The cooperative sector in Maharashtra has made a tremendous development in the last four decades. Increased use of technology will give further boost to the sector, believes Chandrakant Dalvi, Commissioner Cooperation, Government of Maharashtra. Excerpts from an interaction with Rachita Jha and Sneha Mejari of Elets News Network (ENN)
What is the extent of reach of cooperatives in Maharashtra?
Maharashtra is one of the leading states in terms of cooperative movement. It has played a significant role in the social and economic development of the State, particularly in the rural areas. Initially, this movement was confined mainly to the fields of agricultural credit. Later, it rapidly spread to other fields like agro-processing, agro-marketing, rural industries, consumer stores, social services, etc.
Today, there are 54 types of cooperatives including sugar cooperatives, spinning mills, housing societies, labour federations, etc., and total institutions are around 2.30 lakh in number. Nearly 6.5 crore people of the State, approx 50 per cent of the total population, are in some or other way connected to the cooperative movement and being benefited from the cooperatives.
What are the three levels to give crop loans to the farmers and the policies around it?
Finance is one of the important segments in the cooperatives through which the cooperative department works. It includes the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank, District Central Cooperative Banks (DCCBs), and at the grassroot level, there are Primary Agriculture Credit Societies (PACS), which are 21,000 in number in the State. In large villages, there may be multiple PACS, but if there are two-three small villages in neighbourhood, one PACS is good enough to help out the rural folk. The crop loans for the Rabi and Kharif are given to the farmers and citizens through District Central Cooperative Banks. NABARD gives fund to the Maharashtra State Cooperative Banks and further it is routed through PACS to distribute among the farmers. Though NABARD is the major source of funding for distributing crop loans in Maharashtra, there are commercial banks and the State-Level Bankers Committee (SLBC) too for the same.
The Government has drafted a policy for them as to how much finance can be given to the farmers every year and the commercial and cooperative banks need to ensure its provisions. As per the policy, whatever finance is given to the farmers in the form of crop loans, 50 per cent is routed through the cooperative banks while remaining 50 per cent goes through the commercial banks.
In 2013-14, `34,888 crore crop loan was given to the farmers in Maharashtra, out of which `13,556 crore was distributed through the cooperative sector and `19,642 crore was distributed through the commercial banks. But the number of farmers covered by the cooperative sector were more than that of the commercial banks. Through the cooperative sector, 35.99 lakh farmers were benefited with the crop loan and 16.25 lakh farmers through the commercial banks. We, as cooperatives, follow the practice of small loan-small farmer where usually the commercial banks could not reach. Since the cooperative movement is working through PACS, it benefits more to the farmers and that too at the doorstep.
What about investment credit?
Investment credit is another major aspect of the cooperatives, which is given to the farmers for digging of the wells and other needs. In Maharashtra, about `5,000 crore was distributed as an investment credit last year, though out of this the major share was given by the commercial banks as compared to the cooperative banks.
In Maharashtra, there are 1.36 crore farmer families and 76 lakh farmers are given the benefit of crop loans at present. So, there is much scope for the cooperatives in terms of reaching out to the people. The incumbent Government and the cooperative department will work together with these banks to benefit the farmers for the crop loans. We will set physical targets for both cooperative and commercial banks to cover maximum farmers in the State and to curb the practice of borrowing money from private moneylenders.
In 2013-14, Rs34,888cr crop loan was given to the farmers, out of which Rs13,556 crore was distributed through the cooperative sector and Rs19,642 crore through the commercial banks
Apart from this, there are 483 urban cooperative banks and 15,000 cooperative credit societies in Maharashtra. Approximately 65 per cent of the urban banks in India are located in Maharashtra. The urban cooperative banks mostly provide non-agricultural finance in the urban areas and the towns across the State.
What are the advantages of having sugar cooperatives? Do SMEs help sugar societies in technology adoption to help them get best prices in the market?
