Real credit for translating the concept of cooperative societies into practice should go to Maharaja Hari Singh who in early 1940s toyed with the idea and also practically established cooperative societies in the State. It is a different story that the scope and strength of these societies was limited at that time. These essentially were meant to give some small financial support to the peasants and petty shopkeepers to cull out a living.
However, after the establishment of popular rule, the cooperative society mechanism received much support and impetus to the extent that the State Government has now a full-fledged Cooperative Department. Its function and scope both have widened extensively and it has become one of the important economic components of the State and the social welfare programme. We have two Acts in force at present, namely Jammu and Kashmir Cooperative Societies Act, 1989 and J&K Self Reliant Cooperative Societies Act, 1999. The cooperative societies are run in accordance with these two Acts in force. However, it was felt by the Legislative Assembly and also the Government that these Acts needed some revision and amendment so as to make them commensurate with the needs of today. Nearly a year ago, the Government announced that fresh legislation was on the anvil to streamline the cooperative societies to make them more effective. Consequently, the Government constituted a Committee with the terms of reference that it examines the existing Acts and deliberates on their scope and reach to meet the present day requirements. The Committee was supposed to submit its report within a stipulated time so that the Government would examine the suggestions and then take a decision of what legislations are needed to make effective. More than 11 months have passed and the Committee has not been able to finalize its study and report. Nobody can say when this will be possible for them to do.
Additionally, elections have not been held for the Managing Committee of Jammu and Kashmir Cooperative Supply and Marketing Federation Limited (JAKFED), an apex level cooperative federation, during the past over one decade despite the fact that elections are mandatorily required to be conducted by the Cooperatives Department after every three year.
Out of 3000 registered cooperative societies in Jammu and Kashmir only 988 are functioning at present while remaining are lying defunct. The reason is that there are certain provisions in the Acts that may not be met in given circumstances and these need to be redrawn. When the Committee has failed to give its assessment of the existing status of the Acts and has not so far submitted any suggestions for improvement, the question of making the dysfunctional societies active is somewhat difficult.
Why has the Committee failed to submit its report despite a gap of eleven months? It reflects Government’s non-seriousness towards the important issues like the one in hand. Unless the concerned agencies cast aside lethargy and respond to the call of the hour, the cooperative societies may not prove as beneficial as these are supposed to prove. We, therefore, strongly recommend that the Government should direct the Committee to expedite the matter of reporting on the current situation of cooperative societies and also make clear cut recommendations about what should be done to improve their functionality. The Government must identify the elements that are creating hurdles in the revival of dysfunctional cooperative societies or in bringing about changes and amendments in the existing Acts that ultimately prove detrimental to the interests of the people who are the beneficiaries of the cooperative movement in the state.