… teach a man to fish and he can feed himself for a lifetime
- Lao Tzu; 5th century BC
This narrative describes in details the efforts by Prof Jajoo and his team starting in 1983 to build upon the success of the Jowar Health Assurance scheme by implementing the Village Dairy Development programme . This quest for economic upliftment for the rural communities around Sevagram takes the reader through the journey of efforts directed to revive defunct milk co-operative society at Nagapur, linking them directly the consumers through federation called Goras Bhandars and managing wisely the spin-off of this successful programme. Nominated as the President of the Milk Cooperative it also highlights the multiple hats worn by Prof Jajoo- a physican by profession in this experiential journey towards holistic rural upliftment! To fully understand more about how a booming alternate avenue for income generation was created, with the villagers as the stakeholders, again using the model of co-operation, consensus and people leadership.
The Health Assurance scheme became widely accepted by the villagers in Nagapur village. With its ongoing success and building upon the credibility it brought to the scheme, an alternate income generation option for the villager-Dairy Development was started.With rain dependent farming, low wages for labour, and a cottage industry not guaranteed by market forces, the dairy development scheme was resorted to, by default.
The milk producers from Nagapur village were selling their milk to the government diary federation in the neighbouring village of Karanji Bhoge. However, the downside of this arrangement, was that remuneration received was barely enough to sustain the villagers family.
In the light of this issue, an attempt to revive the defunct milk co-operative society at Nagapur, was made in the year 1983. A network of milk producers joined hands to form a milk co-operative society which was linked directly to the consumers through Goras Bhandars.
Milk co-operative Society
The milk producers of Nagapur village collected cow’s milk from each individual houses in the village and transported it to the milk co-operative society operating in their village.
A stringent set of criteria were followed at the milk co-operative society:
- The milk deposited would be tested for fat content and the rate was fixed on the basis of the quality of milk.
- Low quality milk was not given any remuneration.
- Only cow milk would be entertained, milk from goat, buffalo would not be taken.
Milk, thus, collected by the co-operative society would then go to Goras Bhandaar, in Wardha town, a trust organized for cow protection.
This trust, first established with the blessings of Gandhiji and Vinoba Bhave, was part of the comprehensive programme for cow protection and rearing. It was started to be an important aspect of the constructive programme in agriculture which they had in place for the population.
The Goras Bhandaar is a well run, efficient entities which consider consumers as partners in their mission. it provides an efficient high quality chain for supplying good quality fresh milk, without the need for cold storage or pasteurization. Milk was collected twice a day from the villages, keeping the service charges for distributing milk to the bare minimum. More importantly, it gave the highest support price for milk to the milk producer in the villages.
Evolution with time
With good profit margins available, the milk co-operative society had to be streamlined to become more efficient at the village level. A honorary position of Secretary and accountant was created. The Secretary took care of the daily affairs and the accountant handled the monetary aspects of the co-operative society. Professor Jajoo was appointed as the President of this co-operative society.
The co-operative society collected a nominal distribution fee from the milk producers to take care of the day-to-day activities. To weed out corruption and mal practices, the selection of the Secretary was made with consensus. The members met on a monthly basis to sort out differences and streamline existing policies.
With the dairy business booming, the demand for high quality cows rose and fortunately the Go Seva Sangh, with whose support cows were purchased, offered a 25% subsidy to the villagers on purchasing cows. This subsidy, instead of being passed onto the villagers, was kept as a revolving fund. This fund served as corpus, from which villagers could draw loans at the rate of interest similar to that offered by banks. These loans were offered for a one year period and if the loans were returned in time, the interest charged would be returned. However, in case of default, the interest was retained and added to the existing revolving fund.
Strict rules were laid down against defaulters of loan with a condition of getting them debarred from the co-operative society. Since this was a profitable venture, there were hardly any cases of loan default.