THE fact that laws which govern the cooperative sector have
always left successful cooperatives tantalisingly within the
reach of political leadership has once again come to the fore in
Gujarat. The almost idyllic calm at Amul, the most successful
of such ventures in the country, was shattered when it was
rudely shocked by certain steps taken by the Bharatiya Janata
Party (Bip) -ruled state government.
The largest dairy cooperative in the country was jolted
when the state government invoked two clauses, sections 80(1)
and 80(11), of the Gujarat Cooperative Societies Act, 1961. This
enabled the government to foist three of its nominees and a
bank representative on to the 13-member board of directors
during the board elections last October.
The board, 91though apolitical, has always enjoyed the
patron 'age of the majority, the Congress-backed nominees. In
the October elections, while Congress won eight of the
13 seats, BJP-supported nominees won four, the last elected
member being an,independent. By introducing four new
nominees later (through invoking the two clauses) and by
reportedly 'gaining the confidence' of the independent, the
BJP-supported group stood at nine, thereby attaining majority.
Before elections for the chairperson of the Board (scheduled for November 22) could be held, one of the Congress-
backed elect6d members, Ramsinh Parmar, filed a writ and
obtained a stay order from the Gujarat High Court. The writ
prayed that as the Gujarat government was not a financial
guarantor to any loans taken by the Kaira District Cooperative
Milk Producers Union Ltd (the parent body of Amul), it could
not impose itself upon the cooperative.
The Union had borrowed over Rs 200 crore from funds of
the Operatioh Flood scheme, to finance a new dairy and
cheese processing plant. In April '95, they had shifted the
guarantee of Rs 84 crore to the National Dairy Development
Board (NDDB) and its marketing wing, the Gujarat
Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation. This move meant
that the Gujarat government's last claims to beinga financial
guarantor were surely obliterated.
Following the writ, the deputy collector of Anand suspended the elections for the chairperson on the ground that
the stay. on the appointment of the government representatives took away their right to vote in the elections.
This 'interference' from the local administration, which
was seen by many as the orders of the state government, was
possible via an amendment to the Act in 1982. This provided
local collectors with the power to hold elections for the
On his part, the father of the country's white revolution
and NDDB chairperson, Vefghese Kurien, said that political
workers had never contested for seats on the boards Tata Iron
& Steel Company, Reliance Industries or the Godrej group.
So, how could they now contest for seats on the board of a
cooperative, he asked, commenting upon the BJP's attempts to
'hijack' the Amul board.
His opinion, that political parties did not have a
platform on how best to run a cooperative, which was a
business enterprise, and his claims that it was this kind of
interference that had cost the nation a generation of agriculture sector-driven economic growth, may have hit the nail
bang on the head.
In the cooperative movement, Amul certainly shines as the
perfect example of how people's collective power can succeed,
regardless of the odds. And with professionals managing its
affairs, it is today not only a market leader that has produced
high quality milk, butter, cheese, cheese spreads, chocolates,
and baby-food, to name a few products in the country-wide
market, but a brand name that is clearly well prepared to deal
with the coming competitiveness of the liberalised open
Thus, whether the aim of political parties is to gain control
of, and thereby tap the 1.0 1 crore votes of the members of
Amul's 50,000 associated cooperative societies for the general
elections, or to destabilise a market leader, thereby serving
some unknown vested business interest, this move quite
rightly received the nasty reaction it merited.
The ensuing hue and cry made the Bip highcommand sit
up and issue directives to the state government to pour oil
over troubled waters. While the chief minister, Suresh Mehta,
has ensnared himself in an utterly messy situation, Anand and
its sylvan surroundings grimly await the outcome of the court
But there is clearly the need for having a Central legislation
that does not lend itself to the kind of diabolic manipulation
through state proviso that has been seen in this instance, If the
cooperative sector too is left open to political intrigues, the day
may not be far off when multinational purses will buy their
way to its boards through lavish patronage, which, after the
hawala scandal, seems to be all that matters. to our leaders. So
much for swadeshi!