Niranam is a village in the Central Travancore region in Kerala. It was a local port in ancient Kerala, on the confluence of the Manimala and Achankovil rivers. It is approximately five kilometres from Thiruvalla in the Pathanamthitta District of Kerala. St Thomas Apostle is reputed to have founded a church in Niranam after his arrival in AD54, thus the Christian community in Niranam is claimed to be the oldest in India and among the oldest in the world. Niranam Cathedral has been the seat of the various Malankara metropolitans.
Rev. Father Abraham Mulamoottil joined as the parish priest of St. Joseph’s Church Niranam in 1983. In line with his interest in social awakening, he was determined to address the lack of useful employment potential for the youth of the area. He arranged meetings with all of them (from all castes and creed) at the church in the evenings. The main source of livelihood for the community was seasonal paddy cultivation. The consequence for the youth was a tendency to drink and fight at the junction close to the priest’s lodging. Because of the evening gatherings, Father Mulamoottil came to know that most of the people in the community reared cattle which were not used as a source of income. A small quantity of milk was given to a nearby tea shop.
Father prepared a project and submitted it to Kerala Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (KCMMF), popularly known as Milma. Milma initially rejected the proposal. With the help of a localite named Thankachan, a database of cattle owners was developed by Father. As most of the people where illiterate, it was difficult to convince them of the importance of this process in setting up a registered milk producing society at Niranam. Many meetings with cattle owners were required to establish that milk production of 700 litres was possible, and that setting up a cooperative requiring ten rupee investment and one rupee registration fee would benefit the community. A committee was formed and the first president was Elagikkal Perumal. The profit at the end of the first year in operation was nine thousand rupees. The membership of the society increased to 420 people in the following year.
The consequences of this successful initiative by Rev. Fr. Mulamoottil have been very significant. It is now the second largest in the district of Pathanamthitta. Advanced mechanisms and equipment are used to check on milk adulteration. The role of women in the community has changed radically. When the men went to work in the fields, the women took over the running of the dairy which they do expertly. This has given them an independent means of earning an income, gain respect in their families, and gain confidence to move out of the village for work and other work –related activities.
This project reflects Fr. Mulamoottil’s skills in mass mobilization, organizing, infrastructure development, and income generation skill development.
The following photographs were taken recently at the Niranam Milma Dairy with Rev. Dr. Abraham Mulamoottil in attendance