The story of the White Revolution is rather well known in India. The story about how a nation which was dependent on imports for the bulk of its dairy requirement attained self-sufficiency in milk and milk production. When you talk of the co-operative movement in the country, the story invariably begins with the story of Amul- a co-operative of milk producers from one tiny district in Western India organizing themselves not just to produce, but to procure, market and distribute their products.
I have always admired Dr. Verghese Kurien, the brain, heart and body behind the movement, because he is one of those rare individuals who is at the same time a visionary, a leader and a professional manager. And yet, I always hesitated to pick up his authorized biography “I too have a Dream”, because of my natural distrust of authorized biographies and autobiographies. These books often tend to be self congratulatory, and this one was no different.
Dr. Kurien has achieved a lot in his professional life, he has surmounted obstacles that most people would have hesitated to even take on. He is one person who combines the best qualities of a visionary, a leader and a professional manager. He has changed the paradigm of how the diary industry operates in the country, has been responsible for ensuring an alternate/ supplementary source of livelihood to millions of farmers and has set up several institutions that continue to serve a vital role in the country.
Every page of the book oozed sincerity. The man is genuinely concerned with social and economic upliftment in rural India. For someone like me who continues to focus her energy on urban poverty and industry led development, reading about rural India was an eye-opener. The book had huge insights for anyone who wanted to read between the lines.While urban poverty is more visible, the real solution to urban poverty is to keep people from having to migrate to the cities. Rural poverty alleviation is what would lead to overall poverty alleviation. Dr. Kurien made me think along lines I have never been challenged to think before, and I loved the intellectual stimulation of having to do that.
But, there were too many moments in the book where ‘so-and-so threatened to do such-and-such to the movement’, and Dr. Kurien called up ‘so-and-so and had the threat removed’. Too many of his battles seem to have been won by making a call to the Prime Minister’s office, or by one Minister intervening when another was causing trouble. Nothing wrong with that – in cases such as this, the ends definitely justify the means – but is that all there is to the man? Couldn’t the story have been as strong without his having to pull so many strings? If he was willing to go to any extent to achieve what he thought had to be achieved, were all his quests as noble as the ones he highlights?
The reality of modern India, unfortunately, is one where you need to know someone to get something done. I would have liked that Dr. Kurien’s story have been slightly different. But a book I would definitely recommend, because it does challenge you to think of issues you may otherwise just avoid.