Published September 10, 2012
NEW DELHI – Verghese Kurien, an engineer known as "India's milkman" who helped revolutionize the country's dairy industry despite his own dislike for milk, has died at age 90.
A longtime aide, P.A. Joseph, said Kurien died Sunday. He had been hospitalized earlier in the month after he grew weak and stopped eating on his own.
Kurien, a strong advocate of cooperatives, was convinced throughout his life that small farmers could succeed if they had access to technology and markets.
Indian leaders hailed him as a visionary who empowered hundreds of thousands of dairy farmers and turned the nation into the world's largest milk producer, ending chronic shortages.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Kurien had engineered a "white revolution."
Kurien, who studied engineering at Michigan State University in the United States, returned to India soon after it won independence from Britain in 1947 and began working in its dairy industry.
At the time, Indian farmers traveled long distances to sell milk that had often spoiled during the journey because of a lack of refrigeration.
Kurien set up a large milk cooperative in Gujarat state that allowed small-scale dairy farmers to pool their resources and sell their products under a single brand. The cooperative, Amul, has grown into one of the country's best-known brands.
Later, as head of the National Dairy Development Board, he replicated that model across the country to eventually include 10 million milk producers in a network of 96,000 dairy cooperatives.
Yoginder Alagh, an economist, said Kurien showed that milk production didn't need to be done on a large scale if small farmers banded together.
He won three of the nation's top awards for his achievements in bringing milk to the people of his country, despite his own personal tastes.
He didn't like milk.