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The BAIF Saga - in Dr Manibhai Desai's words

Part 4: Gandhi and Mao Tse Tung ~ BAIF born with Danish help ~ Taking BAIF to the farmer's door

I have never gone on personalities. I had gone to Gandhiji not because he was a Mahatma but because he had some basic approach to development, decentralised systems and democracy. He sat with people, discussed with them and learnt from them. This was Gandhi and this was what attracted me in the same way I was attracted to Mao Tse Tung. Gandhiji said, "Whatever programme you design for the people you have to tell them, explain to them and take their approval. If you do not, then they will not participate in the programme." This is what made me join Gandhiji. Even today we have to be careful. Whatever technology you bring from foreign countries you have to discuss with the people. Don't be in haste. You have to wait. Gandhiji said, "Haste is violence and impatience is also violence. You must have maturity. Even in personnel management while dealing with colleagues, you must always be careful about knowing the other side". One of my colleagues in the Ashram Mr. Dhirubhai Dixit wrote a six page letter to Gandhiji against me. He wrote that I was not working but sleeping. At that time I was getting up at 3:45 am. Gandhiji received the letter in Delhi and read it. He did not pass any comments. I met him in 1947. He told me to go through the letter and discuss later. The next day Gandhiji wanted to know the effect of that letter on me as this letter was not shown to me by Dixit and a lot of things were written against me. Gandhiji wrote a letter and asked me to hand it to Dixit. "Manibhai Desai is the chief at Urulikanchan Ashram. If you want to continue, you have to obey him. If you do not want to obey him, you may leave." He showed this to me and asked me to carry letter to Dhirubhai. I said, "Bapuji, why do you ask me to carry this letter? He may say that Manibhai has again misguided you". I handed the letter to Balkobaji because he was friend of Dhirubhai Dixit. I saw the human aspect Gandhiji through this incident. These aspects are critical and important in a working system.

I said, "Gentlemen, why are you asking me to destroy what you cannot replace?" Our programme was cleared.

When BAIF was established, I was the only person without any funds or assets. Even the Trustees said, "Unless you bring a 100% Income Tax exemption, we cannot give funds". We needed at least a laboratory and a scientist to get this exemption but I was the only literate man. On July 2, 1969 Dr D V Ranganekar joined the organisation. He came from a multi national company. He came to Urulikanchan Ashram. In order to create an awakening on BAIF in Maharashtra we organised a seminar on February 15/16, 1969 in Pune. A well known veterinary surgeon Dr. M R Marathe was at that time present in Pune. He attended the seminar. It seems he was impressed by the concept of BAIF. He had worked for more than two decades in Aarey Milk Colony as a Chief Veterinary Surgeon. He was associated with the Dairy Development Department in Maharashtra. When he was transferred to Dapchari project located in Thane district near Gujarat border, he decided to take premature retirement from the Government and join BAIF in 1970. He handled dairy cattle.

In 1970 a friend of Dr. Ranganekar's in New Delhi told us to prepare a project [report to be presented to the Government of] Denmark. So for the first time we got a sanction of 3.2 million Danish Kroners and at that time it was worth about Rs. 32,000,000. It was in the form of cattle, money, equipment and books. With that assistance, we set up our exotic cattle farm and semen freezing facilities. I went o Copenhagen. I was invited to discuss with a group of experts who asked very embarrassing questions -"Unless you bring down the livestock population by massive slaughter, you cannot improve cattle in India. " So they put forward two proposals - one BAIF should accept a programme of massive slaughter and second, the Indian people should accept beef eating. I said, "I accept both your suggestions. As soon as I land in Bombay, I will start the slaughter of cattle and every day at 6:00 pm which will be your lunch hour, you will get the figure of cows slaughtered". But, I had one request. They should despatch an equal number of uterus of [high quality] cows. One gentleman said, "Desai, do you understand that nobody can fabricate the uterus? It is all given by God Almighty". I said, "Gentlemen, why are you asking me to destroy what you cannot replace?" Our programme was cleared.

In 1971 I got the idea of cattle health. Without the vaccine laboratory you can't protect the cattle and if we can't protect the cattle the farmers will blame us. Then I said to my Danish friend, "I think 200 excellent heifers which I am taking will not live long. They will die because of Foot and Mouth disease. Indian cattle are immune to this disease; they suffer but they do not die". He said, "What do you suggest?" I said, "If you support me in the vaccine project , this disease can be prevented." He said, "What will it cost ?" I said, "About 10 million." He agreed and told me to send the project.

I said: "Lets's go to our centre and call the farmers. Suppose in this area there is a cow in heat. You put a stick and a piece of cloth and post on the roadside as a flag. Our vet will follow the flag and identify the cows for insemination."

I organised another Seminar in 1971 at Aarey Milk Colony on animal health and nutrition. Dr Ranganekar and Dr Marathe were present. Dr C M Singh, Director of IVRI was to come and deliver a talk on Foot and Mouth disease but he regretted his inability to attend because of another meeting in Delhi. Dr Ranganekar and Dr Marathe went to invite Dr Gorhe but initially he declined. However, Dr Marathe persuaded him to accept our invitation to speak on Foot and Mouth disease. We did not know each other. In his presentation he said, "A time will come when there will be no cross-breds in India. They will die like birds. So you require a very good vaccine." Balasheb Sawant, the Chief Guest at the conference said, "Manibhai, this is very dangerous." I said, "We will prepare a vaccine." I telephoned Dr Gorhe to prepare a project and we presented it to the Government of Denmark through the Government of India. This project had to be housed in a safe place. So I asked Shri Vasantrao Naik to give us some land. He promised to give it free and granted a land measuring 262 acres near Wagholi. Dr Gorhe joined us. Thus the Wagholi Project was born. The vaccine came. Production of only Foot and mouth disease vaccine was not viable. We the added other vaccines for H S, B Q, Rinderpest and other pharmaceuticals. We now produce 50 products.

In 1972 there was no recruitment of veterinarians by the Government of Maharashtra. The whole batch of Nagpur and Bombay graduates came to us. We had only four cattle breeding centres in the beginning. Then a Project Review Committee came. Dr Kai Kristensen and Dr Atrop Nelson -- both veterinarians-- came from DANIDA, Copenhagen. We received support for 150 centres. They also approved the establishment of a training project. Again we received 10 million Danish Kroners.

The expansion of the existing programmes began. Dr Marathe, Dr Ranganekar and Dr. A P Pathak told me about the problems of the farmers to bring their cows to the centre far away from their hamlets. So I developed an idea of door-to-door service. Everyone was critical. I said, "No, it is practical." We discussed for an hour. Dr Marathe was unable to solve the problem. Next day they came again. I said: "Lets's go to our centre and call the farmers. Suppose in this area there is a cow in heat. You put a stick and a piece of cloth and post on the roadside as a flag. Our vet will follow the flag and identify the cows for insemination." They agreed. I decided to give one rupee to the first person who would bring the report on cows in heat. So, the young as well as the aged began searching for cows in heat because they wanted to earn a rupee. Some were on bicycle. This was not only an opportunity for earning money but also for creating a favourable atmosphere. We must participate in programmes which are very crucial. These systems are built-in from experience. BAIF became known in every village of Vidharbha, Marathwada and Konkan. In Maharashtra, in 1970, there was not a single litre of marketable surplus, but in 1980 about 2 million litres were being supplied and in 1990 it was 3 million litres everyday. We got strong support from Shri V P Naik.

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