New Delhi, July 6: The Narendra Modi government has created a new Ministry of Cooperation with an aim to strengthen the cooperative movement in the country, an official statement said on Tuesday. However, the move comes at a time when the Centre has been accused of undermining cooperative federalism by various quarters.
Amid a strong buzz about a massive cabinet reshuffle exercise expected on Wednesday, the statement issued by the Cabinet Secretariat said the new ministry has been created for realising the vision of 'sahkar se samriddhi' (through cooperation to prosperity).
Terming it a "historic move", the government said the ministry will provide a separate administrative, legal and policy framework for strengthening the cooperative movement in the country.
A minister in charge for the new portfolio may be named on Wednesday. The official statement said the ministry will help deepen cooperatives as a true people-based movement reaching up to the grassroots. "In our country, a cooperative based economic development model is very relevant where each member works with a spirit of responsibility," the government said.
The ministry will work to streamline processes for 'ease of doing business' for cooperatives and enable development of multi-state cooperatives (MSCS), it said. Creation of a separate Ministry for Cooperation also fulfils the budget announcement made by the finance minister, it said.
The cooperative nature of democracy, however, has been seen to be missing in action in the country, more so during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement on Tuesday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was also critical of the Centre's moves. "It is not in the essence of federalism for the Central Government to legislate unilaterally and by avoiding discussions with the States on the subjects in the Concurrent List. In recent times, the Central government has enacted a number of laws in violation of federal principles," he said.
"The Central Government has passed four important laws relating to commerce and trade in the Concurrent list, related to agriculture in the State list without any consultation with the State. This has led to a large-scale peasant protests and agitations across our country," he added, mentioning privatisation of education, ports, electricity and the health sector. "The State cannot agree to the Central Government's unilateral legislation on such matters in the Concurrent list," he added.
Earlier, there had been reports of a vaccine shortage across states with the Centre initially assuming charge of the vaccination effort. However, the misstep soon backfired and it was left trying to deflect the issue. "Recently, 11 states floated international tenders to directly purchase vaccines from the international market as the centre washed it hands off this issue," a report from May this year mentioned.
In 2020, when the pandemic had just hit, the Centre passed new labour laws in the face of much opposition. It also tinkered with agriculture by introducing the controversial Farm Laws, which has seen sustained resistance by people across the country.
Writing about the laws in February this year, when the farmers protests against the laws were at its peak, Sudhir Kumar Suthar, an assistant professor at the Centre for Political Studies, JNU, said that "...the new farm laws and Parliament’s role in passing these legislations have turned this entire process upside down. First, while passing these laws, Parliament was not seen as an institution where discussion and deliberation should take place at all. The ruling dispensation’s electoral majority was construed as consent from people to ignore the basic principles of deliberation, participation, and 'cooperative' federalism."
The BJP-led Central Government has long been accused of riding roughshod over consensus-building mechanisms, with the GST regime particularly irking states. "In the field of fiscal and financial federalism alone, the current regime has used the BJP’s solid Lok Sabha majority to steam-roll the states. They are doing all the work involved in dealing with the pandemic, while the Centre, led by Modi, sermonises, tries to cover up its unleavened incompetence and dreams up meaningless slogans and symbolic programmes," wrote journalist and researcher Suhit Sen in August last year.
With PTI Inputs