Dr. Verghese Kurien and Professional Engineers

“But you could not become an engineer, you may win a nobel for literature but you can‘t win nobel for physics or chemistry” Sagarika Ghosh told Chetan Bhagat in a talk show. The discussion was about the state of higher education in science and technology in India.

Many engineers are successful as entrepreneurs, business leaders, bureaucrats, authors and even politicians. But do we see any professional engineer? Sadly and surely the answer is no. Perhaps not even 1% of people having engineering education are engaged as professional engineers in India. The state and the industry are not able to utilize available engineering manpower as professionals. The policymakers may need to rework manpower planning.

Dr. Verghese Kurien is one of the few engineers of post independent India whom we can be proud of.

He graduated in physics. Then he graduated in mechanical engineering .He had technical degree from Tata Steel Technical Institute also.

Verghese Kurien then did master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Michigan State University, United States. He also studied nuclear physics there.

But Verghese Kurien subsequently became the “undisputed milkman” of India.

He conceptualized and implemented white revolution, which is milk production and marketing through cooperatives. He founded and established the “Amul” brand which is as strong as any other top ranking Indian brand.

Verghese Kurien was a champion of the cooperative dairy movement.

He strongly opposed government/political interference in matters of cooperative dairy operations. His style of working reportedly was dictatorial. But he produced results. Under his leadership India became the largest producer of milk in the world.

From a modern progressive stand point he may sound a bit archaic. He did not favor FDI/corporatization   in dairy which in his opinion would lead to milk farmers losing control over the cooperative. But only time will tell whether a corporate like approach will help India’s dairy sector in the long run.

Perhaps the life and works of Dr. Verghese Kurien does not enthuse an aspiring engineer. Also for most part of his life he was not a professional engineer. But not many engineers can match him in contributing to the nation’s economy, specially the rural economy.

Postscript: In a geographically disadvantaged state like Assam, cooperative movement is perhaps the only way out to initiate industrialization. It is obviously futile to expect big industrial houses to set up industries here from the business angle. But cooperative movement involving people and led by someone like Dr.Verghese Kurien may turnaround the state.

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