Operation Flood leading to White Revolution:

Operation Flood was a rural development programme started by India's National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) in 1970. One of the largest of its kind, the programme objective was to create a nationwide milk grid.

It resulted in making India one of the largest producers of milk and milk products, and hence is also called the White Revolution of India. It also helped reduce malpractices by milk traders and merchants.

Varghese Kurien (chairman of NDDB at that time), then 33, gave the professional management skills and necessary thrust to the cooperative, and is considered the architect of India's White Revolution (Operation Flood).

The bedrock of Operation Flood has been village milk producers' cooperatives, which procure milk and provide inputs and services, making modern management and technology available to members. Operation Flood's objectives included:

  • Increase milk production ("a flood of milk")
  • Augment rural incomes
  • Fair prices for consumers

Programme Implementation:

Operation Flood was implemented in three phases.

Phase I

Traditionally, India has been an importer of dairy products. Phase I (1970–1980) was financed by the sale of skimmed milk powder and butter oil gifted by the European Union (then the European Economic Community) through the World Food Programme. NDDB planned the programme and negotiated the details of EEC assistance.

During its first phase, Operation Flood linked 18 of India's premier milksheds with consumers in India's major metropolitan cities: Delhi, Mumbai, kolkata and Chennai, thus establishing mother dairies in four metros.

Phase II

Operation Flood Phase II (1981–1985) increased the milksheds from 18 to 136; 290 urban markets expanded the outlets for milk. By the end of 1985, a self-sustaining system of 43,000 village cooperatives with 4.25 million milk producers were covered. Domestic milk powder production increased from 22,000 tons in the pre-project year to 140,000 tons by 1989, all of the increase coming from dairies set up under Operation Flood. In this way EEC gifts and World Bank loan helped promote self-reliance. Direct marketing of milk by producers' cooperatives increased by several million litres a day.

Operation Flood was jointly sponsored by the European Economic Community, the World Bank, and India's National Dairy Development Board. The UNDP provided technical assistance by sending foreign experts, consultants, and equipment to India. The World Bank and its affiliates supported agricultural extension, social (community-based) forestry, agricultural credit, dairy development, horticulture, seed development, rain-fed fish farms, storage, marketing, and irrigation.

Phase III

Phase III (1985–1996) enabled dairy cooperatives to expand and strengthen the infrastructure required to procure and market increasing volumes of milk. Veterinary first-aid health care services, feed and artificial insemination services for cooperative members were extended, along with intensified member education.

Operation Flood's Phase III consolidated India's dairy cooperative movement, adding 30,000 new dairy cooperatives to the 42,000 existing societies organized during Phase II. Milksheds peaked to 173 in 1988-89 with the numbers of women members and Women's Dairy Cooperative Societies increasing significantly.

The Women's Dairy Cooperative Leadership Programme (WDCLP) was launched in 1995 as a pilot programme with the objective of strengthening the dairy cooperative movement by significantly increasing women's participation as active members and as leaders in the governance of cooperative societies, unions and federations.

NDDB provides assistance to milk producers' cooperative unions in conducting several activities to achieve WDCLP objectives. The WDCLP encourages cooperative milk producers' unions to identify women staff to participate in training designed to develop their latent potential. In the village, a key strategy is training and positioning a local woman as a resource person to encourage and support women's involvement in their dairy cooperative.

Phase III gave increased emphasis to research and development in animal health and animal nutrition. Innovations like vaccine for Theileriosis, bypassing protein feed and urea-molasses mineral blocks, all contributed to the enhanced productivity of milch animals.

Far reaching consequences:

The year 1995-96 marked the termination of Operation Flood III, funded by a World Bank loan, EEC food aid and internal resources of NDDB. At the conclusion of Operation Flood III, 72,744 DCSs in 170 milksheds of the country, having a total membership of 93.14 lakh had been organized. The targets set have either been effectively achieved or exceeded. However, procurement targets could not be reached as private agencies started procuring milk from the cooperative villages, following the new delicensing policy under the Government's program of economic liberalization.

The conditions for long-term growth in procurement have been created. An assured market and remunerative producer prices for raw milk, technical input services including AI, balanced cattle feed and emergency veterinary health services have all contributed to sustained increases in milk production. Three state-of-the-art dairies designed to produce quality products for both the domestic and export markets have been commissioned.

While the demand for milk was rising under Operation Flood the total cattle population remained more or less static. If milk production had to be increased

The buffalo and milk breeds of cattle had to be upgraded

Non-descript cows had to be crossbred with exotic semen to increase their milk production to make them more efficient converters of feed.

With this objective in mind, thrust was given to intensive research and development in animal husbandry. Today, animal breeding is an integration of three major areas, artificial insemination and quantitative genetic techniques, embryo transfer and embryo micro manipulation techniques and biotechnology and genetics engineering. The optimal genetic improvement can be achieved by making use of developments in each of these areas.

Operation Flood which started in 1970, concluded its Third Phase in 1996. Looking at what Operation Flood has achieved in milk, not simply at the application of science and technology, though both have played a role, not looking simply at the creation of farmer-owned structures, though such structures have been necessary to success, but at all of this, combined with the orchestration of all policies and programs that affect production. Further, they ensure to the extent possible, that these support mechanism strengthen efforts, rather than stand as obstacles.

Cost reduction and technology management

Modernization of process and plant technology

Interventions for productivity increase

Frontier technologies like DNA vaccines and genetically engineered bovine somatotropin, embryo transfer technology and in vitro fertilization of oocytes

The story of Operation Flood can be seen through three angles. One is to consider what it did to the dairy industry. Another point of view is from the eyes of the small farmer. it has revoultionized their way of life. Operation Flood has also established a pattern of success for other countries to follow.

Sankalp Unit