Cooperatives in India

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    In Context

    • The Central Government has recently introduced Bill to amend the Multi-State Co-operative Societies Act, 2002.

    About the Cooperative Societies

    • About:
      • A co-operative society is a voluntary association of individuals having common needs who join hands for the achievement of common economic interest. 
      • Its aim is to serve the interest of the poorer sections of society through the principle of self-help and mutual help. 
      • The cooperative movement is as old as India’s Independence. 
    • 97th Constitutional Amendment Act 2011:
      • It established the right to form cooperative societies as a fundamental right (Article 19).
      • It included a new Directive Principle of State Policy on the Promotion of Cooperative Societies (Article 43-B).
      • It added a new Part IX-B to the Constitution titled “The Co-operative Societies” (Articles 243-ZH to 243-ZT)
      • It authorizes the Parliament to establish relevant laws in the case of multi-state cooperative societies (MSCS) and state legislatures in the case of other cooperative societies.
    • Significance:
      • Co-operatives have great potential to rejuvenate growth, formalise the economy, and reduce inequality besides improving the standard of living of the poor.
    • Ministry of Cooperation:

    Financial cooperatives

    • Status of financial cooperatives in India:
      • Currently, there are about 10 lakh cooperatives, of which 1.05 lakh are financial cooperatives
      • Among the financial co-operatives, rural co-operatives have a three-tier system with 
        • around 1.02 lakh primary agricultural cooperative societies (PACS), 
        • 351 District Central Cooperative Banks (DCCBs), 
        • 34 State Cooperative Banks (SCBs), 
        • besides 616 rural cooperatives for long-term lending. 
      • India has 1,514 primary urban cooperative banks (UCBs), of which, 52 are scheduled and the rest unscheduled, some are multi-State UCBs.
    • Issues & challenges:
      • Dispute over jurisdiction:
        • The founding fathers of the Indian Constitution have kept ‘cooperatives’ in the State List while ‘banking’ is included in the Union List.
        • State governments have a great responsibility in promoting non-financial cooperatives without any dispute over jurisdiction. 
        • When it comes to cooperative banks, both urban and rural, there is dual control leading to jurisdictional disputes
          • While incorporation, management, audit, supersession of board and liquidation are administered by the Registrar of Cooperatives
          • Banking licence, prudential regulation, capital adequacy, etc., are prescribed by the RBI
        • Many expert committees have concluded that dual control over cooperative banks has not served them well for their orderly growth.
      • Poor corporate governance:
        • Poor corporate governance has been the main reason behind the failure of many cooperative banks.
          • Since 2004-05, there were 145 mergers of non-scheduled UCBs, nine in 2021-22. 
          • Since 2015-16, the RBI cancelled the licences of 54 UCBs, including 10 in 2021-22. 
          • The number of UCBs has declined from 1,926 in March 2004 to 1,514 in March 2022. 
        • The balance sheets of about one-third of the newly licensed UCBs are unsound
        • UCBs reported more than 1,000 cases of fraud in the last five years. 
        • The collapse of the Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative (PMC) Bank in 2019 was mainly due to financial irregularities, failure of internal control, and under-reporting of exposures.
    • Government’s measures:
      • The Central Government in December 2022 introduced Bill to amend the Multi-State Co-operative Societies Act, 2002.
      • The key features of this Bill are: 
        • The Central Government will establish the Cooperative Election Authority to conduct the election of board members; 
        • Provision for amalgamation of UCBs with other multi-State UCBs as decided by general meeting with two-thirds of its members present and voting; 
        • The Central Government will prepare a scheme and create a fund, to be contributed by profit-making multi-State UCBs, for rehabilitation of sick multi-State UCBs; 
        • There are restrictions on the redemption of government shareholding; and 
        • One or more Co-operative Ombudsman with territorial jurisdiction to be appointed by the Central Government for the redress of complaints.

    Non-financial cooperatives

    • The Central Government has made elaborate arrangements for the orderly growth of non-financial cooperates
      • It has introduced a separate Ministry for Cooperation. 
      • It provides fiscal incentives for farmer-producer organisations (FPOs). 
      • Several schemes are available for handicrafts and handlooms. 
      • After the electronic national agriculture market (eNAM), the Government’s electronic Marketplace (GeM), is a successful innovative online platform dedicated to the marketing of several goods and services produced by MSMEs and non-financial cooperates. 
        • As of now, more than 62,000 government buyers, 49 lakh sellers, 10,000 products, and 290 services are registered on this platform.
      • Opportunities exist for brand building and exports under a one-district-one-product scheme
      • Welfare schemes are also available for dairy development and fisheries. Milk cooperatives are a grand success in India. 
      • Cooperatives as a business model can be pursued in multiple areas such as post-harvest processing, warehousing, and packaging. 
      • The government has the vision to use technology for rural development under several schemes.
      • Opportunities are growing for start-ups in rural areas, which can be pursued under non-financial cooperates.

    Suggestions & way ahead

    • UCBs have more than 8.6 lakh depositors involving over Rs. 5-lakh crore deposits. Rural cooperative banks have a deposit base of over Rs. 6-lakh crore
    • As banking regulations are primarily governed by the protection of depositors’ interests, different principles cannot be applied to commercial banks and cooperative banks.
    • Cooperative banks can raise money through public issues and private placements of equity or preference shares with prior RBI permission. 
    • Amendments do not apply to PACS or cooperative societies lending for long-term requirements of agriculture.
    • If cooperative banks want to grow in a competitive environment, they must lift their governance
    • Alternatively, the State governments should concentrate on non-financial cooperatives rather than waste their time and energy on turf wars relating to financial cooperatives.
    Source: BL