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Agriculture Cooperatives 
Various development activities in agriculture, small industry marketing  and  processing, distribution and supplies are now carried on through co-operatives. the co-operatives in the State have made  an all-round progress and their role in, and contribution to agricultural progress has particularly been significant. The schemes regarding the construction of godowns and the conversion of villages into model villages have assumed great importance in the wake of the Greeen Revolution.

The Co-operative Movement was introduced into India by the Government as the only method by which the farmers could overcome their burden of debt and keep them away from the clutches of the money-lenders. The Co-operative Credit Societies Act, 1904 was passed by the Government  of India and rural credit societies were formed . Through the appointment of registrars and through vigorous propaganda, the Government attempted to popularize the Movement in the rural areas. Within a short period, the Government realized some of the shortcomings of the 1904 Act and, therefore, passed a more comprehensive Act, known as the  Co-operative Societies Act of 1912. This Act recognized non-credit societies also. But the rural credit societies have continued to be predominant till now.

The Primary Agricultural Credit/Service Societies

The agricultural co-operative credit structure in the Punjab State is broadly divided into two sectors, one dealing with the short-terms and  medium-terms finance and the other with the long-term credit. In the State, the short-term and medium-term credit structure  is based on a three-tier system, i.e., the Apex Co-operative Bank at the State level, the Central Co-Coperative Bank at the district/tehsil level and the Primary Agricultural Credit Societies at the village level. The major objectives of the primary agricultural credit service societies are to supply agricultural credit to meet the requirements of funds for agricultural production, the distribution of essential consumer commodities, the provision of storage and  marketing facilities  and for light agricultural implements and machinery.

Owing to an increasing emphasis on the development of land and agriculture, long-term co-operative credit has assumed great importance. There is the Punjab State Land Mortgage Bank at the Apex and the Punjab Mortgage Bank at the district/tehsil level. These Primary Land Mortgage Banks advance loans to the farmers for long term purposes.

At the operational level, there exists a primary co-operative to extend credit to the farmer. This unit epitomizes the vitality and service potential of the Co-operative Movement in India. The organization of these societies dates back to 1904, when the first Co-operative Societies Act was passed. These societies were started with the object of providing cheap credit to the agriculturists in order to free them from the clutches of the rapacious money-lenders. the agricultural primary credit society is the foundation-stone on which the whole co-operative edifice is built. Even now these societies dominate the co-operative picture.

The first Agricultural Credit Society in the Firozpur District was registered on 4 October 1911, at the Village of Khalchi Kadim in the Firozpur Tehsil. Originally, the movement was confined to the credit societies only and, thus, credit dominated till the partition (1947). After the partition, the Co-operative Movement began to spread to other field, viz labour, construction and farming.

Agricultural Non-Credit Societies
While credit is and must remain for some time the chief concern of the Co-operative Movement relatively slow, since 1912, when the non-credit societies were brought  officially under the aegis of the Movement. the World War II (1939-45) came as a God send boon with respect to the development of the Co-operative Movement. Prices of agricultural goods began to rise and touched new peaks. The repayment of loans was accelerated and deposits  began to pour in. The number of societies also rose. Another interesting development in co-operative  during the War wast the extension of the Movement to non-credit activities, viz.  consumer’s co-operative marketing societies, consolidation societies, etc.

Agricultural co-operative Marketing Societies

Marketing has occupied a far smaller place in the co-operative picture in India than in many countries, notably Denmark and the USA, but not other non-credit line of co-operation, with the possible exception of the consolidation of land holdings and joint farming enterprises,  seems to hold  greater possibilities of help to the agricultural population of India. The development of co-operative marketing in India is closely bound up with the problem of credit-the claims of the money-lenders commonly inhibiting the cultivator’s freedom of action in disposing of his crop.

The full utilization of loans advanced depends upon the arrangements for the marketing of surplus produce. For this purpose, there the Punjab State Marketing Federation at the State Level, wholesale societies at the district level and marketing societies at the market level. These societies also provide other agricultural facilities and make arrangements for the supply of domestic items in the rural areas.

At the State level, the Punjab State co-operative Supply and Marketing Federation (MARKFED) is playing an important role in building up an integrated structure for remunerative marketing and storing of agricultural produce. it has played an important role in hastening the Green Revolution in the State by arranging ready supplies of essential farm inputs needed by the cultivators.

Co-operative Farming Societies.
The Royal Commission on Agriculture in 1928 observed that it co-operation failed, there would fail the hope of the Indian agriculturist. Co-operative farming is a compromise between collective farming and the peasant proprietorship and gives all merits of large-scale farming without abolishing private property. It implies an organization of the farmers on the basis of common efforts for common interests. Under this system, all landowners in a village form a co-operative  society for tilling the land. The land is pooled, but each farmer retains the right of property. The produce is distributed  by each. They are allowed to withdraw from  the co-operative farm whenever they de3sire. In India, the exceedingly small size of holdings is perhaps the most serious defect in our agriculture. If agriculture has to be improved, the size of the holdings must be enlarged.

Type of societies

  • Co-operative Weaver’s society
  • Co-operative Consumer’s Societies
  • Co-operative Housing Societies
  • Co-operative Women’s Societies
  • Co-operative Milk-Societies

Challenges before co-operatives
The IndianCo-operative Movement has earned distinction of being the largest in the world.This is true in terms of membership and Co-operative network which spread over
almost all the villages in the country and the number of Co-operative Societies. In our country, there are about 5.5 lakhs of cooperative Societies with membership of more than 22crores. It covers a wide range of commercial activities and nearly 50% of them are engaged in agriculture and agriculture related matters. Nearly 70% of the Indian population beingdependant on agriculture, is thus, connected with agricultural Co-operatives. Co-operatives have covered 100% of villages and 67% of rural households. Co-operative sectorcontributes 50% of total agricultural credit and distributes 35% of total fertilizer consumption in the Country. They are procuring 60% of total sugar-cane. They are also playing crucial role in the agro-processing sector i.e. processing of sugar-cane, milk, cotton and oil seeds etc.Dairy Co-operatives have excelled in their area of operation and have enabled India to attain top position in milk production in the world. Edible oil marketed through Co-operative channel is estimated at 50% and handloom Co-operatives account for 55% of the total out-put.

