Cooperatives should reinvent themselves

Cooperatives should reinvent themselves: While their methods have perhaps been too harshly criticised, they could do with more professionalism and empathy...



Reinvent cooperatives, quickly!

The message contained in the well researched article “Cooperatives should reinvent themselves”*(The Hindu Business Line, March 7) has come at the right time. The quote from Edgar Parnell exhorting cooperatives to shun leaders who are “…ego builders, recognition seekers, hijackers, political ladder climbers…” is the most appropriate to describe the parasites to be avoided by cooperatives in 21st Century India.
Cooperatives across the country had more than their due share of  problems post-demonetization. While primary(urban) cooperative banks  whose functioning is similar to mini-commercial banks are regulated and supervised by RBI, the three/two tier structure of cooperatives comprising State and District Cooperative Banks and thousands of primary cooperative societies have multiple regulatory and supervisory oversight involving RBI, NABARD and Registrar of Cooperative Societies(State Government).
There is urgency in finding a solution to a problem that has arisen due to continued neglect of an institutional system which has been serving the semi-urban and rural areas of the country, with all constraints. There are no alternative conduits to ensure  banking service to their clientele in semi-urban and rural areas. The cooperatives need to survive, and issues like politicization, inadequate skills or problems arising from the dual control of cooperatives by Centre and states should be set aside by judiciary, governments and cooperatives themselves for a short period. There is need for cooperation among these agencies in solving the immediate problems the clientele of cooperatives are facing today.
Several short-cuts are being tried by state governments and cooperatives which can only lead to more complications. The short-cuts include bypassing DCCBs by state cooperative bank (as in Kerala), diverting the business now being done by cooperatives to other agencies and taking the problems to courts which helps in postponing decision-making. The historic reason for the present state of affairs include the straying away of  NABARD constituted with the specific purpose of supporting the institutional framework responsible for agriculture and rural development from its focus on cooperatives and RRBs to greener pastures like Self Help Groups with commercial banks’ involvement.
At this stage Centre should assert and empower state level task forces involving RBI, NABARD, banks and state governments to resolve the problems locally in a time bound manner.
M G Warrier, Mumbai

*Excerpts:
"A professional in a cooperative — besides possessing universally accepted qualities of mastery over the domain, adherence to ethics and association with professional bodies — should invariably possess the quality of empathy as s/he has to mainly deal with ordinary folks. V Kurien (Amul), GK Panicker (Kerala Dinesh Beedi) are examples. There is an urgent need to institutionalise and strengthen arrangements for ensuring sound human resources management practices in cooperatives covering recruitment, compensation package, re-skilling, career advancement and social security of employees of all cadres.
To conclude, cooperatives, therefore, must develop on their intrinsic strengths."

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