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Kerala: Employees, TUs Gear Up to Prevent Attack on Cooperative Societies, Bat Against Centralisation

Neelambaran A |
The coordination committee of cooperative employee unions accuses political retribution on the sector by central agencies, a lifeline for lakhs of people from poor economic and social backgrounds across Kerala.

UP Joseph, state vice president of the CITU, inaugurated the ‘Save Cooperatives' gathering at Thrissur as part of the statewide campaign (Courtesy: CITU Kerala)

The cooperative sector has played a crucial role in the lives of socially and economically backward people across Kerala. The public enjoys a strong bond with the cooperative societies governed and run by the public.

The Department of Cooperatives in the government of Kerala and other departments together have administrative control over 23,167 cooperative societies for agricultural credit, public distribution system, health, education, housing, and welfare of scheduled caste and scheduled tribe sections.

The recent scam in Karuvannur Service Cooperative Bank in Thrissur district has tarnished the sector's image. The state's mainstream media is accused of exaggerating the issue, leading to a trust deficit in the cooperative sector itself.

The different cooperative employee unions cutting across political affiliations, political parties led by the Left Democratic Front (LDF), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and youth organisations have ridiculed the attacks on the cooperative sector. They are holding programs to save the sector from such malicious propaganda.

The trade unions have opposed the move of the Union government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for attempting to take control over the cooperatives listed under the state subject.


The cooperative societies fall under the 'state list' as per the seventh schedule of the Constitution of India, giving the respective state governments exclusive power to administer, control and manage the cooperative societies.

The Kerala Cooperative Employees Union (KCEU), affiliated with the CITU, has accused successive Union governments of attempting to centralise the cooperative societies.

Speaking to Newsclick, NK Ramachandran, the general secretary of the union, referred to the 97th amendment to the Constitution introduced in 2012.

"The union cooperative ministry was formed by the BJP-led government after the earlier attempts by several Union governments failed to find favour from the apex court and struck down the provisions," he said.

The cooperative societies include marketing, health, education, agriculture, women, SC, and ST, among others, providing credits for vast requirements for the members.

"The services provided by the cooperatives boost the economy of the state. It also acts as an alternative financial system. Similar to the stifling of state governments by limiting share of funds, restricting borrowing limits, the BJP government wants to stifle the cooperative societies as well," Ramachandran said.

The KCEU has accused the Union government of vindictive action against the cooperative societies.


Criticising the move to enhance the number of multi-state cooperative societies (MSCS), Ramachandran said, "The minister for cooperation, Amit Shah, informed the Parliament that 71 MSCS, including banks, are under liquidation in the Parliament. There is no guarantee for the money of the depositors in such institutions. But in Kerala, the government has an audit mechanism through which the malpractices were identified."

The enquiry by the Registrar of Cooperatives found fraud in 272 cooperatives in the state through the existing audit system. The opposition block, United Democratic Front (UDF), led by the Congress, had stepped up the attack on the LDF government for the fraud, but the audit reports were a setback. Of the 272 societies, 202 are headed by the UDF, 63 by the LDF and seven by the BJP.

"The officials associated with the frauds in societies including Karuvannur are subjected to disciplinary action including suspension and dismissal from service. The LDF government is leaving no stone unturned to ensure the smooth functioning of the societies, but certain sections of the media are tarnishing the sector's image for reasons best known to them," Ramachandran said.


With the resolve to rebuild the lost confidence in the cooperative sector, the different employee unions in the sector have decided to hold door-to-door campaigns to meet people directly to appraise them of the malicious campaigns.

"All the six unions in the sector have formed a coordination committee to carry out the campaigns to defend the campaign. We will meet the houses of the members for five days from October 27. A family meeting of employees is planned on October 30 to save the cooperative sector," Ramachandran said.

The CITU held district-level programs on October 17 against the ongoing malicious campaign about the cooperative sector. Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) held similar protests condemning the raids and actions of the central agencies, including the Enforcement Directorate (ED), on the sector.

"The issues within the cooperative societies must be addressed from inside, and no outside interference shall not be permitted. This sector provides employment and credits to lakhs of people and needs to be protected from political attacks," EP Jayarajan, the LDF convener, said while addressing a meeting.

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