CM seeks change in cooperative sector, faces constant opposition

Chavan wants to appoint two women on each cooperative board, regional satraps want no reform before polls

CM Prithviraj Chavan is determined to reform the cooperative sector to free it from political control and minimise financial irregularities.

However, a powerful lobby in his government is opposing change tooth and nail.

Before the 2014 assembly and parliamentary elections, heavyweights who control district politics through cooperatives fear losing ground and are trying to create hurdles in the way of CM. They are demanding the changes be brought in a phased manner over the next couple of years.

Both Congress and NCP leaders, including ministers, have opposed reforms before elections.

The apex Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank or sugar cooperatives, most have run into trouble over the last decade because of gross misuse of funds and violation of norms.

The Union finance ministry and the planning commission have asked state governments, including that of Chavan, to set things right. The reforms are part of a central initiative.

Chavan wants to make appointment of two women on the 21-member boards of directors of each cooperative compulsory. A high-powered committee that is guiding the changes wants the government to appoint at least one SC/ST/OBC person. The representation to women and backward castes is to ensure greater participation of all sections in decision-making.

RTI Act will also be applied and to bring financial discipline and fix accountability, annual audits will be made compulsory.

"What will be the fate of the cooperative units that are going to polls this year?" a leader said. Others dismissed the reforms as non-pragmatic and detrimental to welfare of farmers. A senior Congress minister said, "Often, the cooperative sector has broken rules to help farmers whose survival is at stake. We have to be flexible."

A majority of cooperatives sugar, milk, cotton and banking are controlled by top politicians of the state.

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