November 26: Marking India’s White Revolution and National Milk Day

The White Revolution, also known as Operation Flood, initiated in the 1970s, marked a transformative period in India’s dairy industry. Spearheaded by Dr. Verghese Kurien, the initiative aimed to alleviate poverty by empowering rural farmers through the dairy sector. The White Revolution was based on increasing milk production, building a network of milk collection centers, and establishing dairy cooperatives.

The first phase of Operation Flood started in 1970, focusing on increasing milk production by crossbreeding local cows with high-yielding exotic breeds. This led to a significant increase in milk production. The second phase developed a network of milk collection centers across the country, ensuring fair pricing and quality control. The third phase involved establishing dairy cooperatives, which were owned and managed by farmers. These cooperatives received training in management, accounting, and marketing, and loans to set up processing plants​​.

The White Revolution had far-reaching impacts on the Indian economy and society. It made India the world’s largest milk producer, and the dairy sector became a major source of income for millions of farmers. The cooperatives ensured that farmers received fair prices for their milk, providing them with a steady income source. The revolution also positively impacted the environment by developing more disease-resistant and less resource-intensive cows​​.

Operation Flood was a significant milestone in making India self-sufficient in milk production. It created a national milk grid, linking producers to consumers across over 700 towns and cities, reducing price variations and ensuring producers received a major share of the profits by eliminating middlemen. The village milk producers’ cooperatives played a crucial role in this transformation​​.

Economically, the dairy sector is now the largest contributor to the agricultural sector’s GDP. In 2017-18, India produced over 150 million tons of milk, accounting for approximately 17% of the world’s total milk production. The production of milk has increased more than six times compared to the pre-Independence period, significantly supporting the Indian economy. The National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) and various programs like the Intensive Cattle Development Program (ICDP) and Operation Flood have been instrumental in achieving these targets​​.

Dairying provides livelihood support to more than 8 crore rural households in India, mainly comprising small and marginal farmers and landless laborers. According to the National Account Statistics 2022, the value of milk output increased by 88.88% (from Rs. 4.95 lakh crore to Rs. 9.35 lakh crore) between 2014-15 to 2021-22. The total milk production in India was reported at 221.06 million metric tonnes as per the Basic Animal Husbandry Statistics 2022. The demand for milk and milk products is projected to reach 266.5 million metric tonnes by 2030​​.

The White Revolution not only made India a leading milk producer but also empowered rural communities, improved living standards, and contributed to the nation’s economic growth. It stands as a testament to the power of cooperative movements and strategic planning in transforming a vital sector of the economy.

In recognition of these achievements and to honor Dr. Kurien’s contribution, India celebrates National Milk Day on November 26 each year. This day commemorates Dr. Kurien’s birth anniversary and has been observed since 2014​.



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