Monday, June 25, 2007
It is very rare that solutions to problems of overblown proportions exist and be perfect in all respects. The idea of cooperatives is one such solution. For a country like India which is moving up in all frontiers and fast emerging a power to be reckoned in the world, there’s a need to make the foundations stronger than ever. This nation building is possible only when all sections of the country are economically strong and socially secure.
The basic principles on which a cooperative system works advocate empowerment through responsibility, power and profit sharing. This form of a set-up does a two fold job. First, it makes sure that the collaborating parties share the profit thus bringing about an atmosphere of economic independence. Secondly, it improves the managerial skills of the whole society involved in it and hence they get a social elation based on their acquired confidence.
We all know how small fishes of the sea team up together to scare away the big predators underwater. Think of a cooperative as a similar setup. While the isolated people would have to face tough times and may wilt and perish, the joint effort of such small seemingly powerless islands would make a giant landmass which would not only float and be self-sustaining but may be able to encourage other organizations as subsidiaries to thrive on its support.
Some may argue that even a cooperative setup may turn out to be a private-profit-maker for a few who would exploit it. This is in fact the sorry story of some unsuccessful attempts. What we need to realize is that such failure would exist only when long term gains of a cooperative are not properly communicated to the people. They need to understand that trust is a very important building block of any cooperative organization.
India has a very long history of cooperatives. A large number of success-stories of our nation communicate to us the power of cooperatives. One must question why the cooperative system has more often than not worked wonders for our nation. The answer is simple; a cooperative helps in harnessing the versatility and potency of the cottage industries. With more than 70% of Indian population living in villages with little or no access to the development that our nation now boasts of, it is logical to think that instead of thrusting the big profit ravenous industries into the villages the underprivileged would be far better off if cooperative industries were able to grow amidst them.
The “India Rural Infrastructure Report” has pointed out that providing telecom connectivity alone to this 70% of India would require funds to the tune of more than Rs. 92,690 crores. Add to this an additional Rs.55, 243 crores for power supply, Rs.5, 892 crores for roads and transport and Rs.4, 488 crores for water and sanitation. As is evident from these numbers, the fact that infrastructure in villages is largely owned by the government faces a funds constraint. Now, consider the fact that 9/10th of village households do not own telephone and 50% of the households do not have power connections. Imagining fully developed rural areas and hence a developed India is impossible without solving this desperate situation; dearth of funds and huge requirements pose a problem that seems hopeless. The only viable solution can be envisaged through the installation of proper cooperatives involving the occupational activities of the region. Right now every 4th poor person on this planet is an Indian. If this scenario has to change we would need to empower each and every individual by heralding a cooperative revolution across the borders of the nation.
I wish to illustrate a simple example which can act as a prototype for an ideal cooperative. The “Yashasvini micro health insurance scheme” which is an initiative taken up in Karnataka, has ensured health care surgery in good hospitals to 20 million farmers in the state. This includes expensive heart surgeries as well. All this is made available to the farmers at an astonishingly low cost of Rs.5 a month! This proves beyond doubt the power that a cooperative system can yield and the far-reaching effects that it may have.