In 1970, the Government of India (GoI) embarked on a landmark dairy development program, known as the White Revolution. The White Revolution spanned three decades and has generally been accepted as a monumental success: Since the inception of the White Revolution, there has been a fivefold increase in rates of national milk production and a doubling in the availability of milk for consumption (World Bank 2007). Indeed, in 2014, India became the world’s leading producer of milk with a national output of 146.3 million metric tons valued at ten billion US dollars (NDDB 2015). This has been done without a shift to centralized industrialism in the form of intensive animal farming and without flooding Indian markets with cheap foreign goods. Instead, through the introduction of infrastructures for collection and bulk processing, Operation Flood formalized new and existing dairying communities into a network of cooperative societies. Today these societies make up much of the formal sector. They encompass approximately 70 million households in possession of an average of 0 to 0.008 square miles of land and one to two cattle (Babcock Institute 2006:13, Government of India 2006). By contrast, there are about 70,000 dairy farms in the US in possession on average of 200 cattle. Meaning, the American dairy sector is somewhere between one hundred and one thousand times more concentrated than that in India.
The distinctive mode of production in India’s dairy sector has made it a compelling case study for critics of the corporate-industrial food complex. In the article TheWhite Counter-Revolution: India's Dairy Cooperatives in a Neoliberal Era, Schoelten and Basu (2009) state that the White Revolution is“an example of alternative development which has for decades empowered small-scale farmers with … a low-input/low-output model appropriate to the environmental and socioeconomic conditions of much of the rural population in India and across the Global South, and one which provides a sharp contrast to the Western model of intensive dairying dependent on high energy use and confinement of animals” (Schoelten and Basu 2009:18). At the same time, the distinctiveness of India’s cooperative dairy sector is anxiously discussed for the threat it is under from multinational corporations (MNCs) and the growing number of intensive dairy farms. In the report “India’s Milky Way,” written for the nonprofit Grain, Jyotika Sood (2014) describes the attack cooperatives are under from a laundry list of MNCs. She writes: “Following economic liberalisation, the government delicensed the dairy industry. Since then there has been a sharp rise in the number of private players … Industry sources claim that it took the private sector just 20 years to surpass the market share acquired by the dairy cooperative sector over nearly half-a-century” (Sood 2014).
In many urban places I have lived, it is easy to ignore the people who constitute the infrastructure for a city's foodscape. In India, it is not. These photos are the residues of my beginning to trace these people and their paths.