Sad thoughts on the turn of events at rural Anand

The Prime Minister must give some thoughts to the latest developments at Anand. Petty jealousies have sought to bring a bad name to a man who made all Indians proud. The government must intervene and save the country and the good name of India from this petty embarrassment. Dr.V.Kurien ,the creator of Amul is a living legend. Every India would be proud of him. He is perhaps the last of the great dreamers who dreamt of creating a new India, an India where Indians would give their best and make India proud. In this dream Kurien succeeded so dramatically and thanks to his life and work, we have the Amul co-operative dairy which is not only the most powerful co-operative venture in agriculture, milk and it had emerged as India’s brand image for international quality milk products. Thanks to Kurien we talk of India being the number one in milk production and the Amul model is replicated and Kurien is sought after by many countries.

He is a pioneer, an innovator, an institution builder and what many may not know who do not know his full story he is a fighter all his life. Now, it seems he is again in a fight. This time the only difference is he is fighting with smaller fry! That is the distinction. And what is sad for me and what is also a story for me is my own little bit of bad experiences in my village life and that brought me to instant identification with the current Kurien’s troubles. I only hope and very much wish he is spared of the typical Indian mindset to discard those who lose immediate relevance. Indians are a very peculiar people and their memories are short, Indians don’t have long memory and that is one fatal national weakness that had kept us under subjugation of one power or other. Now before I allude to Kurien’s current challenges to his tenure as the chairman of the board of the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA). Before that some old thoughts.
What is more insulting the conferment of the Bharata Ratna is any favour from individual to the other. It is rather a reflection on the part of the countrymen how far they take their achievers seriously. Kurien had impeccable credentials and the story had been told many times. He created in Gujarat a revolution, not only organising the milk cooperatives but also building up a brand that is now internationally recognised, many countries have asked him to replicate his development models. This he had done. That in itself calls for recognition. He gives Gujarat a symbolism that would outlive Modi and much that had tarnishged Gujarat’s good name.

So, Gujarat of Gandhi and Sardar Patel and many other dedicated men who stood by values and Kurien added to the distinction of the State by winning over the support of all successive Prime Ministers. It looks it is only Vajpayee who didn’t go out of his way to appreciate the work done by Kurien. May be, given the constraints of the bigots of the Hindutava, Gujarat’s own record in communal riots, how can, we imagine, a Prime Minister honour a man belonging to a minority religion against the wishes of the bigots of his party?

Much more sad is the fact that the President in a well -publicised gesture publicly taken back his “recommendation” from the Prime Minister! Thus ended the saga of conferring the highest national award on a man who is already a Bharat Ratna in the minds of his countrymen and for the millions of farmers who make a decent living with dignity thanks to his hard labour and vision.

So, his conception of a co-operative philosophy against the control of bureaucracy had partly succeeded and yet partly remains unrealised. Indian, as I often say, is a bureaucratic person, we love our bureaucratic existence, we would never become an independent people!
Now to the story of Kurien’s current roubles. The board of the IRMA met on April 1 to discuss a report by the Assistant Charity Commissioner in Anand that his continuation as the life-long chairman of the IRMA may not be in “public interest”.

The review petition before the Joint Charity Commissioner, Vadodara was rejected and now the local court had stayed the Commissioner’s order while it is not clear whether the board meeting is stayed or not. There is one Prof.Pratap Reddy, Secretary of the board whose performance Kurien had found fault with and it seems that the tussle between the two might have led to this present tangle. However, it seems that when the IRMA was set up in 1979 Dr.Kurien was nominated for three years as chairman. He ten got an extension of five years. Then came the controversy whether Kurien can continue to be life-long chairman. The rivals claim that rules don’t permit and Kurien is illegally in the position for the last 17 years.

Kurien for his part says he cant be pushed around and he would continue to be there as long as he wishes. That seems to us fair enough. Pandit Nehru gave so much freedom to men like P.C.Mahalanobis and Homi Bhabha when they established their institutions. Here the issue seems to be petty jealousies. I can fully understand. Having done similar job, though on a modest scale, building the running a model school in a village, I faced the very same issues of petty jealousies and when jealousy take over the illiterate and low level people, specially those who served under you and then it can become a calamity, as I faced. It is on such occasions, men become brutes!

The story for me is so simple! I had myself had gone through this type of mind slinging by those who became my rivals in my village school project purely on my giving those undeserving fellows importance in the scheme of things. That is rural India. Rural India is mired in such self-destructive frenzies. Our rural backwardness for the internecine quarrels on petty things drags the people into a hole down to the bottom. Villagers, sociologically can never progress on their own. I have had bitter experiences.

But this one is of a national and international importance. And for the sake of the country’s fair name this problem needs to be tackled by the government and by all the friends and wellwishers of Kurien in a tactful and diplomatic manner. Here too an example of what Nehru did in similar circumstance comes to my mind. When Nehru appointed the legendary Einstein-collaborator, Prof.S.N.Bose as Vice Chancellor of the Visva bharati University, students went on strike for some unrelated issues. Bose couldn’t tackle the recalcitrant students, to use his own words! Nehru diplomatically appointed him as a National Professor! That was it!

The President of India must confer upon Kurien the Bharat Ratna Award. Let us give Kurien what is due. Let us give him the honour and respect and the recognition and make his last days of life something to be remembered by his countrymen with some elation and pride.

The former President K.R.Narayanan wanted to confer  the Bharat Ratna on Kurien. As per the convention the President moots the idea and then it goes to the Prime Minister who is the final authority. Given Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s good qualities and their limitations, the PM didn’t return the expected graces to please the President.


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