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In Maharashtra: These farmers have money but can’t use it

mumbai Updated: Dec 12, 2016 08:51 IST
Ketaki Ghoge
mumbai news

A labour brings sugarcane to Bhausaheb Thorat co-operative sugar factory in Sangamner taluka of Ahmednagar district. Nearly 22,000 farmers are members of the co-operative. It pays Rs2,500 for every tonne of sugarcane and has shelled out Rs34 crore in its first installment to farmers but many have not been able to withdraw the money.(Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo)

For the last 20 years, says Shantaram Gadekar, his family has managed to stay afloat through the many cycles of drought in the rain-shadow Sangamner taluka in Ahmednagar district thanks to the successful milk co-operative movement here that has brought him a fixed fortnightly income. Solely on the sale of milk, Gadekar’s family managed to marry off the daughters of the house, take and pay back the loans and do farming. In a nut shell, the milk money has helped Gadekar fight the vagaries of climate and market price for crops.

But, over the last one month, Gadekar has found out that while this income – from selling 17 litres of milk daily – has not stopped, it has no value for him. Nearly, Rs 15,000 is sitting in Gadekar’s account with the Kanifnath milk co-operative society in his village in Raitewadi. The income is from the last two fortnightly payments from the Sangamner Taluka Co-operative Milk Producers Sangh made to the Ahmednagar district central co-operative bank and then transferred to his milk co-operative society. But, he has no access to this money.

The withdrawal limit for the entire milk co-operative society that has an account with the Ahmednagar DCC, taken as one individual holder, is Rs24,000 for a week. In Gadekar’s village alone, there are more than 200 members linked to the Kanifnath milk co-operative society.

“We are trying to distribute the money in installments, giving more to those who are in dire need. But, it’s way too little. Most of the villagers now are living on credit, but how long can that last ,” asks Santosh Mandekar, chairman of the Kanifnath Milk Producers Co-operative Society.

In adjoining, Khandgaon village, it’s the same story. Khandgaon with a population of 3,500 people has 786 members linked to the local milk dairy.

“I was counting on this money for my rabi sowing. Do you know how much investment is required to grow onions on one acre ? It can take as much as Rs40,000. I was counting on rotating some of the money got from milk and sugarcane payments for this, instead I am now running pillar to post to just get my own income in my hands,’’ said Shivaji Misre, farmer from Khandgaon village. Misre has Rs25,000 as the first installment for his cane payment from the Bhausaheb Thorat Co-operative Sugar factory and Rs10,000 from the milk payment sitting in his account.

On the whole, the Sangamner Taluka Co-operative Milk Producers Sangh that sells milk under Rajhans brand, has around 50,000 members (only from the taluka), organised under as many as 207 dairy societies. It collects nearly 2.30 lakh to 2.70 lakh litres a day and has daily payments worth Rs 70 lakh to the milk producers spread across 171 villages. All these transactions are carried out through the district central co-operative bank.

The co-operative sugar factory’s first installment to its 22,000 member farmers is to the tune of Rs34 crore. “Our co-operative ecology is very strong. The issue is not cashless transactions; we started RTGS and cheque payments over a decade back. The problem is the cash crunch, which has affected the entire supply chain from our wholesale buyers to retailers across the state and even in Surat to our individual members,’’ said Dr P J Ubalepatil, managing director of Sangamner taluka milk co-operative.

To put this in perspective, one needs to understand the state’s co-operative sector. For instance, Sangamner in Ahmednagar district is one of the most successful models set up by co-operative doyen and Congress leader Bhausaheb Thorat, currently run by his son and former revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat. In the taluka, everything from the sugar factory to milk dairy and even petrol pumps are run on co-operative basis, which means group of farmers are stakeholders in the business. All their transactions are in turn linked to the Ahmednagar DCC that has 286 branches in the district, with 39 branches in Sangamner taluka alone. “When we ask for Rs 10 crore as our requirement, we get Rs25 lakh to Rs30 lakh in cash. How are we to disburse this among our 10 lakh account holders ? One understands that there has been mismanagement in various district co-operative banks but why paint the entire sector and all banks as bad ?,” asks Raosaheb Varpe, Managing Director of Ahmednagar DCC.

He added, “Our bank has no such history, instead we have been very successful. We have been given our license by RBI. When one of our account holders wants to withdraw Rs24,000, we can’t give him the amount. We offer Rs2,000 to Rs 4,000 and at the maximum Rs 10,000.”

The co-operative sector in Maharashtra has largely been in the hands of the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party, who have dominated the district bank, sugar as well as milk co-operative sector. Several banks, sugar factories have had to be liquidated following flagrant mismanagement of its accounts but many others run successfully and continue to hold the strings of the rural economy. For now, the demonetization decision has put a spoke in the wheels of this entire sector, affecting the livelihood of lakhs of farmers.

The co-operative sugar factory’s first installment to its 22,000 member farmers is to the tune of Rs34 crore.

“Our co-operative ecology is very strong. The issue is not cashless transactions; we started RTGS and cheque payments over a decade back. The problem is the cash crunch, which has affected the entire supply chain from our wholesale buyers to retailers across the state and even in Surat to our individual members,’’ said Dr P J Ubalepatil.

To put this in perspective, one needs to understand the state’s co-operative sector. Sangamner in Ahmednagar district is one of the most successful models set up by co-operative doyen and Congress leader Bhausaheb Thorat, currently run by his son and former revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat. In the taluka, everything from the sugar factory to milk dairy and even petrol pumps are run on co-operative basis, which means group of farmers are stakeholders in the business.

All their transactions are in turn linked to the Ahmednagar DCC that has 286 branches in the district, with 39 branches in Sangamner taluka alone. “When we ask for Rs 10 crore as our requirement, we get Rs25 lakh to Rs30 lakh in cash. How are we to disburse this among our 10 lakh account holders ? One understands that there has been mismanagement in various district co-operative banks but why paint the entire sector and all banks as bad ?,” asks Raosaheb Varpe, Managing Director of Ahmednagar DCC.

“Our bank has no such history, instead we have been very successful. We have been given our license by RBI. When one of our account holders wants to withdraw Rs24,000, we can’t give him that amount. We offer Rs2,000 to Rs 4,000 and at the maximum Rs 10,000 if there is a dire need,’’ he added.

The co-operative sector in Maharashtra has largely been in the hands of the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party, who have dominated the district bank, sugar as well as milk co-operative sector. Several banks, sugar factories have had to be liquidated following flagrant mismanagement of its accounts but many others run successfully and continue to hold the strings of the rural economy.

For now, the demonetization decision has put a spoke in the wheels of this entire sector, affecting the livelihood of lakhs of farmers.

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