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A Kurien of Vizag

Dairy farmers in the three districts consider him as a go-getter and man of the masses.



A. Tulasi Rao

"Why should I aspire to become a minister when I can get things done more easily than them? I will even reject the post of chief minister if offered," says Adari Tulasi Rao, a bigwig in Telugu Desam Party, whose success story as the Chairman of Visakha Dairy is well known.

"A chief minister has to get a number of approvals by various committees for the construction of a mere dam or a reservoir to benefit the rural folk. That may also be the case for getting a small hospital constructed in a village. But I need not go through the rigours of approvals and committee reports. If I feel that a village needs to be connected by a bridge or it needs a hospital, I just go ahead with the formal consent of my board of directors, provided it is within my permissible budget."

Well, that's how Tulasi Rao talks and does things. He has not only benefited over 1,60,000 farmers in the north coastal districts of Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam in the last decade-and-a- half but has also been the protagonist of the cooperative dairy movement.

Hailing from a middle-class agrarian family in Elamanchili, Tulasi Rao joined politics at an early age. He was elected as the sarpanch of his village in 1964 and had held the post for 25 years at a stretch. "I relinquished the post and joined TDP as its district president in 1985. In the same year the TDP requested me to contest election to the dairy board's chairmanship." From 1986 till date he has been the chairman of Visakha Dairy.

Achievement

Primarily the dairy farmers in the three districts consider him as a go-getter and man of the masses. The very fact that the daily milk procurement and production have risen from a mere 50,000 litres in 1986 to five lakh litres today indicates the improvement the dairy has undergone under his tutelage.

Visakha Dairy stands erect as the most profitable and modern plant in India after, Amul in Anand, be it among the cooperative sector or the Government owned ones or the private dairy farms.

The dairy is a multi-product farm with an annual turnover exceeding Rs.200 crores. Apart from marketing branded products all over the South, it supplies milk through insulated hi-tech tankers to neighbouring States like Orissa and Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal also.

Excellent network

The network of Visakha Dairy is mammoth. The first thing Tulasi Rao did after taking over as its Chairman was to increase the dairy farmers network. It is currently supported by over 833 primary milk producers and over 1,250 unregistered producers spread over the three districts.

"These farmers are the backbone of the dairy plant. And they have to be healthy for its success. So apart from offering them a remunerative price, we concentrate a lot on their welfare," he says.

Welfare measures

Taking a cue from his mentor, Verghese Kurien, 'the father of Indian dairy movement', Tulasi Rao has always worked for the benefit of farmers. Apart from keeping the procurement price steadily on the increase in tune with the market conditions, he has taken up many welfare measures. It was he who initiated the training programmes for the farmers to increase the level of production.

"We run training camps on a regular basis to educate the dairy farmers. We deal with topics like animal health, artificial insemination and cattle feed and fodder. The training is conducted with the assistance and expertise of the National Dairy Development Board. It is only because of the training that the farmers are today able to produce double the quantity with the same livestock."

On a more humane plane, he has constructed a 40-bed hospital for the farming community in Visakhapatnam, wherein they and their family members are treated almost free of cost. On the education front, he has instituted scholarships for the children of the farmers to enable them to undertake higher education. "We not only help the children get educated but also see that they are placed in good positions within the plant. We have also borne the cost of a couple of open-heart surgeries that were performed in Hyderbad and Chennai."

The list of the spin-off benefits from the dairy is long: 600 agricultural borewells, contribution to the midday meal scheme, Rs.40 lakhs grant for the renovation of the Bhavanagar Ward in King George Hospital, etc.

Another feather in Tulasi Rao's cap is the construction of a reservoir in Karakavalasa village.

For all these, he modestly gives credit to this board and his team at the farm.

Innovations

Innovations have been his forte. Though he had not risen to the higher rungs of formal education he always had the penchant for doing things differently. "All my innovative ideas were well supported by my team here and by the NDDB. Today we have the most modern plant that is fully automated. And we can boast of more than 12 items in our productline like ghee, butter, doodhpeda, flavoured milk, curd, misti doi (sweet curd) and paneer, apart from our mainstay: milk. Keeping the quality-consciousness of our consumers in mind we have installed over 70 permanent chilling stations at every 5 km. all over the district."

Inspired by Kurien, this dairy farmer says with all humility: "I have still a long way to go."

SUMIT BHATTACHARJEE

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