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Monday, March 7, 2011

First Indian Woman To Receive Norman Borlaug Award

Dr Amrita Patel was born on November 13, 1943 at Vidyanagar village in Kheda district of south Gujarat. Dr Amrita Patel is the daughter of former finance minister H M Patel. She completed her secondary school from Convent of Jesus and Mary, New Delhi in 1958. She did her bachelors in veterinary science and honours in agriculture from the Bombay Veterinary College in 1965.

Dr Patel has also successfully completed advanced training in animal nutrition at the Rowett Research Institute, Aberdeen, the UK under an FAO Fellowship from October 1966 to March 1968.

After completing advanced training in animal nutrition, Dr Patel joined Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers' Union Limited in their cattle feed factory at Kanjari as animal nutrition officer on November 4, 1965.

She joined the National Dairy Development Board as project executive in 1971. During the same period she was given a special assignment to assist the Achievement Audit Committee for the National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal.

In 1972, she was appointed as assistant director of International Dairy Congress. Later on she was promoted as deputy director in the Congress secretariat and ultimately took over as secretary-general in 1973 till the Congress was over in 1975.

As soon as the Congress session was over, she was appointed administrative and commercial director of NDDB. She was later transferred to Delhi as regional director of NDDB where she also worked as executive director.

In 1983, Dr Patel was appointed additional secretary, NDDB and regional head of Indian Dairy Corporation in Delhi. In 1986, she was appointed as chief executive of NDDB.

In 1988, she was appointed as managing director (operations). She also worked as additional secretary in the ministry of agriculture from June 19, 1989.In September 1990, she took over as managing director of NDDB.

Dr Patel also held the post of chairperson of nine major institutions in the fields of dairying, animal disease and prevention, animal nutrition, financial institutions and human health. She has been on the managing committees of 15 other institutions and organisations.

She was the managing director of NDDB for about ten years. She had also held several high-profile posts in different categories in the NDDB and at the secretary level in the government offices.

Dr Amrita Patel has taken over as the chairperson of the National Dairy Development Board. She succeeds founder chairman Dr Verghese Kurien, who has stepped down after serving for 33 years.

“From an accidental girl child to an accidental job with the NDDB which was the sole domain of men, the important things in my life seemed to have happened accidentally,” she reminisces. Coming from a conservative Gujarati family, young Amrita was the youngest in a family of five daughters. They had hoped she would be a boy. The family’s tailor had even done up the new baby’s room in blue, in anticipation of a male child. She was christened Amrit before her birth. But a girl it was and the name was quickly changed to Amrita. “All five of us, however, were fired to prove ourselves as good as sons and stand on our feet.”

Her parents wanted her to be a doctor, but she had set her heart on becoming a vet, a desire born out of the distress she felt as a child each time one of their dogs fell sick. There were few vets then, she says, and it was this lack of care for animals which strengthened her resolve to become one.

Following her father’s retirement and their shift to Anand back in 1959, young Amrita, came into contact with her father’s friend Dr Verghese Kurien, by then neck deep in the Operation Flood movement and the setting up of Amul. “Whenever the dogs fell sick, we had to seek Amul’s assistance, since they were the only ones with a vet service in Anand. Seeing my interest in animal care, the vet taught me how to inject dogs,” reminisces Amrita.

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