Cooperatives must improve efficiency, says president

New Delhi, June 25 (IANS) President Pranab Mukherjee Tuesday said cooperatives should reorient themselves by improving their efficiency and develop professionally to meet the requirements of their clientele.

Addressing the 16th Indian Cooperative Congress here, the president said India has perhaps the largest and the most diverse cooperative movement across the globe.

"If we look at the contribution cooperatives are making in the world, we have a fair bit of catching up to do. We need a renaissance of sorts in the cooperative sector," the president said.

Mukherjee said the cooperative sector covers about 99 percent of the country's villages and 71 percent of rural households. He said there was a network of six lakh cooperatives and a membership base of 24 crore.

He said cooperatives were the best way of reaching out into the vast hinterland of the country and have had a major role in democratising the access to education, employment, food security, financial security and health-care.

Mukherjee said he disagreed that in a liberal and globalised economic order, cooperative societies must wither away.

"The need for cooperatives is greater in current context than it was ever before. The recent global financial crisis has shown the merits of low-risk customer owned cooperative banking over excessive risk-taking investor owned global financial institutions," the prime minister said.

"While cooperatives face big challenges, they offer a solution to several problems that our economy and community face," the president said.

"Cooperatives empower people, build capacities and develop capabilities. They enable members realise their genius," he said, and added that they can play an important role in reaping the demographic dividend.

"Cooperatives use individualism as a tool and harness their potential for common and joint development, making people and not profit central to their endeavours. It is in the institutions of cooperatives that the ideals of democracy and common good come to life. I believe the need for these ideals in our political, social and economic lives has never been stronger," he said.

The president said cooperatives have made significant contribution to sectors such as agricultural credit, sugar, dairy, textiles, fisheries, distribution of fertilisers and agricultural inputs, storage and marketing.

"They have ensured the accrual of a fair share of the benefits of development and growth to our small and marginal farmers."

He noted that the 97th Constitutional Amendment had created an enabling environment for the development of the cooperatives.

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