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Kerala: Cooperative Employees Protest Centralisation Policies, Demand Autonomy

The employees marched to central government offices against the attempts to capture the cooperative societies, which play a crucial role in the socio-economic aspects of different sectors of the state.

N K Ramachandran, the general secretary of KCEU, inaugurated the protest in  Kollam against the actions of the union government on the cooperative societies. 

The employees of cooperative societies in Kerala are on a warpath against the continuous attacks on the sector from the union government. On February 27, the Kerala Cooperative Employees Union (KCEU) held marches to central government offices and protests to save the sector from the clutches of the centre.

The cooperatives in the state are facing the threat of losing central aid since the government of Kerala continues to oppose the uniform bylaws mandated by the union government. The formation of the cooperatives ministry by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led union government, followed by the imposition of uniform rules for cooperative societies, which cater to diverse needs and sections, is being opposed by the state. 

The KCEU accused the union government of violating federal, democratic and constitutional mandates by intruding into the state subject by creating the new ministry for cooperatives. The promotion of Multi-State Cooperative Societies (MSCS,) which is guided only by an audit system and without the control of a government or registrar, is being opposed by stakeholders, including the employees. 


The cooperative societies have a long history in the state of Kerala, with 16,256 societies under the control of the registrar of cooperatives and 6,911 societies controlled by different departments. The societies cover credits for agriculture besides extending support to dairy farmers, fisheries, beedi workers, coir, handloom and other sectors primarily. 

N K Ramachandran, general secretary of the KCEU, affiliated to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), accused the union government of attempting to snatch control of the cooperatives Listed under the state subject in the Constitution. 

“The 7th schedule of the Indian Constitution places the cooperatives as the state subject. The previous union governments led by the Congress and the present BJP regime have formed several committees to either weaken or take control of the cooperative sector. Now, the formation of the cooperative ministry is totally unconstitutional and against the federal principles,” he said. 

KCEU claims that the union government has been targeting the cooperative sector in Kerala in vicious ways. The introduction of common bylaws and software for the cooperatives, which are created primarily based on local needs, are accused of attempts to stifle the sector itself. 

“The cooperative societies introduced banking to the common people of the state. Now, the state has around Rs 2.45 lakh crore investments while during the present fiscal Rs 29,000 crore investment was mobilised, expressing the confidence in the sector. It seems like the BJP government wants to hand over these people's assets to the corporates,” Ramachandran said. 

The cooperative sector has continuously discharged its social responsibilities, the most recent being the construction of 2,000 houses at the cost of Rs 9 lakhs to people affected by the historic twin floods in the state. 

“The cooperative societies run educational institutions and hospitals and provide low-cost essential items through Maveli Stores and Consumer Fed. The sector thrives on ensuring service to the public with the profit being secondary,” Ramachandran said. 


The KCEU held rallies at central government offices and protested in all 14 districts as a mark of protest against the continuous attacks on the sector. The hasty imposition of uniform rules for the cooperatives and the introduction of MSCS are being opposed by the KCEU.

“The BJP government is promoting the MSCS as an alternative to the cooperative societies. However, the MSCS is not governed by the concerned governments and by the registrar as is the normal proactive. We have witnessed the failure of MSCS across the country, with 71 such MSCS liquidated with an amount of Rs 4,000 crores, resulting in a massive loss for the people,” Ramachandran said. 

Cooperative societies are formed at the local level based on the requirements of the people engaged in a specific work. The people invest money, register, elect the leaders and run the society by framing rules per the guidelines. 

“Bringing uniformity in a sector which is highly localised cannot be accepted. They have to be given more autonomy, as the LDF (Left Democratic Front) government is doing. The sector survived with the support of the state government, while the union government is trying to ban banking services by the cooperatives”, Ramachandran added.  

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