The Congress on Wednesday (April 12) said it will not allow the BJP to raise the slogan of ‘One Nation, One Milk’ in the country, while accusing the Centre of trying to bring together a centrally-controlled milk cooperative headed by Amul by forcefully stitching a collaborative of five milk cooperatives including Karnataka Milk Federation brand Nandini.
Terming it a “brazen move” to control dairy cooperatives in states via Gujarat-based milk cooperative Amul , Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said the party will strongly oppose the BJP’s efforts to centralise control of cooperatives by replacing farmers control with theirs.
Also read: Explainer: The Amul vs Nandini battle in poll-bound Karnataka
With the assembly elections just a month away in Karnataka, the Congress has trained its guns at the ruling BJP and expressed fears that Nandini, the ₹21,000 crore brand, from the KMF could be merged with Anand Milk Union Limited (AMUL). The BJP has emphatically rejected the charge.
“The Congress party will not allow the time to come when the BJP may raise the slogan of ‘One Nation, One Milk’,” Ramesh said in a statement.
He said the Congress during its election campaign in the state will explain to people the “sinister agenda” behind these moves and resolve to oppose them through all possible democratic means.
‘Amit Shah defying Constitutional rules’
Ramesh also accused the BJP and Minister of Cooperation Amit Shah of attempting to ignore the Constitution which clearly demarcates cooperative societies as a state subject.
In December last year, Shah had said during the inauguration of KMF’s mega dairy in Mandya that “cooperation between Amul and Nandini can do wonders in the dairy sector”.
There have been vehement protests in the state ever since Gujarat-based dairy cooperative Amul on April 5 announced that it would enter the Karnataka market to supply its milk and curd.
In his statement, Ramesh alleged that Shah’s “enforced cooperation” between Amul and Nandini is a “brazen move by BJP to control dairy cooperatives in states”.
Noting that Amul and Nandini are both national success stories of the White Revolution, Ramesh said it was started by Verghese Kurien in Anand and spread across India when prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri established the National Dairy Development Board in 1965.
“The network of cooperatives in each state aimed to empower the dairy farmer, as exemplified by Dr. Kuriens mantra, I am an employee of the farmer,” Ramesh said.
He said the Congress helped nurture this decentralized vision over decades, empowering and ensuring autonomy to crores of dairy farmers.
“In sharp contrast, Amit Shah imagines a small collection of centralized organizations under his direct command and control. This is the agenda of the new Union Ministry of Cooperation which Shah heads,” Ramesh alleged.
Also read: No competition with Nandini; to sell milk, curd online only in Bengaluru: Amul MD
This is why Shah wishes that Amul merges with five other cooperative societies to form a multi-state cooperative society involving two lakh rural diaries, he claimed.
‘Chronology of control’
Ramesh also shared a chronology of events, including in it the establishment of the Ministry of Cooperation in July 2021, when Shah was given its charge and his announcement that Amul will merge with five other cooperative societies. It said:
“6 July, 2021 – Union government in Narendra Modi creates new Ministry of Cooperation.
7 July, 2021 – Union Home Minister Amit Shah is given additional charge as cooperation minister.
7 October, 2022 – Amit Shah, in Gangtok, declares multi-state cooperative societies are being formed to act as “export houses” of dairy products.
9 October, 2022 – “Amul will merge with five other cooperative societies to form multi-state cooperative society,” announces Amit Shah in Guwahati.
30 December, 2022 – Amit Shah pushes for ‘cooperation’ between Amul and KMF (Nandini) to set up rural dairies.
11 January, 2023 – Union cabinet approves three multi-state cooperative societies, including one for exports.
18 March, 2023 – Amit Shah, in Gandhinagar of Gujarat, proposes connecting two lakh rural dairies to multistate cooperative export society to increase exports.”
“As the chronology shows, PM Modi and his government are following their usual practice. They are establishing their total control, ignoring the Constitution which clearly demarcates cooperative societies as a state subject,” Ramesh alleged.
Nandini, Amul, and other cooperatives like OMFED, Mother Dairy, Vijaya and Aavin, empower farmers and help them prosper, Ramesh asserted.
He cited the example of the KMF, which markets Nandini, as a federation of 14,000 cooperative societies organised into 14 unions and its 24 lakh members earn ₹Rs 17 crore a day.
Also read: Amid row over Amul, Bengaluru hoteliers support ‘state’s dairy brand’ Nandini
“Amit Shah and the BJP wish to replace the farmers control with their control by consolidating these historic societies into new multi-state cooperative societies,” the Congress leader alleged
He went on to add that the attempt to compel KMF to act against its commercial interests is only a step towards the intended goal where all dairy unions become a political arm of the BJP.
Decisions in Delhi will dis-empower dairy farmers: Ramesh
“Decisions will not be made in Bengaluru, Bhubaneswar, Chennai or Pune, but in Delhi by Amit Shah, the Minister of Cooperation,” he claimed.
This will disempower dairy farmers and will ultimately threaten their incomes and livelihoods, Ramesh said.
“This pattern has been seen before. Karnataka, for example, saw Vijaya Bank, one of the most successful public sector banks, merge with the loss-making Bank of Baroda. Similarly, the State Bank of Mysore merged with SBI and Corporation Bank merged with Union Bank, leaving only one public sector bank with its head office in Karnataka,” he said.
He asserted that the Congress has always supported a federal and decentralized vision of India, and strongly opposes “Amit Shah and the BJPs efforts of centralized control”.
(With inputs from agencies)