Dr. Jean Dreze underscored the importance of social development in nation building at the 5th ‘Dr. Verghese kurien memorial oration on sustainable development’ at XLRI

Jamshedpur: XLRI- Xavier School of Management recently organized the 5th “Dr Verghese Kurien Memorial Oration on Sustainable Development”. This year, Dr Jean Dreze, eminent development activist & economist delivered the oration on the topic “Economic Growth and Social Development” on 22nd September at XLRI Campus in Jamshedpur.

The event was also graced by Fr. E Abraham, S. J. Director of XLRI and Dr. Ashis K. Pani, Dean (Academics), XLRI and Dr. Madhukar Shukla, Chairperson, Fr. Arrupe Center for Ecology & Sustainability, XLRI.

In his address, Dr. Jean Dreze said, “Over four decades I have observed that India needs many more people’s scientists and people’s technicians like Dr. Kurien who take interest in everyday technology and people’s basic needs and not just sophisticated technology like biometrics and artificial intelligence. The consequence of this disinterest and lack of innovation in everyday technology is a remarkable stagnation of everyday technologies and correspondingly the existence of whole range of occupations that may be described as stagnant occupations because they are more or less the same functionality that used to be for many decades. The entire rural sector, for example in Jharkhand, is lost in that kind of stagnant occupation despite having so much local resources for example mushrooms, honey, tendu, mahua, etc. To improve people’s livelihood and well-being, without causing the sort of environmental destruction that we are witnessing today we need many more Dr. Kuriens”.
The second point that Dr. Jean Dreze underscored is the fact that Dr, Kurien symbolizes the critical importance of the non-profit sector in the economy and society. “Dr. Kurien did not act out of greed for money but out of passion and public spiritedness. Similarly he did not manage AMUL cooperative as a profit maximizing enterprise,” he added.

Through his speech Dr. Jean Dreze professed that though economic growth is important, social development is a more imperative tool for nation building. He said, “Social Development is about improving people’s living conditions and quality of life.” He advocated that through cooperation, non-profit activity and public-spiritedness that Dr. Verghese Kurien pioneered social development can be achieved in today’s India.

In his address, Fr. E Abraham, S. J. Director of XLRI said, “The sunshine that Dr. Kurien brought in the lives of millions in the country will always be remembered with gratitude. We must acknowledge the immense contribution of Dr Verghese Kurien for his far-sighted vision in helping kick-start a co-operative milk movement that transformed India into the largest milk producing country in the entire world and also shaping a forward integration business model by helping create AMUL as the country’s largest single food brand. In the process, we have secured self-sufficiency for India in the dairy sector propelling our nation towards a position of eminence on the global dairy map. Dr. Kurien’s creation of community-owned co-operatives empowered millions of rural families, most of whom were landless and small farmers, in India.”

“We decided to institute this Annual Oration to commemorate Dr Kurien’s legacy – because his life and work exemplifies the model for a responsible management leader, combining business skills with the larger good of the society and nation-building,” Fr. Abraham added and thanked Dr. Jean Dreze for delivering the oration this year.

Remembering Dr. Kurien, Fr. Abraham further said, “XLRI’s relationship with Dr. Kurien goes back to over 24 years. I personally had an enriching association with Dr Kurien and was greatly inspired with his visionary foresight and single-minded determination in executing his vision for the dairy sector and more importantly in helping raise the living standards of millions of rural milk producers across thousands of villages in India.”

Organised under the aegis of Fr Arrupe Center for Ecology and Sustainability (FACES), XLRI, in memory of the Founder of AMUL Dr. Verghese Kurien, otherwise known as “the Milkman of India”, the oration aims to provide a platform to listen to and learn from thought leaders, social entrepreneurs, development sector professionals and policy makers who have made a significant contribution to the idea of an empowered, prosperous and sustainable society.