Bundelkhand milk cooperative Balinee empowers women

Business for, of and by women to promote women’s financial independence


January 28, 2023

/ By / New Delhi

Bundelkhand milk cooperative Balinee empowers women

Members of Balinee Milk Producer Company gather each morning at milk collection centres to hand over their produce for weighing

Over the past four years, Balinee Milk Producer Company in Jhansi district of Bundelkhand has been transforming the lives of thousands of women across several districts in Uttar Pradesh by aiding them to earn and sustain their lives independently.

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On a cloudy morning, a group of women farmers, carrying milk cans on their heads, are walking on a rural road, that has been their pathway to empowerment and independence, in the dusty villages of Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh. All the women have many things in common. They are illiterate, hail from poorest of the homes in one of the poorest parts of the country and yet all of them have a twinkle of confidence in their eyes and an energy in their strides.

The women form part of over 52,000 others who are members of a milk cooperative in Jhansi and who supply milk to their cooperative. So every day, like clockwork the group walks towards the milk pooling point outside their village. Once they reach the milk pooling point, they hand over their cans which are weighed and then emptied into the large tanks for collecting milk, which is then ferried to the milk plant.

Balinee Milk Producer Company is located in the patchy hilly region of Bundelkhand, which is spread over 70,000 sq. km across 13 districts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The region has been blighted by a series of droughts, late monsoon, and deficit rainfall, crippling the farmers. There are practically no industries or even service sector companies here, forcing the people to live off the land.

Hence, the villagers are mainly dependent on agricultural activities. Some work on their own farming lands and who do not own any farming land work on the contract lands and earn their livelihood.

To ease the burden on the shoulders of women farmers and to generate a second source of earning, in 2019, the Uttar Pradesh government inaugurated the Balinee, a milk producer company for women farmers who own cattle so that they can earn through supplying milk and become financially stable.

The company has given financial sustainability and independence to women. The milk procurement process in the company provides ease in the collection, and milk payments are directly transferred to the bank accounts of the members once in 10 days, transparency is maintained with data collection. Joining the company is very easy, encouraging more and more women to join. All it takes is an admission fee of INR 50, purchase of at least five shares of the company at INR 100 a share. Besides this, the members also need ensure 200 days of milk supply in a year, with minimum of 500 litres of milk in the year.

The company was set up under a project funded by the National Rural Livelihood Mission and Uttar Pradesh State Rural Livelihood Mission with technical support from the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) and inaugurated by Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath in 2019. In December 2019, the company had 1,500 members and daily milk collection was about 2,000 litres.

However, today 52,115 women from 850 villages in the region are part of the cooperative and the daily collection of milk averages 1, 96,000 litres. Seven of the company’s nine-member board of directors, including the chairperson, are women milk suppliers. Officials say that the total revenue of the company, from sale of the collected milk, since its inception now stands at INR 2.8 billion.

Balinee also helps women’s milk suppliers with advice and medical attention for their cattle. The company provides them with various means like artificial insemination, ration balancing, and the availability of good quality green fodder seed, cattle feed, and mineral mixture to help them make their cattle more productive.

The women acknowledge the important role played by Balinee in making them independent and help them run their households in a better fashion. Manoj Kumari is a 38-year-old resident of Babina block in Jhansi who has been a member of Balinee for the last four years. She says that the cooperative has immensely benefited her.

“For women, it is very important to be financially independent and stable in this time where you cannot be fully dependent on the male member for everything. I joined Balinee in 2019, and since then my life has changed. I can make every decision on my own. I work as an operator in the company, I collect and sell milk to other locations. Before that, I was a teacher in a private school, I used to wake up at 4 am, finish the household chores and take my children with me to the school where I was a teacher. I did not have enough time to manage everything,” Kumari tells Media India Group.

“Now, after joining Balinee, I can do everything without any inconvenience. My family respects me and it is good to see I am financially stable and sustaining on my own,’’ Kumari adds.

Balinee has also come to the aide of many women who see their husbands blow up their meagre earnings in alcohol. Many women here complain that half of the money earned by their husbands is wasted on alcohol, leaving them with no option but to seek other sources of revenue for the family.

“Those women who were unhappy with the behaviour of their husbands came to Balinee and started working here as milk suppliers. They are now happy that they are earning themselves, taking care of their daily expenses, and do not have to get involved in arguments with their husbands because of financial issues anymore and are sending their children to schools for a better future. I am also part of the company and every day I collect and sell milk and earn a good amount of money which is enough to sustain myself and my family, reducing the burden on my husband’s shoulders,” Jaswanti Rajput, a 45-year-old woman from Prithi Nayakhera of Jhansi district tells Media India Group.

Rajput’s financial situation has indeed been bolstered since her association with Balinee. ‘‘I had one cow when joined Balinee, and now with the regular earnings from milk sales, I have bought a buffalo and a cow. I will buy more in the coming days,” Rajput adds.

Sonam Ji, a resident of Khajraha Khurd village in Jhansi, says that being a member of the Balinee, helps her receive timely payments and saves some of her earnings. “Timely payments are very important as I can go to the bank anytime and withdraw the amount easily. In addition, I can keep a track of my monthly expenses as well. Also, the company provides us with basic facilities required for the wellbeing of our cattle,” says Ji.

Not only Balinee has given women a right to live freely and breathe in the open air, but many women are also breaking all social norms and standards. Some of them are even encouraged by their families to join Balinee. Radha Dubey, a 40-year-old woman from Jhansi is one such woman whose husband and in-laws allowed her to work and move out of her house and break all the stereotypes. “I am very happy that my in-laws never stopped me or restricted me within the houses but allowed me to work and go out and live independently. When I was asked to join the company as a board member, I was skeptical that will my in-laws allow me or not but the opposite of it happened as I was allowed. When I asked if I could remove my veil (Pallu), face, or head-covering scarf, they agreed to it as well because, in villages, women are not allowed to go out without covering her face and head,” Dubey tells Media India Group.

“I am very glad that more women are joining the company which is itself a good sign,” Dubey adds.



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