The Cooperative Societies can be defined as an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise". India is an agricultural country and laid the foundation of World’s biggest cooperative movement in the world. The need for profitability is balanced by the needs of the members and the wider interest of the community, the Cooperative Movement was started by the weaker sections of society for protecting its members from the clutches of profit hungry businessmen. Here, we are giving a brief summary of the Cooperative Movement and Cooperative Societies in India for general awareness.
The Cooperative Movements in India can be studied into two phases:
1. Co-operative Movement in pre-Independence era
2. Co-operative Movement in post-Independence era
Co-operative Movement in pre-Independence era
The term cooperative Societies came into existence when the farmers of Poona and Ahmednagar spearheaded an agitation against the money lenders who were charging exorbitant rates of interest. Hence, British government came forward and passed three acts- the Deccan Agriculture Relief Act (1879), the Land Improvement Loan Act (1883) and the Agriculturists Loan Act (1884).
But Cooperative move came with structure and shape when British enactment of the Cooperative Credit Societies Act, 1904. In 1919, cooperation became a provincial subject and the provinces were authorised to make their own cooperative laws under the Montague-Chelmsford Reforms. This categorization carried on to Government of India Act, 1935. In 1942, Government of British India enacted the Multi-Unit Cooperative Societies Act to cover Cooperative Societies with membership from more than one province.
Co-operative Movement in post-Independence era
India's first Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru had strong faith in the cooperative movement. In his speech in international seminar on cooperative leadership in South-East Asia he had said “But my outlook at present is not the outlook of spreading the cooperative movement gradually, progressively, as it has done. My outlook is to convulse India with the Cooperative Movement or rather with cooperation to make it, broadly speaking, the basic activity of India, in every village as well as elsewhere; and finally, indeed, to make the cooperative approach the common thinking of India....Therefore, the whole future of India really depends on the success of this approach of ours to these vast numbers, hundreds of millions of people".
Hence, after independence cooperatives became an integral part of Five-Year Plans.
1. In 1958, the National Development Council (NDC) had recommended a national policy on cooperatives and also for training of personnel's and setting up of Co-operative Marketing Societies.
2. In 1984, Parliament of India enacted the Multi-State Cooperative Societies Act to remove the plethora of different laws governing the same types of societies.
3. The most important success stories lays behind the success of White Revolution which made the country the world's largest producer of milk and milk products; and Green Revolution and the conversion of villages into model villages have assumed great importance in the wake of the Green Revolution.
4. Government of India announced a National Policy on Co- operatives in 2002. The ultimate objective of the National Policy is to-
(a) Provide support for promotion and development of cooperatives
(b) Reduction of regional imbalances
(c)Strengthening of cooperative education, training and human resource development
The Cooperatives play very important role in India because it is an organization for the poor, illiterate and unskilled people. The importance of Cooperative sector for India is given below:
1. It provides agricultural credits and funds where state and private sectors have not been able to do very much.
2. It provides strategic inputs for the agricultural-sector; consumer societies meet their consumption requirements at concessional rates.
3. It helps to overcome the constraints of agricultural development.
1. Directive Principles of State Policy enshrines under article 43 that- Living wage, etc., for workers. The State shall endeavour to secure, by suitable legislation or economic organisation or in any other way, to all workers, agricultural, industrial or otherwise, work, a living wage, conditions of work ensuring a decent standard of life and full enjoyment of leisure and social and cultural opportunities and, in particular, the State shall endeavour to promote cottage industries on an individual or co-operative basis in rural areas.
2. Right to form cooperatives can also be construed as a Fundamental Right, Article 14 – (Right to Equality) and Article 19(1)(c) as ‘Right to form Associations or Unions.
Committee related to the Cooperative Movements in India
1. All-India Rural Credit Survey Committee Report (1954)
2. Chaudhary Brahm Prakash Committee (which proposed a model law) (1990)
3. Mirdha Committee (1996)
4. Jagdish Kapoor Committee (2000)
5. Vikhe Patil Committee (2001)
6. V. S. Vyas Committee (2001 and 2004)
Hence, we can say that the Cooperatives Movement was awakening movement for peasants and farmers as well as agriculture and its allied activities. It has immense potential to deliver goods and services in areas where the government and private sector failed to reach.