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‘Milk: Symbol of a free India’–16-year-old wins award in Commonwealth Society essay competition

Nirja Bhatt

Nirja Bhatt, a silver medal winner in the 2013 Royal Commonwealth Society Essay Competition (photo credit: Purvi Mehta-Bhatt).

Nirja Bhatt, a 16-year-old student at Navrachana International School Vadodara, in Gujurat, India, has won a Silver Award in the ‘senior’ category of this year’s Royal Commonwealth Society Essay Competition. This year’s topic, ‘Opportunity through Enterprise’, received more than 11,000 entries from across the world.

Bhatt’s essay is on milk, ‘the symbol of a free India’, and focuses on a milk cooperative named ‘Amul’ (word is derived from Sanskrit, ‘amulya’, meaning ‘invaluable’), based in Gujarat.

Formed in 1946, Amul is a brand managed by a cooperative body, the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd., which today is jointly owned by 3 million milk producers in Gujarat. Amul spurred India’s ‘White Revolution’, which made the country the world’s largest producer of milk and milk products. In the process, Amul became the largest food brand in India and has ventured into overseas markets. Amul’s product range includes milk powders, milk, butter, ghee, cheese, Masti Dahi, yoghurt, buttermilk, chocolate, ice cream, cream, shrikhand, paneer, gulab jamuns, flavoured milk, basundi, Amul Pro brand and others.  Amul PRO is a recently launched brown beverage just like bournevita and horlicks offering whey protein, DHA and essential nutrients. In January 2006, Amul launched India’s first sports drink Stamina, which competes with Coca Cola’s Powerade and PepsiCo’s Gatorade.’ — Wikipedia.

Bhatt’s mother, Purvi Mehta Bhatt, who heads the South Asia programs of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), says: ‘ I wish our policymakers had a similar understanding and appreciation of India’s milk enterprises as the point of view of this 16-year-old Indian schoolgirl’.

Excerpts of Nirja Bhatt’s thoughtful essay follow.

Amul: A saga, a revolution

‘What sets India apart from other countries is that in India, a cow or a buffalo is not just a “milk dispenser”; it is a member of the family.

Indians know the value of livestock, the value of milk, probably more than any other culture in the world, because milk, for us Indians, is not just a source of calcium; it is a symbol of free India.

‘After decades of struggle and turmoil, two minutes past the stroke of midnight on the 15th of August 1947, India won her sovereignty. But . . . India was in a state of limbo, her people . . . starving, struggling to make ends meet, striving to survive. She could now call herself independent, yet she depended largely on imports, including but not limited to milk powder to feed her children. . . . The life of an Indian farmer after independence was a tragedy, reliant on seasonal crops and the paltry earnings of milk sold at throwaway prices to private traders or middlemen. . . .

‘Under expert leadership, Anand Milk Union Limited, or Amul, was established and milk became a symbol of freedom, an epitome of the independent India people gave their lives for.

‘. . . Amul grew from strength to strength; its goal was ‘Operation Flood’ — to flood the country with milk. The movement emancipated the Indian farmer and inspired Indians from all walks of life to come together, unite against injustice and strive for better days.

‘Small groups of farmers added to hundreds and hundreds became thousands and today an incredible 3.18 million farmers (mostly women!) bring their milk to the various collection centres, from where the milk is taken to state-of-the-art dairies where it is processed and some of it made into a vast variety of dairy products from cheese and chocolate to butter and butterscotch ice cream!

‘Which farmer, who once grieved day and night, would have imagined that her bucket of milk would be used to make gourmet ice cream, and that her union would sponsor the country’s contingent at the 2012 London Olympics!

‘The union also boasts . . . one of the most successful marketing campaigns of India that celebrates the union and the 13.67 million litres of milk that flow into their dairy every single day.

‘From the meager earnings of the farmer to the current 2.5-billion-dollar turnover of the union, Amul . . . has grown with India; it has opened the world’s doors for India. The country that once imported milk powder today is the world’s largest producer of milk, exporting to all parts of the world. . . .

[E]very time you see an Amul product in the supermarket, remember the Indian farmer, remember her struggle and allow it to inspire you.

‘Amul has proved that the world’s greatest paucity is not resources but enterprise. It is when we put our differences behind us and come together that we are at our strongest. . . . [T]he day we get over dwelling over the problem of lack of resources and start making the best of them is the day we will have truly fulfilled our responsibility as citizens of the world — to leave the world better than how we found it.’

One thought on “‘Milk: Symbol of a free India’–16-year-old wins award in Commonwealth Society essay competition

    Rohit Bhatt

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