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The Hon’ble Mr. M. Venkaiah Naidu (center) lights the lamp to inaugurate the Lecture. Image credit: PIB



The National Co-operative Union of India (NCUI) organized the 19th Vaikunth Bhai Mehta Memorial Lecture on June 25. The lecture was delivered by Mr. M. Venkaiah Naidu, Hon’ble Vice President of India. 


Mr. Naidu acknowledged the pioneering contribution of Vaikunth Bhai Mehta to the growth of the co-operative movement in India. He informed the audience that Mr. Mehta, a devoted Gandhian, was appointed Chairman of the All India Khadi and Village Industries Board in 1953 and in 1959 as the Chairman of the Commission on Agricultural Co-operative Credit. He made valuable contributions as the Finance Minister of the state of Maharashtra.


Mr. Naidu said that throughout the world, agricultural co-operatives have played a significant role in organizing small farmers, who in turn contribute to 80% of the world food production.  Agricultural co-operatives can play a vital role in the Government of India’s Seven Point Agenda for doubling farmers’ income by 2022 by educating farmers to reduce the cost of cultivation.


 After globalization of the Indian economy, the Indian co-operative movement, the world’s largest, has its own inherent strengths and weaknesses. With more than eight lakh co-operatives, the co-operatives have significant presence in all areas of socio-economic activities. Dairy co-operatives have ushered in the milk revolution with AMUL a household name while IFFCO and KRIBHCO provided farmers much needed fertilizer and other inputs.


Mr. Naidu took note of how farmers were falling prey to moneylenders despite the vast presence of agricultural co-operatives. He said that going forward we need to strengthen co-operatives so that they can work for the welfare of the farmers and give them timely credit at a reasonable rate of interest. Co-operatives in order to sustain and better serve their members need to diversify their operations in new areas like honeybee production, seaweed farming etc. They should also train farmers in the right use of fertilizers and adoption of new technologies.


An important point of reflection was the fact that generally one speaks of public-private partnerships when it comes to synergies for generating resources and carrying out joint projects. Co-operatives-public-private partnerships, as the third element, can provide a new model of development with wide relevance to the farming community. Mr. Naidu remarked that he found tremendous opportunities for co-operatives in solving the problem of unemployment, particularly in the rural areas where there is a shortage of skills. Skilling the rural population through co-operatives can be a big leap forward. The Indian government has set a goal of establishing 100 Smart cities in different states. To achieve this, the services of labour and contract co-operative societies such as Uralungal Labour Contract Co-operative Society need to be engaged in modern and high-tech infrastructure development and such organized labour co-operative societies need to be replicated.


Mr. Naidu advised that co-operative training must not only be imparted to employees in co-operatives, but to children in schools, colleges, universities, technical and professional institutions, and for those who have limited information but want to form their own co-operatives. He said that since ‘Cooperation’ is a state subject and co-operatives are participatory and people-based organizations, the co-operative movement needs to be strengthened by the states.