Free cooperatives from government control – NGO

Shimla: Despite a high decadal growth after liberalization of market forces since 1991, Sahkar Bharti, a NGO involved in strengthening the cooperative movement says that the have / have-not divide has only widened because growth of cooperatives has been chained to regressive laws and the movement stands hijacked as a stepping stone to power.

National president of the NGO, Satish Mahratay let reporters here know that Himachal Pradesh along with Goa and Tripura were the only three states that had not implemented the recommendations of the Vaidyanathan Committee report to grant autonomy in functioning of cooperative institutions.

He said that be it primary agricultural societies or cooperative banks in which no government money is involved or the government does not stand surety for any kind of businesses undertaken by such entities, should be freed of government control.

Asking Himachal to enact the Autonomous Cooperative Act for releases the forces of enterprise in the cooperative sector, Mahratay said cooperative institutions had become victims of political and administrative interference.

The societies registered under the Autonomous Cooperative Act were giving a direct competition to those registered under the government regulated cooperative laws in states like Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Punjab, Jharkhand, Assam, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh where the new act had been legislated, he claimed.

The state also needed to come out with a vision document for the cooperative sector as much of the state was agrarian with the people organized under primary cooperative societies.

Under the new cooperative act, the mandatory audit need not be done by the cooperative department and it could be conducted by any qualified chartered accountant.

The rural credit could be availed directly from NABARD which levies an interest rate of 3.5% percent against the atrocious 26 % interest permitted by Reserve Bank of India for micro finance companies that mainly work in rural and backward areas, he said.

With there being over 5.5 lakh cooperatives registered in the country constituting over 23 crore members, Mahratay said that India had the largest number of cooperatives in the world and the country could not ignore such a large section of people.

The laws had been against the cooperative movement and even the intentions of direct tax code to levy tax on cooperatives would further weaken the sector that had the capability of raising incomes levels and alleviating poverty through mutual concept of ownership of enterprise, he said.

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