Co-operative banks in Tamil Nadu, which are serving almost one crore customers, nearly a quarter of them being small and marginal farmers, and 17,000 co-operative societies, are facing acute staff shortage.

“Work pressure has become so enormous that most of the staff has to work round-the-clock. Besides, monitoring has become an extremely arduous task. As against nine primary agricultural co-operative societies (PACS) being monitored by a supervisor, now one has to monitor 40 PACS. Thus checking the misuse of credit and monitoring the end use of funds has become very difficult”, laments P. Balakrishnan, General Secretary of the All India Co-op Bank Employees' Federation and also Tamil Nadu Co-op Bank Employees' Association (TNCBEA).

“For the past 30 years, there has been no recruitment at all in these banks and societies, except the 1,800 staff recruited by the District Central Co-operative Banks (DCCBs) between 2008 and 2010,” he said.

Officials, however, say recruitment would begin at the earliest.

Mr. Balakrishnan told The Hindu that in total, more than 5,500 vacancies exist in the co-operative banks and societies in Tamil Nadu. Despite numerous representations to the State government, there has been no recruitment at all in urban co-operative banks, State Apex Co-operative (TNSC) Bank, Tamil Nadu State Agriculture and Rural Development banks and also in PACS.

The total business of TNSC bank which was Rs 300 crore in the 1980s has now shot up to Rs 6,500 crore; the business of DCCBs has jumped from Rs 3,000 crore to Rs 15,000 crore, and that of urban banks from Rs 1,000 crore to Rs 4,000 crore, G.Vairappan, Secretary, TNCBEA, said. ”We are offering all services like the commercial banks and extending equal interest or even more at times,” he added.

As much as 40 per cent of the budgetary allocation of Tamil Nadu is routed through the co-operative organisations. More than 85 per cent of the public distribution transactions are done through them. As much as 65 per cent of the handloom sector and 50 per cent of the sugar industry are dependent on co-operative banks. They extend cash credit to all the employees' co-operative credit societies. They create a lot of job opportunities as well, pointed out R.G.Munusamy, chairman, Chennai Central Co-operative Bank Staff Union and S.Jayakumar, General Secretary, MCC Banks' Staff Union.

Official sources, who did not want to be identified, said the previous Government had issued a GO regarding constitution of a co-operative recruitment bureau at the district and also at the State-level, the former for salesmen, packers, etc., and the latter for assistants onwards. “However, staff are yet to be appointed for the purpose. The appointment of the Controller of Examinations, setting of question papers and conduct of examinations will have to be finalised, which require instructions from the current Government.”

The sources also said the number of vacancies claimed by the unions was “inflated”. While refusing to specify the number to be recruited, the sources said: “We are now collecting the actual number of vacancies. The process of recruitment would positively begin soon,” they added.