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Saturday, April 23, 2011

The success story of ‘aavin’ and the recent fire at Sholinganallur.

There was a fire accident which is threatening to affect the regular flow of milk to Chennai residents. 

Here is something on the fire accident as also some reminiscence of the past.  :  Those who are 40+ would remember the olden days and scramble for milk in the morning.  In the mid 1970s was the paradigm shift in the city of Chennai to pasteurized milk.  Prior to that the localities depended entirely on the neighbourhood cowherds for milk.  They use to buy cow’s milk as also buffalo milk for different needs.  The milkman would come in front of the house, have a customary check of the utensil before they touch the udder and then milch the cattle in your presence – still people used to complain of the milk being very much watery.

Then slowly people shifted to pasteurized milk supplied by the Govt. which was a very big hit those days.  The process (not of manufacture) but of getting it home was arduous.  The milk van would come early in the morning, the attendant at the booth would unload and nap for a few more minutes. Around 0500 am, there would a big queue lined before each booth.  Each had to carry either the empty bottle as replacement for the milk in bottle or carry a utensil, into which the milk from the bottle would be poured.  Here also people complained that the booth attendant would not pour the milk in its entirety but keep some quantity back, which would then collected and made in to more bottles – small drops of milk make more bottles !!  It was very fragile, the milk crate would contain 20 bottles and crates would often be handled roughly resulting in breakages – besides there was always the lurking fear of the bottles being dropped on way to home.  There were specially made iron carriers which would house 3 / 4/ more bottles – contraptions making lives easier.  Almost every street had a booth.  The empty van (mt) would come around 0800 am to collect the empty bottles and the crates would whizz past – being thrown with specialized skill into the lorry.  The process would repeat itself again the afternoon – supply at 0300 pm and collection at around 0400 pm.

On days, when the carrying van had a breakdown or delay to any other reason, which were not so frequent, residents would exhibit their impatience cursing everything as they could not have their morning coffee in time.  Those were the times, when a refrigerator was a great luxury to be had in less than a dozen houses in the entire locality. Moreover the milk was scarce and not easily available.  One has to use some influence and extra money in procuring a monthly card.  For those foreign readers, the drink that is brewed from roasted seeds of coffee beans enthuses the entire south Indian community and generally their days begin with a big tumbler of freshly filtered coffee and perhaps English daily.

It took them a great change of mind to shift from the milk (where they could see the cattle) to getting the milk in bottles, being prepared elsewhere.  There were always doubts in people’s mind.  There was that ubiquitous glass bottle with aluminum flap, which was gathered at households and sent to waste dealer making some money.

The debate on the benefits of cow’s milk vs buffaloes one was eternal though the former was most preferred in households having children.  Buffalo milk was commercially cheaper and more bought.   Those were the days when there were hundreds of cows and ten times their no. of buffaloes in Triplicane with a similar story in all other localities of the city of Singara Chennai.

That paradigm shift was ignited by the Operation Flood – a rural development programme of National Dairy Development Board – one of the largest of its kind with objective of creating a nationwide milk grid.  It resulted in making India the largest producer 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. This revolution followed the Indian Green Revolution and helped in alleviating poverty and famine levels from their dangerous proportions in India during the era.  Dr. Verghese Kurien was the Chairman of  Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd.(GCMMF) and was  recognised as the man behind the success of the Amul brand and  the architect of  Operation Flood.

Elsewhere on the globe – in Persia to be precise, the White revolution would mean different.  It was a series of reforms in Iran launched in 1963 by the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi  built especially to strengthen those classes that supported the traditional system.  People said that it  was a way for him to legitimize the Pahlavi dynasty. Part of the reason for launching the White Revolution was that the Shah hoped to get rid of the landlords' influence and create a new base of support among the peasants and working class.  In order to legitimize the White Revolution, the Shah called for a national referendum in early 1963  is another story which has no relevance to the present topic.

The Dairy Development Department was established in 1958 in Tamilnadu. With the adoption of 'Anand pattern' in the State of Tamilnadu, Tamilnadu Co-operative Milk Producers' Federation Limited was registered in the State on 1st February 1981. The commercial activities of the Department such as Milk Procurement, Processing, Chilling, packing and sale of milk to the consumers etc., hitherto dealt with by the Tamilnadu Dairy Development Corporation Ltd., were transferred to the newly registered Tamilnadu Co-operative Milk Producers' Federation Limited.  Aavin  is the trademark of the Tamilnadu Co-operative Milk Producers' Federation Limited, a Tamil Nadu-based milk producer's union. The objectives were to assure a remunerative price for the milk producing members, distribution of quality milk and milk products at a reasonable price.

Aavin  became quite a hit with a neat infrastructure with chilling centres, pasteurization plants and modern processing system. This decade saw many private milk companies mushrooming and giving Aavin a run for its money.   Aavin has four dairy plants located at  Ambattur, Madhavaram, Sholinganallur and        Ambattur.   The last one is a Product diary which  is also engaged in the manufacture of milk products such as Yogurt, Ice Cream, Khova, Gulabjamoon, Buttermilk, Curd and Mysorepak.

Sholinganallur  is a suburb in the Old Mahabalipuram road, now famous as the IT corridor of south Chennai.  Several tonnes of milk powder were destroyed in a major blaze that engulfed the state-run Aavin dairy godown at Sholinganallur on Thursday (21st April 2011).  The loss is reported to be the tune of 2.5 crore and the sabotage angle is also being probed.

This plant at Rajiv Gandhi salai alone was supplying 3.5 lakh litres of milk to the areas in South Chennai.  Fresh milk brought to the dairy is usually ‘reconstituted’ by adding milk powder and butter to produce four categories of products, including high fat and skimmed milk.  According to an official, the  milk powder packed in polyethylene and paper bags, were brought in from Erode, Salem and other districts and stored at the godown.  In the early morning, some employees noticed flames coming out of the godown.  The blaze spread rapidly and engulfed the entire building and took more than 5 hours for the firemen in large numbers, 5 fire tenders, 15 water lorries to contain.  The fire had been categorized as ‘class A’ and the polyethylene wrappers reportedly were the main reason for the high intensity of the fire.  Luckily, the fire was controlled before it could spread to the adjacent ammonia plant and generator room, where diesel was stored.

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.

1 comment:

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