The government’s move can restore the importance of the critical cooperative structure and provide it with a new lease of life, help the sector to innovate and diversify its product range, and ensure better income opportunities for its members
Two months after the Union Cabinet approved the registration of cooperatives as buyers on the Centre’s Government e-Marketplace (GeM) portal, Union home and cooperation minister Amit Shah launched the onboarding of cooperatives on Tuesday. This step, the Centre hopes, will enable India’s cooperatives (grassroots organisations that harness the collective bargaining power towards a common goal) to purchase goods and services at competitive prices. The minister also asked cooperatives to register themselves as sellers on the platform to sell their products to government buyers. According to the ministry of cooperation, 61,851 government buyers and around 48.75 lakh sellers and service providers are registered on GeM.
The plan to re-energise the sector has been in the making for some time. Last year, the government announced the creation of the ministry to provide a separate administrative, legal, and policy framework to strengthen the cooperative movement, with the vision of Sahakar se Samriddhi (prosperity through cooperatives). This was a vital step since there are nearly 8.54 lakh cooperatives in India, with a membership count of 29 crore.
India’s cooperative movement, which started in the British era, was born out of the distress and turmoil of the last quarter of the 19th century when the Industrial Revolution crippled village industries and pushed people back to agriculture. The movement gained strength during the freedom movement. It continued to do so after Independence, drawing sustenance from the Gandhian thought that underlined the necessity for cooperation to create a socialist State. But over the decades, many cooperatives have become moribund and have failed to deliver. Various studies have shown the cooperative structure has flourished in a handful of states such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Karnataka. But many cooperatives need a fresh infusion of funds. The government’s move can restore the importance of the critical cooperative structure and provide it with a new lease of life, help the sector to innovate and diversify its product range, and ensure better income opportunities for its members.