Milk powder is not just for babies
The Operation Flood project is 15 years old, says Claude Alvares, and yet, unlike normal babies, still needs its bottle feeds from mama Europe.
Verghese Kurien, the man behind Operation Flood (OF), was recently back in the news when he received an award from an obscure foundation in Holland.
The award-giving foundation was merely playing its role in what has become a complex tug-of-war that has, for all practical purposes, grounded OF's basis in Europe.
On one side is the Indian government bureaucracy based in Brussels, National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) officials including Kurien, and the usual lobby of international "experts" that has been all praise for the project.
On the other side, is a wide coalition of activist groups including the India Committee of the Netherlands and organisations in West Germany, that has been demanding that further EEC aid for the project should be stopped on a number of grounds.
Two of the most important of these are that the EEC aid (which comes in the form of free milk powder and butter oil) is not reaching the poor, and that the project, by encouraging cross breed animals, is aggravating India's ecological crisis.
The India Committee has also demonstrated that the oilcakes exported in large quantities every year from India to the EEC, if fed instead to India's undernourished cows, would help produce more milk in one year than the EEC has given India during the project period in its entirety.
The public campaign in Europe against Operation Flood is a result of the Illustrated Weekly exposure of the project in 1983, titled The White Lie. That exposure was followed by the report of the high-powered committee headed by L.K. Jha, two books criticising the project, one published by Oxford University Press, and heaps of articles, both for and against OF, in the Indian media.
At the core of it all: the issue of free milk powder from the EEC. Not for babies, but for India's middle and upper classes in the major cities of Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta and Madras.
The OF project is 15 years old, yet, unlike normal babies, still needs its bottle feeds from mama Europe.
The free milk powder given by the EEC for the project since 1970 has generated for the NDDB and the Indian Dairy Corporation (IDC), a staggering free income of more than Rs. 800 crores. A good deal of that has been used to build a fancy, highly paid bureaucracy at Baroda and Anand in Gujarat.
Veterinary doctors employed by these institutions have improved their prospects so dramatically that they have become highly attractive objects in the marriage market.
|The award to Verghese Kurien from the Dutch foundation, representing basically Euro-American interests, is in the main, an attempt to influence the European Parliament.|
The problem is how does one maintain all this, if the free milk powder stops coming from the EEC. Both the NDDB and the IDC are artificial organisations in this sense: created out of foreign funds and therefore due to collapse once such funds are no longer available.
It is therefore easy to understand why Kurien and the NDDB want more EEC supplies. It is apparent that these supplies are no longer required for India's dairies since cooperatives and companies within the country are now producing reasonable quantities of such powder for recombination.
However, the NDDB/IDC must pay hard cash for the indigenous milk supplies, and this is guaranteed to make big holes in their reserves;
whereas, EEC powder, given free, can help continue to generate "profits" out of thin air.
OF-I and -II got approval from the EEC without much of a problem. OF-III
is literally having to sweat it out. The original proposal for OF-III, based on the import of an additional 45,000 tonnes of milk powder has now been cut down to 15,000 tonnes. The EEC wants to give the other quantity to famine-struck Ethiopia.
Further, opposition to OF-III has now come from the most powerful state within the country: Maharashtra. The state authorities are demanding a stop to imports because their own milk powder is lying unutilised.
The award to Verghese Kurien from the Dutch foundation, representing basically Euro-American interests, is in the main, an attempt to influence the European Parliament which is meeting next month to approve OF-III, and to persuade it to come to the aid of a beleaguered project.