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On Saturday (25 September), Home Minister Amit Shah, who is also heading the portfolio of the newly created Ministry of Cooperation, said that the union government will soon bring amendments to the Multi State Cooperative Society Act, as well as a new policy for the cooperatives. Shah was speaking at the first Sehkarita Sammelan or National Cooperative Conference.
Cooperative bodies including the likes of IFFCO, the National Cooperative Federation of India, Amul and Sahakar Bharti etc were the organisers of the conference.
The government had announced the new ministry in July this year to give a push to the cooperative movement and realizing the vision of ‘Sahkar se Samriddhi’ (prosperity through cooperation).
India boasts of launching the world's largest cooperative movement in the past. In 2011, the 97th constitutional amendment added Part IXB to the Constitution which dealt specifically with the cooperative societies. Recently, Supreme Court of India struck down parts of it finding them in violation of the federal spirit as the amendment was not put up for ratification by the states.
Notably, 'cooperatives' as a subject are a part of the state list in the seventh schedule. Cash-rich cooperatives in many states are controlled by the regional parties, like the Nationalist Congress Party, etc. In these states, the cooperatives reportedly play an important political role. They decide the fortunes of different political parties. Such is especially the case in Maharashtra, Kerala, Gujarat, parts of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal.
Responding to the fears of the encroachment by the centre, Shah said that such questions could be responded to in legal terms, and assured that the newly created ministry will work in tandem with the states and “there will be no friction”.
He hailed the role played by the Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS) in high-population countries like India where a majority of the workforce is engaged in agriculture and 80 per cent of the farmers are small or marginal.
“Suppose Diwali is around the corner and someone needs Rs 1,000 to celebrate the festival. He had an income two months ago but does not immediately have the money due to a medical emergency. Only PACS can help here. These units extend credit on the basis of compassion,” Shah said.
He informed that the centre was going to bring amendments to the laws that govern the PACS. The amendments will be followed by advisories to the states who will also have to amend the relevant laws.
In the next five years, the government plans to increase the number of PACS from the existing 65,000 to 3 lakhs across the country. The goal, highlighted the minister, was to strengthen the PACS and take them to the grassroots, so that even the marginalised can avail credit. He added that the cooperatives can contribute a lot in the development of the country.