Infusing life into the cooperative movement

Staff Correspondent

Meet today to discuss issues crucial to the sector

Cooperative movement took an organised form in the country in 1904Corruption and political interference have weakened the movementKarnataka has highest number of cooperative societies after Gujarat and Maharashtra

BELGAUM: The Karnataka State Federation of Cooperative Societies, the Information Department and the Karnataka Madhyama Academy have organised a seminar on "100 years of the cooperative movement: The role of the media," for journalists to be held in Hubli on Monday.

The event will help the media to introspect on its role in the cooperative movement, besides anticipating the emerging challenges owing to globalisation and privatisation.

The seminar marks the ongoing centenary celebrations of the Indian cooperative movement, which coincides with the "Suvarna Karnataka" celebrations. There is a growing concern over factors such as corruption, professional incompetence, political interference, erosion of faith in cooperative principles and lack of accountability, which have weakened the cooperative movement.

Ever since the movement took an organised form in the country in 1904, thanks to cooperators who converted it into a people's movement, its contribution is reflected in considerably eliminating exploitation by moneylenders and coordinating agricultural activities towards rural empowerment.

Agrarian economy

The post-independence period witnessed remarkable growth in the cooperative sector; despite corruption and financial misappropriations, cooperative sugar factories continue to play an important role in sustaining the agrarian economy. The cooperative principle was applied to other sectors such as dairying, fishing, health, marketing, farming and finance. Added to this list are multi-State cooperative societies in boundary areas.

The cooperative movement also underlines the philosophy of self-help groups (SHGs), the majority of which are run by women.

According to official sources, there are 5,49,000 cooperative societies in the country with 23 crore members. In Karnataka, there are 32,804 cooperative societies with 1.95 lakh registered members, and the State stands third in the country after Gujarat and Maharashtra. However, 2,514 societies have now become defunct and there are valid apprehensions of many going bust as they have debts to clear.

In Karnataka, sugar factories have become synonymous with the cooperative movement and their performance are considered as a measure of the success or failure of the movement. But these institutions are slowly turning out to be financially unviable: many sugar factories are in the doldrums and have stopped operations, helplessly looking for government aid or private funds for revival.

Will the cooperative movement witness the same pace of growth and continue to get sponsorship from the Government at a time when the latter is aggressively promoting globalisation and privatisation? Will these institutions reconcile with the changing economic order and rules of the game and strive to strengthen their position? How will the media play its role in helping these institutions to sustain themselves, are some of the questions that the seminar will address.

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