Sitajakhala: Amlighat, a small locality in Jagiroad in Assam’s Morigaon district, is famous for the ancient Sitajakhala temple — and also for a quiet revolution that has been on for the past six decades.
This is the Sitajakhala Dugdha Utpadak Samabai Samity Limited (SJDUSSL) which was started way back in 1958 to wipe out middlemen in milk business.
The cooperative, which started with only 17 members, now, has over 1,000 members. With the increasing popularity among the masses, the products of the cooperative society have found markets in places like Kamrup, Morigaon and Nagaon districts of Assam.
Expressing satisfaction over the popularity of its products, secretary of the cooperative society, Biman Sharma, informed EastMojo that the two stalls set up on both sides of the NH-37 in front of the head office of the society sell products of over Rs 1 lakh per day per stall alone.
“From November 14, 2018, the society has started to distribute processed milk. We are supplying pasteurised cow milk to customers. Apart from milk, we are supplying curd, paneer, cream, rasgulla, lalmohan and other milk products to market. In case of milk, there is nothing called impure. We believe milk is always pure. Right from central Assam, a large section of customers from Guwahati are admiring our products,” Biman Sharma said, adding: “The area of operation in the society covers 10 panchayats, from Khetri to Nelie in Morigaon district.”
As of now, the cooperative has two plants, one for milk and other for curd.
“We work in two shifts, morning and evening. Every day, we produce almost 4,000 packets of milk. We have two plants, one is for milk and the other one is for curd. While preparing the packet milk, we maintain proper cleanliness in both the plants,” Atul Patowary, a technician working at the milk plant of the cooperative society, said.
The new-generation members of the cooperative are working tirelessly to improve the condition of the cooperative. With the cooperation from the people of Assam, this cooperative will definitely gain popularity among the masses.
After serving the Indian Air Force for two decades, Manjib Sharma joined the cooperative society in 2015.
“Our main focus is maintaining and improving quality. We are trying our best to enhance the quality. We have 85 cattle here. In lean period, we produce 200-250 litres of milk. But in season, it goes around 400-plus. Farmers are getting government benefits,” Manjib Sharma said while talking to EastMojo at his cattle shed here.
Elaborating on his farm, the former IAF officer said that his family members started the farm way back in 2000-01 to give it a shape of integrated farming.
“We wanted to develop this as an institute so that we can give technical know-how to our farmers or students. Never ever I thought that I will be directly involved in the farm. I am gaining confidence during my association here in last four years. We are also running an institute here where students from other states visit this dairy and stay here in groups,” he said, adding: “I can see the future of dairy farming in Assam and that’s why I am here.”
“It’s not easy to be a dairy farmer overnight, it will take time. Planning is very much important here. Important part is entire society is shifting towards entrepreneurship. The young generation wants to create jobs. Yes, there is future in dairy. If it is supportive by a cooperative like ours then it will be very fruitful. Farmers are getting government benefits. But you can’t keep on waiting for it,” Sharma said.
Puspadhar Das is a young and dynamic farmer from Baksa. He is an alumnus of prestigious institutes such as IIM Bangalore and St Stephen’s College, New Delhi, who has inspired many through his zest for farming. He has been associated with farming since 2003 and mainly practises mechanisation, multi-cropping, dairy farming, pisciculture, SRI, etc. He is currently the vision director of Vision 2020: Sitajokhola Dairy Cooperative Society.
Das was also conferred with the Nandalal Upadhyay State Farmer Award 2017 for his contribution to integrated farming.
“For the past three years, I have been associated with SDUSSL. We are forming teams to give support to the cooperative. We are trying to mechanize various process, especially preparing the Indian sweets. We are trying our best to give minimum human touch while preparing our products. This will help us to compete with the market outside the state. Right now, we have released only one product. Within next six months we are targeting to launch four to five products,” Das said.
Cooperative plays an important role in strengthening business, it minimises the role of the middlemen, he added.
“Right now, our market area is Kamrup, Nagaon and Morigain districts. Guwahati is our main market area. People have good idea about our products which helps us. We are planning to help the farmers to produce more. We are also planning to expand our area. We are giving good rate of money to farmers against their produce compare to others,” Das further said.
The main architect behind the society was Nandalal Upadhaya. He wanted to usher in a white revolution in Assam. His relentless endeavour saw the cooperative society carving a niche for itself in the state’s economy. Because of his determination and long term policies, this cooperative society has managed to create a white revolution in parts of Assam over the years.
Recalling the contributions of Nandalal Upadhaya in turning the society a hub of white revolution in parts of Assam, Biman Sharma, secretary of the cooperative society said, “Nandalal Upadhaya had to fight a lot, even faced life threats from the middlemen. He worked for unity among farmers.”
The society was registered in 1958. To wipe out the role of middlemen in milk business, altogether 17 members formed this society. Prominent among them were Sabilal Sharma and Nandalal Upadhaya. They started the society with only 27 litres of milk from local cows. From 1972 onwards, jersey cows were introduced here. UCO Bank, Sonapur branch helped farmers with loans. During the 2018-19 financial year, the society produced 18,000 – 19,000 litres of milk every day. Now, it hopes to get 25,000-26,000 litres of raw milk per day during the year 2019-20.
The cooperative has now not only extended and strengthened required infrastructure to procure and market increasing volumes of milk, provide veterinary first-aid health services, fodder and artificial insemination services but has made sure that the society where they are based out of is not lagging behind either.
Since providing milk to the Indian Army through the Central Dairy during the Chinese aggression in 1962, the dairy cooperative has immensely contributed to the development in and around Amlighat.
“The cooperative started Sitajakhala High School. We cut 10 paisa from per litre of milk for the uplift of Jagiroad College. We have free ambulance service, offer financial help to needy and meritorious student,” said Bhanu Sharma, a member of the society.
This dairy cooperative movement is slowly on its path to success and very soon it may script history as yet another nationwide milk grid.