Even as the Congress-NCP shies away from the implementation of the amendment that makes changes in the cooperative sector mandatory, there is hope that the law will mean good economics for the exchequer and a fresh lease for the co-operative movement.
The state government is currently burdened with outstanding guarantees worth Rs. 17,320 crore, a majority of which have been given to the sugar co-operatives, district co-operative banks, co-operative spinning mills, all dominated by ruling alliance politicians.
In 2011-12, guarantees worth Rs. 705 crore were cleared for the co-operative sector, including the units that have defaulted on loan payments earlier.
“Instead of a people’s movement, the co-operative sector in the state has become a political movement. With even badly managed banks and sugar mills being assured of state funding and subsidies owing to political influence, the burden on the exchequer has been enormous,” said Dr Ratnakar Mahajan, former member of the state planning board.
Mahajan said that while the state government was asking for an extension to iron out the practical difficulties, the real grouse was with the impending reforms.
Legislators from the Bharatiya Janata Party, Peasant and Workers party, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena protested against the amendment on Tuesday.
The Congress and NCP political heavyweights, including a majority of cabinet ministers, trace their clout to the control of co-operative sector. Leaders across parties have stakes in co-operative banks and mills in their region.
“The amendment is good for the co-operative movement, but it remains to be seen how the societies handle autonomy,” said a senior bureaucrat.