Sunday, 11 April, 2021

Cooperatives Mobilisation In Nepal


Narayan Dahal


Since the establishment of cooperatives some 65 years ago, the number of cooperatives in the nation has risen to 35, 000. However, no significant changes have taken place in the working procedure and the mindset of administrators.
Initially, the cooperative act came into force in 2016. Gradually, different provisions, acts and development boards were set up. Later, the Ministry of Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation was formed in 2069 B.S. The ministry was set up to fulfil the long-held desires and aspirations of the people involved in the cooperative sector.

Random Increase
Random increments in the number of cooperatives were curbed to some extent after the implementation of the Cooperatives Act 2074. Sadly, the act has failed to bring any significant change in the sector, which has not yet achieved its goal- to serve the people with the genuine purpose for which it was established six decades ago.
For the past 65 years, the sector has been manipulated in serving the interests of the elite groups and those involved in the sector's administration. Public confidence regarding cooperatives is on a declining trend. Besides, there is a high risk of investments made by several cooperatives in the productive sector. Instead of being service and goal-oriented, cooperatives in Nepal have become profit-oriented.
Lack of proper coordination between the state mechanism and cooperatives has made the situation worse. It is a well-known fact that cooperatives are a good source of generating income tax and economic growth of the nation but the authority has not made any specific provision for uplifting the status of this sector. Political influence, the impact of favouritism and nepotism has adversely affected this sector.
The governing bodies of cooperatives are accused of corruption. The smooth and proper functioning of cooperatives and their management can contribute to the development of the agricultural sectors and technical field which can ultimately help in nation-building.
The Cooperative Act has made provisions for forming a specialised union by combining 25 different cooperatives which can invest in any sector.
While analysing the condition of the developed nation in Europe and Asia, we can see that cooperatives have contributed a lot to food and electricity production, insurance and other sectors. The contribution of cooperatives in different economic sectors throughout the world can be seen in the report presented by International Cooperatives Alliance.
According to this report, 100 per cent of potato production in New Zealand, 40 per cent of agricultural production in South Korea, 33 per cent of daily services in Finland, 13 per cent of energy production in the USA, 90 per cent of fish production in Malta, 36 per cent of agricultural production in India and 27 per cent of insurance in Honduras has been supported, served or handled by cooperatives.
If there will be proper coordination between and among cooperatives of the nation, the government can contribute from its side which can be invested in the education and agriculture sectors. Not only in the economic sector but there is an inevitable role of cooperatives in development, productive fields and for generating job opportunity.

Unhealthy Competition
Unfortunately, there is an unhealthy competition between the cooperatives for gaining profit. According to principle, no cooperatives can take participation in any political activities.
They are meant to provide services and generate income. Dr Verghese Kurien from India, who is also known as the Father of the White Revolution, gave up his government job just to uplift the status of poor farmers through cooperatives. He worked and became able to enlist India as the largest milk-producing country in the world.
Though Kurien was honoured with many awards and achieved complementary degrees from 15 different universities of India, he never claimed himself as an expert in the cooperative sector. Rather, he claimed himself as a member of the cooperative campaign.
As said earlier, the condition of cooperatives is worse in Nepal. It is because of the political influence, corruption, absence of good governance, favouritism and nepotism. Here in the country, one must have the political power to get a superior position in this sector. Despite having laws and acts, no change can be seen in the status of the cooperative sector.
The cooperatives in Nepal can learn from international practices that they should focus on the promotion of business, agriculture, travel and tourism and production as per the need and necessity of changing situations.
Though the history of cooperatives in Nepal is older than six decades, still there is a lack of professionals and skilled manpower in this sector. Cooperatives should work for the people of low economic background and their investors should aim at making contributions for the progress of the nation.
Appointment of dynamic, skilled, capable and deserving candidates in the leading roles is first and foremost. To address the aspirations of the cooperative campaign, they should establish their market well. At present, the economy of the entire world is hampered due to pandemic.
Factories, industries, business, travel, tourism and educational sectors have been hit hard by the outbreak of the pandemic. The situation of banking and cooperative sectors are not better than in other sectors. Many migrant workers across the world have lost their jobs and employment.
They have returned to their nations and are looking out for opportunity. In our nation, cooperatives should make proper planning to address the problems of our workers who have now returned. They should provide better opportunities. They should work for people of all backgrounds and levels. For achieving this goal, transparent, accountable and systematic management is necessary. Special attention and proper planning for the production of food and cash crops and the concept of a land development bank are also required. Cooperatives should work to utilise barren land for producing crops and food items.
Working areas of cooperatives should be expanded throughout the country because they are now confined to the urban areas only. We can improve the status of the entire nation and cooperatives through proper cooperation and coordination.

Government's Support
Cooperatives should create such an environment where the government can provide all the necessary resources and capital for them to invest. They should work as a pillar of our national development. Only the agricultural sector is not enough to earn a livelihood for our people. So, cooperatives should provide a proper platform for utilising skill, capital, manpower through which we can increase production.
First of all, the youth must be told that not only during a pandemic period but also during other periods they can make investments. It can help control brain-drain as well. If we follow this path, we can transform our society, villages and nation. Cooperatives can provide service, facilities and loans to people. They can work in different and diverse dimensions of investments. Especially in a country like Nepal, which is diverse, there are multiple roles the cooperatives can play.

(Dahal is associated with cooperatives movement)