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Steep rural co-operative goal

Ranchi, Dec. 25: The state government has set an ambitious target of forming co-operative societies in every panchayat of Jharkhand to improve the living conditions of rural people.

The state co-operative department is now faced with the uphill task of setting up Large Area Multipurpose Society and Primary Area Co-operative Society units in every panchayat after a cabinet meeting last Thursday.

The societies will facilitate smooth procurement of foodgrain, setting up of 100 metric-tonne godowns in villages, loans to farmers through co-operative banks and such other assistance to the masses.

While the Large Area Multipurpose Society is meant for tribal sub-plan areas, Primary Area Co-operative Society is functional in other areas.

Jharkhand has around 4,423 panchayats, but only 475 Large Area Multipurpose Society and 838 Primary Area Co-operative Society units, involving nearly 4 lakh members, are functional.

A majority is hence deprived of co-operative benefits.

“At present, there is only around four to five units of Large Area Multipurpose Society in every block in tribal sub-plan area and two to three of Primary Area Co-operative Society per block elsewhere. These co-operative societies are mostly based in villages close to the block headquarters. People in far-flung areas are not benefiting much as a result. Last year, farmers faced a lot of problems in bringing their foodgrains to procurement centres,” said joint registrar Ratnesh Chaturvedi.

Incidentally, the cabinet on Thursday not only resolve to form co-operatives in every panchayat but also revised the minimum support price for rice and set up 1,000 rice procurement centre across the state.

The aim is to procure over 5 lakh metric tonne rice through these centres. It is being perceived that such steps will curtail the role of middlemen and ensure due benefits to farmers.

“We will initiate steps to form co-operative societies in every panchayat soon after the cabinet decision is notified. Our aim is to complete it within three months. There are tough challenges ahead, but we will be doing our best,” added registrar of co-operative societies K.K. Soan.

As many as eight co-operative banks have 120 branches spread across the state. Once the co-operative societies are activated in the panchayats, securing financial assistance and smart returns for their small savings would become easier for the masses.

Earlier, chief minister Arjun Munda had told The Telegraph that the revival of co-operative societies in accordance with the Vaidyanathan Committee’s recommendations was critical.

Last year, the state had procured over 4.30 lakh metric tonne rice through 672 centres. Farmers in far-off places faced difficulties in bringing their produce to the centres. Certain irregularities were also reported in the payment system.

In fact, various co-operative societies were functional in almost every village in unified Bihar till 1978. However, things went haywire after the co-operative scam came to the fore. Former Bihar chief minister Jagannath Mishra was charged with selling off Patna’s Gandhi Maidan and railway station.

With Jharkhand gaining a dubious reputation of scams in its brief history already, the new initiatives in the co-operative sector will be looked upon with great curiosity.


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