On 31 October 1956, in the town of Anand in Gujarat, a group of nervous, overworked engineers waited for prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s arrival. Among them was the “Milkman of India”, Verghese Kurien, who’d spent the last three years as part of a team putting together what was then Kaira District Co-operative Milk Producers’ Union’s first milk-powder plant. The brand became famous as Amul.
Achiever: Kurien still remembers Nehru’s words. India Today
The dairy in Anand, whose inauguration Nehru was presiding over, was the largest of its kind in Asia, and the first in the world to produce milk powder from buffalo milk.
“(Nehru) came to Anand as the guest of honour for the inauguration of Amul. He stayed in my house on that day,” says Kurien over the phone. “A lot of people at the time said it was not possible to finish the milk powder plant on schedule.”
Among the sceptics was home minister Morarji Desai, who’d arrived in Anand 10 days earlier, worried about the speculation that the plant would not be ready in time. Kurien assured him Nehru would not only see a finished plant, but “milk powder being manufactured right in front of his eyes”.
A mere 24 hours before Nehru’s arrival, the first batch of milk powder rolled off the production line at the dairy. An excited Kurien is reported to have sprinkled it like champagne over the head of Amul’s technical expert H.M. Dalaya.
Minor technical hiccups notwithstanding, the inauguration, which began in the dairy’s boiler room, went off smoothly. An overjoyed Nehru embraced Kurien and the Amul team at the end of his visit.
Kurien still remembers Nehru’s exact words. “He said ‘I’m glad there are people like you in this country—who can get things done that cannot be done.’”