In the last one year, the incumbent Maharashtra Government’s contribution towards sustainable growth of the cooperative bodies in the State has been much more than what successive governments did in the past 15 years, claims Shri Chandrakant Patil, Hon’ble Minister for Cooperation, Textile, Marketing and PWD, Government of Maharashtra. We stand firmly by the cooperatives, says the Minister in an interview with Sneha Mejari of Elets News Network (ENN)
How do you intend to retain the identity of Maharashtra as the State with the most vibrant cooperative sector?
Maharashtra is among the leading states as far as the cooperative movement is concerned. We have 2.30 lakh cooperative societies in our State. The turnover of these societies is four times that of the turnover of the entire State, which comes to around Rs6 lakh-crore per annum. This makes the cooperative sector the most vibrant sector of Maharashtra. We have been doing various experiments for the betterment of this sector as well as to eradicate the malpractices in the cooperatives.
We have recently started physical verification of the societies. Out of the total number of registered societies, around 1.30 lakh societies are bogus and their business is almost negligible. These societies have registered themselves for political benefits, as they are eligible to cast votes during the elections in the District Central Cooperative Banks and the Primary Agricultural Cooperative Societies.
From 1st July, we have started physical verification of these societies and the ones, which are not functional, will be shut down soon. The verification will continue till 30th September. We will support the societies, which are functioning well in every possible way. We will stand by such societies and help improve their performance as Primary Agricultural Cooperative Societies are the lifeline of the farmers in Maharashtra.
Have any initiatives been undertaken by the Government with regard to crop financing?
We have done rescheduling of the loans provided to the farmers with a view to helping them. While rescheduling, we realised that due to poor recovery, the banks were left with no money to give further loans to the farmers. So, we have infused `800 crore in crop financing, in which `500 crore was arranged from NABARD and `300 crore was allocated from our budget.
Now, due to the rescheduling, the farmers are relaxed as they have to pay back the loan in small installments over the next few years; but at the same time, if the farmers do not get a fresh loan for their next crop season, they will again be under the same pressure. They will be free from paying back the old loan, but they will again need loan to grow new crops. Hence, we have decided to provide these loans as well.
This is one of the biggest initiatives undertaken in the cooperative sector and it proves that we don’t leave the District Central Cooperative Banks on their own but stand by them for boosting the cooperative sector. When we talk about credit cooperative societies, there is no deposit or any kind of guarantee or protection, but we are trying to bring in a system wherein we can give protection to deposits up to `50,000 in the credit cooperative societies. Another problem we realised is that some of the credit societies have funds, but are not viable enough to give loans to the farmers. So, now we have granted them permission that they can give up to 20 per cent of their credit as a loan to the farmers.
Similarly, in the last 15 years, the amount of help offered by the former Government to the sugar cooperatives was less than what we have done in just one year. It was important to save the sugar factories, as the sugarcane grown by the farmers need to be processed in these very factories, and around 1.50 crore people are associated to these factories. We stand by all of them through our various initiatives, be it the sugar factory workers, credit cooperative societies or the cooperative banks.
What is the government’s stand on upgrading the cooperative banks technologically?
The Reserve Bank of India has drawn various plans to encourage cooperative banks to come under the Core Banking System (CBS) and it has also made the provision of loans for making this a reality. We are ready to help those banks who would need help even after availing this loan. But, if despite this, the banks don’t upgrade themselves on technological front, their business will not increase. And, if these banks remain small in size, RBI will announce the mandate to merge the banks to set only one bank per zone. Hence, instead of just giving speeches on technological up-gradation, we would like to ensure that these banks get assistance in whatever way needed.
The Reserve Bank of India has drawn various plans to encourage cooperative banks to come under the Core Banking System (CBS) and it has also made the provision of loans for making this a reality
What message would you like to give to the participants of the Maharashtra Cooperative Summit organised by Elets Technomedia Pvt Ltd?
All the banks attending this Summit should understand that they are financial institutions and should function accordingly without resorting to unfair practices. They should realise that the common man finds it difficult to get access to the commercial and nationalized banks. So, the easy option for them is cooperative banks or the DCC Banks. If these cooperative banks do not function properly, it will affect the farmers and the common men directly. We keep getting notifications from the RBI that a large number of cooperative banks are not being monitored. So, there’s a need to bring to an end all unfair practices in the name of cooperatives in the State.
I would request as many banks to be a part of this Summit as possible, since it will benefit them as well as the Government and other stakeholders to understand and discuss challenges and new opportunities in the cooperative sector. I wish Maharashtra Cooperative Summit the very best!