New cooperative policy: States suggest FDI, age limit for board members

ALLOW FOREIGN direct investment (FDI) in the cooperative sector, particularly in Primary Agricultural Cooperative Societies (PACS) to improve infrastructure; fix an upper age limit of 70 years for board members in cooperative societies.

These were two key suggestions put forward by states to the Centre during the two-day national conference on a new cooperative policy, which was held in Delhi on April 12-13, The Indian Express has learnt.

According to sources in the Ministry of Cooperation, the FDI suggestion came from Haryana while the recommendation of an age limit was put forward by Maharashtra.

During the conference, Haryana Additional Chief Secretary T V S N Prasad suggested that FDI should be allowed for augmentation of resources and infrastructure of cooperative societies, sources said.

While chairing a session on ease of doing business and providing a level playing field to cooperatives, Prasad also suggested the creation of a technology upgradation fund for the sector.

Sources pointed out that FDI can drive the expansion of cooperative infrastructure across states, particularly the cold chain network, which is essential for storage, transportation and preservation for fruits and vegetables and dairy products.

According to the Ministry, there are about 8.54 lakh cooperative societies. They include 95,000 PACS, which are societies at the village level, both credit and non-credit. Currently, only 63,000 PACs are operational.

Sources said representatives from Maharashtra suggested an upper age limit of 70 years for members of boards of directors of cooperative societies. Presently, there is no such age bar and the suggestion is aimed at governance reforms. According to the Ministry, Maharashtra has the highest number of cooperative societies in the country.

Sources said officials from UP suggested that land available with PACS can be leveraged for expanding the resource base of cooperative societies. UP’s additional chief secretary B L Meena, who participated in the conference, said PACS have more land than the Railways, which can be utilised, sources said.

Sources said Bihar officials suggested that the PACS should be given better market linkages under the label “Sahakar se Bajar” (cooperative to market).

There were also suggestions for electronic voting to be implemented in cooperative societies, and for storage facilities available with PACS to be leased out to private e-commerce operators like Amazon.

The two-day conference, inaugurated by Union Minister of Home and Cooperation Amit Shah, was the first such consultation on the new cooperative policy, which the Centre wants to bring out during the current financial year.

Sources said the Northeast states have demanded a separate conference, which will be organised very soon. The Ministry will also organise similar consultations with cooperative federations, sources said.

Addressing the conference on April 12, Shah had said: “In 8-9 months, we will present a complete, updated cooperative policy before the country, which will fulfil the requirements of all cooperative societies from PACS to apex and will create an environment that would help in expansion of the cooperative sector.”

Last year, Shah had announced that the Government will bring a new cooperative policy to replace the existing policy, which was brought by the then A B Vajpayee government in 2002.

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