Sugar industries from the beginning are in the cooperative sector only. Private industries were not very keen to establish sugar factories in rural areas and provide services to the people. But over the past 10 years, the private sugar industry has entered the sugar sector. As of today, there are 168 cooperative sugar factories and 72 private sugar factories in the State. We have the crushing capacity of 5.11 lakh metric tonnes a day and the annual turnover of the sugar factories is around `35,000 crore. There are nine lakh harvesters and around 1.5 lakh people working in sugar factories.
People who were earlier in the sugar cooperatives, they have now established their private sugar industries. At present, the private sugar factories are a bit modern as compared to the cooperative ones. Recently, the Government announced a package of `2,000 crore to support the pricing of the sugarcane to the farmers to ensure Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP). So, the rate of the sugar crop in the market has gone down a little. This year, it is difficult for the cooperative sugar industries to give FRP to the farmers and the government wants that the farmers should not suffer.
Is there any provision for affordable housing?
In Maharashtra, there are more than one lakh cooperative housing societies. When the buildings or complexes are ready, the upkeep of those flats, buildings and campuses is done by the cooperative housing societies. In other words, there is a practice of self management after builder moves out. The cooperative societies take over the housing campuses and run them to avoid additional burden on the municipal administration. Another important role performed by the Cooperative Department in the context of cooperative housing societies is the execution of the Maharashtra Ownership of Flats (MOFA) Act 1963.
We have decided to support the housing societies to facilitate them to get all the papers required to file an application to the Daily Diary Report (DDR). Once application is filed in the DDR, we ensure that the applications are fixed within six months so that the societies can go for the land acquisition and their names on the land records. We have also provided facilities to make online application for the daily convenience through a portal called e-Sarkaar. The portal enables people to apply application online for the convenience and can also track the status of their application. This portal has won an award from the Government of India earlier this year.
Another important aspect of the cooperative movement is capacity building. A lot of training programmes have been organised for skill development of the office bearers, members of the societies and farmers. More than 15 lakh people are trained every year. As per the provisions of Cooperative Societies Act 2013, every member of the cooperative has to attend a training programme once in five years.
What are your dream projects that you are working on?
Our first plan is to implement ‘Zero Pendency and Daily Disposal’ project that can provide quick and responsive administration in any department. Under this programme, we will computerise all units in the Cooperative Department. And later all these offices will be connected to the State Data Centre in Mantralaya in Mumbai, so that eGovernance can be implemented in the Department and quick services can be provided to the members of the cooperatives and the citizens at large.
Secondly, we want to make e-Sarkaar portal more user friendly, through which people can access the detailed information of each and every cooperative institution in Maharashtra. We have 2,30,000 cooperative institutions and each of them have uploaded their information on e-Sarkaar portal. Further, every society has to file six returns annually with the Cooperative Department at taluka level. Through this portal, all the annual returns will be uploaded by the societies. It will be available to the public to bring transparency in the system. People can also register their complaints against any of the societies on the portal and it will be automatically escalated to the respective officials.
The third technological intervention which we have planned is e-Audit. In the Cooperative Department, we have two wings — one is administration, and the other is audit. We audit each cooperative institute every year, i.e. all 2,30,000 cooperative institutions are audited every year and these audit reports are scrutinized, too. We have decided to meet the present requirement of the audit department, which can be simpler and reflect the real picture of financial and accounts departments. We have District Special Auditors (DSA) in each district and auditors at taluka level. All audit report will be digitized, i.e. audit will be done manually but the report will be scrutinized through an online application.
What role can the cooperative banks play in context of PMJDY?
Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) aims to facilitate the last mile and unbanked rural population, and similar financial inclusion work is being done by the cooperative credit societies. We open bank accounts of those people who don’t have accounts in any commercial banks. The cooperative sector has reached out to the people, whom commercial banks never reach. Earlier, the cooperative banks were not allowed to open the zero-balance PMJDY accounts. But as we persuaded with the Government of India, we were granted permission to open these accounts. In Maharashtra, the cooperative banks have opened 2.86 lakh Jan-Dhan accounts. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is not directly involved in the cooperatives but it helps us in a big way through NABARD.