New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's reshuffle move has sparked off debates in several quarters. While many has hailed it as historic and path-breaking, Modi's detractors are busy either mocking the move or linking it with the COVID-19 situation.
However, there is a hardcore political-animal instinct in the Prime Minister's decision to create a new and separate Ministry of Cooperation, and at the same time handing it over to his trusted lieutenant Amit Shah.
It goes without stating that the Covid crisis has thrown challenges to Indian economy and there is much grievance over joblessness.
Amit Shah is not only a powerful Home Minister, but it is a fact that the Modi-Shah friendship has survived through thick and thin.
The Prime Minister also has faith in Shah's organisational and administrative abilities.
Therefore, in 2013 soon after Rajnath Singh became BJP president, Shah was made general secretary in charge for Uttar Pradesh. The BJP's success story in 2014 polls in UP remains a major milestone.
Similarly within months of becoming Home Minister, Shah delivered one of the primary promises of BJP – the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. Of course the works on this had begun in the previous regime when Rajnath Singh was the Home Minister.
Therefore now, creation of a new Ministry of Cooperation on July 6, 2021 and handing it over to Shah only signals the emphasis the Prime Minister would give to ‘unleashing’ of the neo-cooperative movement in the country.
The two western Indian states of Gujarat and Maharashtra have a rich legacy of successful cooperative movement from days prior to the country's Independence. In fact the cooperatives have brought in several turnaround in the socio-economy sector in the past.
The Milk Dairy movement, later given a boost by Verghese Kurien in Anand in Gujarat, was an exemplary success both in terms of bringing about economic benefits and women empowerment.
Now, a question remains - Can Shah repeat such a magic in the new century?
The cooperative bodies run a number of successful banks and other profit making organisations in these two states.
In Gujarat, the dairy co-operatives have a 3-tier structure. The milk is collected at village level co-operative societies and processed by district unions themselves.
While district unions market the liquid milk, the marketing of surplus milk and milk-products is undertaken by the state level federation - the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Limited, Anand (GCMMF).
The State Government had established Gujarat Dairy Development Corporation (GDDC) in 1973 and by 1996, 18 out of 19 districts were covered under the co-operative Milk Producers union.
In Maharashtra, it is said the cooperative movement has political, cultural and social heritage and the movement has been successful mostly in Pune, Mumbai and Ahmednagar districts.
The 'cooperative' experiment helped people in the form of agri-credit and later the initiative passed on to agro-processing and agro-marketing. Established in 1949, the Pravara Sugar Factory brought in a sea change.
It is said NCP founder Sharad Pawar's political hold is largely due to his 'grip' over the cooperative movement.
Similarly, Rajasthan is another state where the movement was successful.
Of course, sources said, the challenge for Amit Shah will be to repeat these success tales in the entire country.
The cooperatives have been tried in other states including in the northeast, but large scale corruption and nepotism did not quite push it to the level as was expected.
In many eastern Indian states, one reason for the failures of cooperatives has been that the societies set up are generally perceived as government 'lending agencies' - and wherein the individuals would not refund the money.
Another factors has been the 'feudal social structures'. In many cases, big farmers and landlords, with their superior economic and social status keep 'greater hold' on the societies and do not allow the cooperatives become genuine people's movement. ..
The new Ministry will work to streamline processes for ‘Ease of doing business’ for co-operatives and enable development of Multi-State Co-operatives (MSCS), a Cabinet release said.
The Central Government has also signaled its deep commitment to community based developmental partnership. Creation of a separate Ministry for Co-operation also fulfills the budget announcement made by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
All eyes on Amit Shah.
Now, the taste of the pudding - or fruits of 'cooperation' - would lie in its eating.
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