Ground Report | New Delhi: What is new Ministry of Cooperation?; The newly created Ministry of Co-operatives appears to have confused a wider audience, as there has been speculation about what is the implied purpose for such an effort. ” The new Ministry of Cooperation is the subject of intense discussion in our editorial notes, adding that it has already entered a factual territory.
Discussing the background of the creation of the ministry and what led to the decision, the editorial concludes that “the need to ensure greater ease of doing business should be taken with a hint of doubt.”
What is new Ministry of Cooperation?
The government, last Monday, announced the formation of a separate Union Ministry of Cooperation. The ministry “will provide a separate administrative legal and policy framework for strengthening the cooperative movement in the country”, a release from Press Information Bureau said. Cooperatives, so far under the Ministry of Agriculture, will now fall under this new ministry headed by Amit Shah.
While the government has stressed the much-felt need for a separate ministry for cooperatives, several opposition leaders have alleged that the move is tailor-made to fit the needs of the BJP in the upcoming Gujarat and Maharashtra elections. Moreover, it has been alleged that this decision also undermines federalism.
In India, the cooperative movement was formally launched in 1904, although cooperatives, in one form or another, have existed for far longer in the country. These institutions largely operate within the agriculture and rural financing sectors in India.
In this context, the new ministry is already entering the factual territory. Initially, something “separate”, inter alia, in the direction of making distinctive, is entering into the already disputed territory.
The ruling government does not have a favorable record in promoting cooperative federalism and has, in short, bypassed the powers of state legislatures at several moments in the recent past. This seems to be happening here as well. The bulk of the cooperative movement, whether administered by the states in the form of credit societies, banks, producer cooperatives, is prominent in some states, notably Maharashtra and Kerala.
The choice to make this ministry independent of the already existing department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare indicates a carefully calibrated effort by certain sections of the political spectrum to challenge the current supremacy of cooperatives.
Key things about this ministry
- A separate ‘Ministry of Cooperation’ was created to realize the vision of ‘Sahakar Se Prosperity’.
- The new ministry will provide a separate administrative, legal and policy framework to strengthen the cooperative movement in India.
- It aims to deepen the cooperatives into a true people-based movement reaching the grassroots level.
- The new ministry will work to streamline processes for ‘ease of doing business’ for cooperatives and enable the development of multi-state cooperatives.
- Creation of a separate ministry for cooperatives complements the budget announcement made by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
Opposition leaders have opined that the Union Ministry of Cooperation has been created to benefit the ruling BJP government. Since the cooperative model is a source of political power in states such as Maharashtra and Gujarat, having control over them right before the elections is likely to yield benefits.
Amit Shah, BJP’s star electoral strategist, being in command of the ministry has only fueled these apprehensions. Currently, several cooperatives, especially in Maharashtra, are under the influence of the opposition. Senior BJP leaders have talked of uprooting “political monopolies” in the sector.
Senior Congress leader Chennithala said this was a move to “hijack” the cooperative movement while Sitaram Yechury alleged that the centre has their eye on the cash reserves of rich cooperatives. The opposition has also alleged that the move undermines federalism as cooperatives are a subject in the state list. While the BJP highlighted the need for the ministry to ensure the development of multi-state cooperative societies, the opposition pointed out that this is already governed by a Central act enacted in 2002.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said cooperative societies are part of the state list under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. “The Center has no jurisdiction over this. It seems that by creating a new ministry, the aim of the Center is now to regulate cooperative banks.
“They have looted public sector banks. The Modi government has given huge loans to people who have left the country and all that money is people’s money. The next area of loot that is left is cooperative banks, and that seems to be the objective (of creating a new ministry),” Yechury said.