But in spite of being largest movement  in the world and strongest link, it faces number of challenges like lack of internal resources and poor mobilization of external resources, inadequate infrastructure, competitive tier  structure, apathy of members towards management, lack of accountability increasing  sickness, dormancy, low level professionalism, excessive government control, political interference, dominance of vested interest over the management, lack of human resources development, education and training.Despite all challenges, Co-operatives have to be sustainable over a period of time for which professionalism is a must. Co-operatives have been looking for Governmental help. But they have been paying of it like official domination and interference in their day-to-day working etc. Dr. Kuriyan, an eminent co-operator in the country said recently that the Co-operatives have undergone a crisis of identity being neither government nor private. He further said that Co-operatives need to be more efficient and competitive, but at the same time they cannot sacrifice the basictenets of co-operation. Inefficient Co-operatives will have to either pull up their socks or down their shutters. Co-operatives have many advantages in tackling problem poverty alleviation, employment generation and food security. They also have the potential to deliver goods and services in areas where both the State and Private sectors have failed. Over the past few years, steps like the enactment of mutually aided Co-operative Societies Act by some States and the Multi-State Co-operative Societies Act have been taken to give the Co-operative sector a boost. But I am aware that the Co-operatives registered under the Mutual Aided Act have certain constraints and deficiencies, which may be -

  • Lack of supervision and inspection by Registrar of Co-operative Societies resulting into financial misuse and disproportion institutional development.
  • Government is hesitating to entrust any important government work since it does not have any participation.
  • These Co-operatives are away from the mainstream. The Co-operative Banks and other important institutions are not prepared to admit them as members.
  • NABARD and RBI are not agreeing for conversion of Central and Urban Co-operative Banks.
  • R.B.I. has also objection about the use of word "Co-operative" since Banking Regulation Act uses the word "Co-operative Society".
  • Perhaps we are not prepared or educated or sensitized enough to work without control and supervision.
  • Mischievous persons may take advantage of the situation to cheat the general public.
  • When the Government are exploring the possibility of regulating the Non-governmental organizations having vast experience, it is doubtful as to whether the mutually aided Co-operatives in various field can give desired result.

The circumstances and the situation give rise to the Co-operative Movement in the Country are still prevalent. The market is still not accessible to small and marginal farmers. Supply of agricultural credit is not adequate. About 50% of our rural and tribal household still have no facility for institutional credit. The Co-operatives are today at the cross road at their existence, particularly in view of the fast emerging economic liberalization and globalization. The Co-operatives still continued to function in a traditional way with poor governance and management, poor resource mobilization, outside interference, dependence on Government and lack of professionalization. The Co-operatives are neither member-driven nor functioned professionally in a transparent manner with accountability to members. In spite of all these, no doubt, the Co-operatives have contributed a lot to the agriculture development of the Country. We cannot afford to see that these institutions wither away. It needs reform. It is not-worthy to say that in the National Common Minimum Programme of present UPA Government it has been mentioned to bring constitutional amendment to ensure the democratic autonomous and professional functioning of Co-operatives. The constitutional amendment may limit itself with -

  • timely conduct of elections
  • timely conduct of audit,
  • uniform tenure of managing committee
  • conduct of general body meetings
  • right of a member for access to informations and
  • the accountability of the management.

In this context our strategies may be as follows. -

  • Co-operatives need be member-driven; stakeholders should have a command over its affairs and activities. There is need for more transparency, more of interaction and confidence -building measures.
  • Aggressive marketing strategy be adopted for sensitizing members and general public about the service and quality rendered by the Co-operatives. Commitment to best
  • service and pursuit for excellence should be the hallmark of Co-operative. Every society should adopt their customers' or members' charter and should meticulously adhere to this charter.
  • Co-operative should compete with other players in prevailing market forces without any protectionist or discriminator approach.
  • In respect of short-term, medium-term, long-term sector and Urban Bank sectors, restrictions have been stipulated by Reserve Bank of India, NABARD in respect of finance. These restrictions need be liberalized which would help Co-operative to optimize its lendable resources and provide finance to members.
  • Strengthening information and database of Co-operatives if of utmost importance. MIS need be adopted by the process of computerization and inter-connectivity to provide best services to members and customers with any time and anywhere service.
  • Professionalisation of management is one of the basic prerequisites of Co-operatives. Both the personnel as well as directors of committee of management should be exposed to regular training, interaction and orientation.
  • Adoption of scientific planning for deployment of human resources on the principle of 'right man for the right post at right time' would help Co-operatives to accelerate the pace of reforms. Human resources need be proactive. Motivation, recognition for good work and leadership be inculcated for augmenting productivity.
  • Basic tenets corporate governance be adopted like fair play, transparency and accountability.

The PACS, as the foundation of the Co-operative system are meeting the development needs of the farmers by providing credit, inputs and storage and processing and marketing facilities. The Co-operative federated at the district and State level constitutes the Co-operative system. But it is found that the Apex institutions have grown stronger whereas the primaries and in some cases, Central Co-operatives have gone weaker. The situation has to be changed and the primaries have to grow stronger. The business of the Primary Societies have to be diversified.