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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Cooperative sector to play a vital role in employment generation

Amit Shah has rightly said that a separate cooperative ministry should have been created soon after independence to strengthen the 115 -year-old cooperative movement. But this happened only in 2019 after the change of regime. Cooperatives institutions are formed due to mutual cooperation and they work on the principle of collectivism. The capital is raised in the spirit of partnership and there is a spirit of helping others in its use. Its vastness and spread can be gauged from the fact that at present there are about 2 lakh cooperative dairy societies and 330 cooperative sugar mills running in India.

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By: R K Sinha

The cooperative societies in some states in the country were known for all the wrong reasons for several years. A few societies were synonymous with corruption. No more. Many things have changed in India in recent years of Modi Government. The cooperative sector has not remained untouched.

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Emphasis was laid on it, because it had the potential to help the country become the third largest economy which is the goal of the present dispensation. A separate ministry was created by the Modi government for the purpose. Now, a separate budget can be provided to it. Since this sector is very large and crores of people depend on it, much has to be done.  A good beginning has been already made.

To give an idea of how big the sector is, here are a few facts. There are over eight lakh cooperative societies in 28 states of the country at present. These societies are not catering only to the needs of agriculture sector but several others including banking. The total number of cooperative banks in the country is 1886, which includes 1,500 urban cooperative banks and 386 rural cooperative banks. These cooperative institutions play an important role in meeting the financial needs of various communities across the country.

The present looks good. But so was not the past. The central government had to do a lot to change the scenario ln   last 10 years. Before that, the condition of cooperative societies in the country was bad, to say the least. Manipulation had become the order of the day. Only paperwork was done in the name of management. Personal differences and fights were common. Many societies were closed due to disputes.

Some groups used to make most of it. They used to act arbitrarily, not to benefit farmers and small entrepreneurs. Now the situation has changed completely under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and due to the monitoring of Home and Cooperation Minister Amit Shah. Many important reforms have been made. Accountability has    been fixed.

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Amit Shah has rightly said that a separate cooperative ministry should have been created soon after independence to strengthen the 115 -year-old cooperative movement. But this happened only in 2019 after the change of regime. Cooperatives institutions are formed due to mutual cooperation and they work on the principle of collectivism. The capital is raised in the spirit of partnership and there is a spirit of helping others in its use. Its vastness and spread can be gauged from the fact that at present there are about 2 lakh cooperative dairy societies and 330 cooperative sugar mills running in India.

Over 81000 cooperative societies are working in Gujarat alone. As many as 19 multi-state cooperative societies have the status of national level cooperative societies. In terms of turnover, IFFCO’s turnover for the financial year 2022-23 was Rs 60,324 crore and AMUL’s turnover for 2023-24 was Rs 12,880 crore. Not only this, IFFCO has been included in the list of 300 largest cooperative societies in the world. Earlier, the Department of Cooperation was under the Ministry of Agriculture, but in July 2021, the Modi government formed a separate Ministry of Cooperation and Home Minister Amit Shah became the first Cooperative Minister of the country. The ministry introduced the Multi-State Cooperative Societies (Amendment) Bill in Parliament in 2022. The main objective of this bill was to serve the interests of members in more than one state by amending the existing laws and making the voluntary formation of cooperative societies more democratic. Along with this, the objective was also to give more economic and organizational autonomy to the institutions.

Cooperatives are now playing a very important role in bringing especially the youth and women into the mainstream. An inclusive cooperative model that integrates capacity building, education, skill training and women’s participation in economic activities is ready. If the slogan of women empowerment is becoming a reality anywhere, it is in the field of cooperation. The efforts made by the Ministry of Cooperation for the betterment, empowerment and income generation of women in the cooperative sector are now showing results. Reservation for women has been fixed in the boards of multi-state cooperative societies. Appointment of women directors in the boards of multi-state cooperative societies has been made mandatory. This has ensured representation of women in the boards of more than 1,550 multi-state cooperative societies across the country. Reservation has also been given to women members in Primary Agricultural Cooperative Credit Societies (PACS).

Representation of women and their participation in decision making has been ensured in more than 1 lakh Pacs. A financial assistance scheme named Nandini Sahakar Yojana has been formulated for projects, support and capacity building of women cooperatives. National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) has provided assistance of Rs 5,714.88 crore to women cooperatives and this has directly benefited more than 1.5 crore women members. In total, the Ministry of Cooperation has taken 54 major initiatives to empower all members including women.

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A strong system has been created to generate self-employment through cooperatives. A new cooperative policy has been implemented to realize the vision of “Prosperity through Cooperation”. The entire system has been modernized – from Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS) to Registrar of Cooperative Societies offices of the states and Agriculture and Rural Development Banks. This will increase transparency and accountability and open new facilities for farmers seeking medium and long-term loans. Simultaneously, the world’s largest grain storage scheme in the cooperative sector, which will work in 11 Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS) of 11 states, has been launched. Foundation stone of additional 500 PACS has 8 been laid across the country for construction of warehouses and other agriculture-related infrastructure. The initiative aims at integrating PACS warehouses with the food grain supply chain system.

All this is not say that there are no challenges now. All is not well in cooperative banking system. The figures related to fraud in this section are disturbing. According to the RBI, as many as, 4,135 frauds were reported by cooperative banks across the country, involving Rs 10,856.7 crore. But the Center cannot directly interfere because cooperative is a state subject. However, the PM has promised to depositors that those who have looted their money will not be spared. He has mentioned in this connection a case of Kerala; in particular, where a 500 crore scam has allegedly taken place (Karuvannur Cooperative Bank). The Enforcement Directorate is investigating the case and action has already been taken against some CPM leaders. Where there is a will, there is a way. (The writer is a senior editor, columnist and a former MP)

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