice-chancellor of the Agriculture University of Anand, he refused the offer as he thought the institution needs a lot of amendments, which he shall not be entertained to execute, at least to the level he wanted it to be," said Abril SJ.

He added, "On one occasion, a few high-profiled politicians wanted to organize a function in the university campus to promote their name and personality. Kurien believed it wasn't necessary and above that it was against his principles and the university's prestige. Despite oppression, he refused to grant permission. As far as I remember, the function then failed to organize in the university premises. However, many political interferences continued to throttle thereafter, due to which Dr Kurien resigned from the post."

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