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IN THE WAKE OF FREEDOM: INDIA’S TRYST WITH COOPERATIVES·L C Jain and Karen Coelho·Concept Publishing Company, New Delhi·1996·Price Rs 400
the book records the strug gle of the Indian Cooperative Union (icu) to carve out a niche for itself in the country's cooperative movement. Born from efforts to resettle refugees after partition, the icu was formed in 1948 as a voluntary organisation that would translate India's newly gained freedom into liberation of its citizens from the socio-economic constraints that bound them. Instead, the union found itself caught in a tussle between a state that sought to centralise power and a movement that encouraged people to control their own livelihoods.
Much of the friction arose on issues like cooperative law, farming and credit. The icu finally wound up its operations in 1968, but not before it decided to disseminate its experiences via other organisations.The first section of the book provides an overview of the icu while the rest of it covers its achievements under two sections advocacy and action.
That debureaucratisation is important to the success of such an initiative, remains a valid fact even today. Pressurised by agencies like the World Bank, the government is liberalising the corporate and public sectors. But as the authors note, it is refusing to loosen its hold over the cooperative sector. The authors demand that cooperatives be allowed to compete in the market. However, given the enormous resources commanded by multinational corporations (mncs), the efficacy of such a step could be doubted. The opposition faced by V Kurien, the moving figure behind the milk cooperative movement comes to mind.
The book is a rich source of information for those interested in cooperatives. It does however, suffer from limitations. For instance, it does not contain an account of present-day cooperatives. Even though the authors plan to bring out another volume on the post-1968 period, the last chapter of this one gives the impression that the icu was prematurely deprived of a significant role and that in the post-1968 period, it was not delivering what was to be a continuation of its earlier work.