Operation Flood: An Appraisal of Current Indian Dairy Policy by Shanti George, Oxford University Press, 1985, 320 pp, (Price.Rs.l50/-).
It is over a year since the book has been published and it has already gained wide currency in the relevant circles. The author has subsequently published many articles on the subject in well known journals - popular and academic. The "success" of the book has not been entirely due to its topicality, nor even due to its comprehensive critique of the OF (Operation Flood) programme, touching practically on all its aspects, from milk production and milk co-operatives at the village level to distribution and consumption of milk in the cities as well as implications of international dairy aid. The value of the book, it seems to me, lies in that through the comprehensive critique the author has sketched the outlines of an alternate dairy policy which is very "Indian" in its character. In fact, she expressly pleads for a policy rooted in Indian conditions, material and cultural. The alternate policy which she envisages generates for research, a whole set of new questions, and for policy a whole set of new options.
To set the chronology of the debate straight, the appearance of the book was preceded by a few controversial articles in Indian and International Press which were highly critical of the OF Programme, which subsequently led to the setting up of an enquiry committee by the Government of India to go into the programme. Our author seems to broadly share the perspective expressed in the articles and adds to it considerably by a systematic collation of the existing research on Indian dairying and cattle keeping. The author begins by examining the production base of milk in the country. She finds that dairying in India is essentially a subsidiary activity to agriculture. The cow is not so much the supplier of milk as of bullocks which fulfill the major draught power requirements in Indian agriculture. This applies especially to the poorer farmers who cannot afford mechanized cultivation. Secondly, Indian cattle subsist not on any special feeds but largely on agricultural byproducts for which the humans in the country have little use. As long as this situation continues aggressive expansion of dairying under the OF programme cannot achieve results* But if it is pushed, it will result in distortions like diversion of food crop lands to fodder production which the country can ill afford, or concentration of livestock resources in a few richer hands who can afford the superior level of feed and maintenance for their cattle.
The crossbreed cow on which the OF programme hinges has come under much attack in the last few years and George joins them in the task. She feels indiscriminate cross breeding of cows may undermine the genetic base of the Indian cow (which is essentially a draught animal) which in turn may adversely affect the supply of work animals. She suggests that the native-breeds be left to breed draught animals and the buffaloes, which are the main milk animals of the country, be concentrated upon for dairying. Promotion of crossbreed cows will in addition lead to concentration of livestock resources as suggested earlier, whereas the intention of the OF programme is its very opposite - to give employment to small and marginal farmers.
Turning to marketing she finds that the Anand pattern of milk marketing may not be workable in other parts of the country where milk production does not match the high level of investment and large scale of operations characteristic of OF. The Anand pattern has evolved in the Anand region through a historical process which cannot be repeated in other parts of the country. She finds even within Gujarat the Anand pattern has not been accepted uniformly. Milk marketing is done on different pattern and different scale in certain other parts of Gujarat. (he increasing dependence which goes with EEC dairy aid has been widely commented jupon. George puts it in her inimitable humorous style, "some people give till it hurts. Till it hurts the recipient, that is."
Her policy recommendations include: (1) Providing the existing milch-stock with improved nutrition and veterinary care rather than introduce crossbreeds on a large scale (2) Focusing on the buffalo rather than, the cow for dairy development, 3) Equal if not greater attention to the bullocks which provide the attractive and motive power crucial for agriculture especially of small and marginal farmers, (A) Promotion of indigenous dairy foods such as ghee which can be processed(within the village, so that the nutrition from the milk will remain within the village as opposed to machine processing of alien dairy products such as milk powder, which sucks away liquid milk from the villages, and for which market exists only in towns, and that too among the elite, (5) Reliance on urban milchherds rather than rural milchherds for supply of milk to the cities and (6) Distribution of , milk in the cities through the milk vendors rather than machines.
The book is written in a racy style which makes it enjoyable reading. It is based entirely on secondary literature and given, the lack of uniformity in the quality of the literature one cannot help wondering if she has made selective Use of the material, especially since she has not considered it necessary to provide any account or summary of the literature. This is not so much a comment on her faithfulness in reporting but a question of methodology. When one uses secondary literature as the data base, the question is how it should be presented, so that it will leave room for the reader to make his judgments. Presumably the literature she has used reflects and discusses the changes in the livestock and agriculture scene in the last few decades due to various reasons, such as demographic pressure, fragmentation of holdings, mechanization of agricultural and allied opera-tions, increased level of marketing of milk due to greater degree of urbanization and so on. However, these do not get discussed in the book adequately. This is important because it seems to me that certain changes have come to stay. For instance the pump set water lifting technology makes the bullocks redundant for water lifting which constituted probably more than half of their work, especially in the well irrigated areas. Now, can we go back to the bullock and if so, hew? Similarly, the cow versus the buffalo was a lively debate during the freedom struggle in which Mahatma Gandhi took the side of the cow and asked for a 'boycott' of the buffalo (except in regions where they are used as traction animals) on the very grounds that George rejects the cross-breed cow and advocates the cause of the buffalo - that the buffalo promotes a competition for fodder between cow and buffalo and since the buffalo cannot produce work animals, whereas the cow can give milk, the cow should be favored. But Ms.George has made her point and a very readable book too which will no doubt stimulate much thinking on the subject.