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Kerala - Alappuzha Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

Self-help groups replacing cooperative societies

By Our Staff Reporter

ALAPPUZHA, DEC. 25. The cooperative movement in the district seems to be going through a dull phase and is being replaced progressively by the self-help groups.

This is most evident in the coir sector, which is mainly concentrated in Ambalappuzha and Cherthala taluks in the district. The Minister for Coir and Agriculture, K. R. Gowri, who is among the few persons who have noticed the trend and commented on the issue in public said at a public meeting organised by the Coirfed recently that it was the flaws in the working of the cooperative societies that lead to its decadence and the rise of self-help groups.

A large number of cooperative societies in the coir sector which were formed to save the coir workers from the exploitation of big factory owners and exporters had failed to accomplish their aim. The working of many of the primary cooperative societies in the coir sector end in providing salary to the office staff and giving benefits to the office bearers of the societies, says workers in the coir sector. There is not much difference regarding the functioning of cooperative societies in other sectors also.

Reasons for failure

While analysing the reasons for the failure of the cooperative societies, Ms. Gowri noted that the over politicisation of the cooperative movement was one of the reasons for its failure. Ms. Gowri noted that more than half of the coir cooperative societies under the Coirfed previously were defunct. While the ordinary members of the coir cooperative societies found it difficult to get benefits, the office bearers cornered most of it, said coir workers. While the cooperative movement was thus struggling for existence, the self-help groups (SHGs) being organised by various bodies are thriving in the district. The SHGs are powerful particularly in Mararikkulam and Aroor panchayats in the district.

The self-help groups functioning in the area are mainly the Kudumbashree Ayalkoottams and the self-help groups under the Gandhi Smaraka Seva Kendram, an NGO-based at S.L. Puram in the district. The self-help groups launched by the SNDP Yogam are also active in the area. There are also other self-help groups initiated by various other agencies.

The National Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) recently hailed Mararikkulam as the Mecca of SHGs. While the SHG's mainly consisted of women earlier, now SHGs of men are also coming up in the area.

Activity area

The self-help groups are active in areas where once cooperative societies were active. The SHGs in the district are active in cultivation and manufacturing of value added products from agricultural products and are becoming active in the coir sector also.

The success of vegetable cultivation in Kanjikkuzhy panchayat in the district and coconut cultivation in Vayalar panchayat in the district are the result of the good work done by self-help groups. The institutions started by SHGs in the coir sector in Mararikkulam area also functioning well. SHGs of men selling fuel wood provide livelihood to a good number of families in Aryad panchayat.The SHGs have succeeded in providing loans to its members at low interest rates and more importantly in ensuring its repayment. Officials of banks in the district pointed out that repayment rate of loans were around 98 per cent in the case of loans given to the SHGs. As a result banks are willing to provide loans to SHGs.

Meanwhile, the growth of SHGs in the area has also resulted in opposition from various groups to it. Those who oppose the SHGs pointed out that the SHGs, which work above politics, were leading to the depoliticisation of society. They pointed out that SHGs often give room to various international agencies to work at the village level often bypassing the Government.

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