With the state government deciding to bring amendments in the Gujarat Cooperative Societies Act, functioning of the politicised cooperative sector is set for a major change from this month on.
The changes will be in tune with the 97th Constitutional Amendment effected by Parliament last year. States were given February 15, 2013, deadline to introduce changes by the Centre.
The state government will table an amendment in the forthcoming Assembly session scheduled to start from February 20.
Cooperatives Minister Babu Bokhiria said, “There will be no ordinance. Amendments will be tabled in the Assembly. The departments concerned are still working on various aspects of amendments, especially parts related to elections.”
Post-amendment, autonomy, economic health and transparency are expected in the cooperative sector that has seen several scams, including banks going bust. The amendment is also likely to declare formation of cooperative society a fundamental right.
Other key changes include formation of a separate election body, limiting number of board directors up to 21, audit by professional agencies, a fixed term of five years and above all, audit by an independent professional system. Abolishing right of registrar to appoint administrator is also on the cards.
Minister for Cooperatives Babu Bokhiria and Law Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasma are already in consultation with top representatives of the sector to prepare the final draft of the amendment.
These changes may result in politicians losing their hold over the co-operative sector. In Gujarat, top politicians from both BJP and Congress have roots in this sector, which proved vital in their growing clout.
Today, Gujarat has nearly 60,000 cooperative societies, engaged in banking to milk production to sugar mills.
Sources said it was yet to be decided whether the Gujarat government would form an independent body to hold elections for societies or assign the task to the Election Commission. At present, the registrar of Cooperative Societies is responsible for conducting audit, elections and smooth functioning of the various cooperative societies.
There are several views on the new procedure to hold elections in the sector. Gujarat Urban Cooperative Banks Federation (GUCBF), in a meeting with the two ministers, argued that the monitoring of small-scale cooperative units could be done by the government instead of a separate body to spare them the burden of expenses.
“This is very welcome change. Cooperatives will now be quite free from political interference,” GUCBF chairman Jyotindra Mehta said. “The most important thing is that now forming cooperative society is a fundamental right.