A M Solanki Principal Secretary, Department of Agriculture & Cooperation, Government of Gujarat, in an interaction with Elets News Network (ENN) speaks of the priorities of his Department vis-à-vis welfare of the farming community and smooth running of the cooperative bodies in the State
As the Principal Secretary, what aims and objectives have you set for the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation?
The key objective of the Agriculture Department is to meet the food demand of the State and increase the income of farmers by increasing agricultural productivity through imparting the knowledge of scientific methods of agriculture to the farmers and by implementing various schemes with their participation and help. The main objective of the administration is to ensure the economic and social upliftment of the people at large, promote the habit of saving on cooperative base, reach the facility of loans to the various sections of the society through cooperative institutions, and to make available reasonable and just price for the agricultural produce and facilities of storage to the farmers using the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs).
Give us an insight into the functioning of the Cooperative Department in the State of Gujarat.
The passage of the Gujarat Cooperative Societies Act, 1961 led to the creation of the Cooperation Department of the State. The major functions of the Department are development and regulation of the cooperative societies in the State as well as implementation of this Act. Besides, it also works for the development and regulation of the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs) of the State, in line with the Agricultural Produce Market Committees Act, 1963. It also plays a major role in the auditing of cooperative societies. For the purpose of auditing of all the cooperative societies in the State, the offices of Joint Registrar, Cooperative Societies, Audit (Divisional), are operational at the Divisional level in Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Rajkot. The audit structure at the district level is at the disposal of the District Registrar, Cooperative Societies, who conducts auditing of accounts of the cooperative societies of various nature in the State.
For the purpose of auditing of the accounts of the milk producers’ cooperative societies and milk producers’ cooperative federations, the Cooperation Department has constituted a separate Inspection and Audit Committee, headed by a Chief Executive Officer.
The major functions of the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation are development and regulation of the cooperative societies in the State as well as implementation of the Gujarat Cooperative Societies Act
What, according to you, is the future of agriculture sector in Gujarat?
In the coming years, there will be huge impact of the agriculture sector on overall economic growth on account of path-breaking developments in the field of technology and biotechnology. Following the emergence of these changes, most of the people will benefit on account of immense possibilities of earning wealth and grow using the existing resources. It is necessary to formulate a strategy to enable farmers to compete in the international market and to immunise them against the sharp price fluctuations because of the elimination of quantitative restrictions on imports on the basis of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) norms on agriculture. This will result into diversification in agriculture, improvement in quality and value addition, so that benefits of the available opportunities could be taken. The role of agriculture in economic development has always been recognised. Even though, it is necessary to focus on agriculture in the same way as stress was given to the industrial sector in the decades of 1970s and 1980s. In other words, the entire developmental efforts should be centred around agriculture and agriculture-related activities.
What are the concerns of the State Government for the farming community?
Concern for the farming community is a broad concept. Cooperative societies can be expected to look after their members and work for their welfare. Section 4 of the Gujarat Cooperative Societies Act, 1961 provides that a cooperative society can have promotion of the economic causes of the public as one of their objectives. Therefore, some provisions in the by-laws can be made for this purpose, which should not be contrary to other provisions of the GCS Act, 1931. Section 67(2), read with Section 70, provides for utilisation of part of the reserve funds for public purposes or charitable purposes, though with certain restrictions provided therein. These provisions are only enabling provisions and the discretion is always vested in the society. Concern for community is also expressed in Section 115 of the GCS Act, 1961 to allow surplus assets after the winding up proceedings are over for public purposes or charitable purposes, with procedures and restrictions provided therein. So far as the public distribution system is concerned, the cooperatives can render the services at the grass root levels; distribution of food grains, sugar, kerosene and other essential commodities are being done by the cooperative societies in both rural and urban areas.