The earlier man used to live together and go for hunting the animals in groups out of fear or to strengthen them. Man realised, that if they are together, they can sustain longer. There were laid down principles of cooperation but underlying spirit of cooperative principles were there in its roots. The human civilization has travelled a lot from monolith age.
Cooperatives have now got a definition in black and white and are defined as an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically-controlled enterprise. Principles of Cooperatives have been well laid in the civilised society. The first and basic principle laid stress on Voluntary and Open Membership – Cooperatives are voluntary organization, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discriminations. Second comes, Democratic Member Control, which means one member has only one vote and all members big or small has the same right. Then comes Member Economic Participation, wherein members democratically control the capital of their cooperative. Autonomy and Independence says that cooperatives are autonomous in nature and independent in decision making. Fifth principle is Education, Training and Information, under which Cooperatives provide education and training for members so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperatives. Sixth principle is Cooperation among Cooperatives while working in the cooperative structure tries to strengthen each other. The seventh principle of concern for the community was incorporated later on to guide cooperative organizations into the 21st century.
Cooperatives are about human needs and not human greed. Cooperative movement is owned by nearly one billion people across the globe, employing more than 100 million people worldwide. Ms. Dame Pauline Green, President, International Coop. Alliance opined that Cooperative help to take people out of poverty with dignity. It shows the power of the cooperative values and principles that have helped to embed civil society around the world for more than 170 years by creating sustainable community owned and controlled enterprises. Even Business Tycoon, Dr. Ratan Tata endorsed the cooperative spirit, when he said that “If you want to walk fast walk alone, But if want to walk far, walk together”.
The Year 2012 was celebrated as ‘International Year of Cooperatives’ worldwide symbolises that Cooperatives shows the right path to the world and its main aim was that Cooperative Builds a Better World. The cooperatives across the globe participated in taking the cooperative movement further and spread the message of World-Peace and Harmony. Cooperatives drive the world economy; respond to social change, resilient to the global economic crisis creating jobs in all sections. Cooperatives have one billion members around the world. In India, the consumer needs of 67% of rural households are covered by cooperatives. 40% of African households belong to cooperatives. An estimated 250 million farmers in developing nations belong to a cooperative.
Presence of Cooperatives in agriculture and related fields has deep roots. Cooperatives are key players in food security, with almost 40 per cent of cooperatives worldwide working in the agricultural or agri-food industry and more than 50 per cent of the planet’s inhabitants depend on cooperatives for their livelihood. The DG of FAO of the United Nations Jose Graziano Da Silva while hailing the role played by agriculture and allied cooperatives has said that Agriculture and Food Cooperatives contribute to socio-economic development and enable the self-empowerment of the poor and other marginalised groups in rural areas. Strong agriculture cooperatives are key to feeding the world. In Egypt, four million farmers earn their income because of membership in agricultural and food cooperatives. In Brazil, agriculture cooperative have more than one million members and generate 37% of the agriculture GDP. Agriculture cooperatives, in particular, have a significant impact on employment, wealth generation, poverty reduction and food security. Cooperatives allow small producers to act collectively and network more effectively, thus improving their livelihoods and overall wellbeing. They provide a variety of services ranging from access to markets, to access and management of natural resources and a voice in decision-making.
The Cooperative Movement of India is the biggest in the world. More than 6 Lakh Cooperatives Societies having a membership of 26 crore are playing their role in making this movement a success. Cooperatives are playing a vital role in Indian economy. Indian cooperatives like IFFCO and Amul have their presence felt in the international arena. Mr. Charles Gould, DG, International Cooperative Alliance during while delivering 17th Vaikunthbhai Mehta Lecture in New Delhi in June, 2014 showered praise on IFFCO being on the top of the list of 300 Cooperatives of the world. The share of Cooperative Sector in Agriculture lending is 43%, 25% in fertiliser sector, 50% in Sugar Sector, 54% in Handloom sector, 65 %in rural ware-housing and storage sector.
Cooperatives provide employment to 1.60 crore people directly and indirectly and becomes the biggest employment booster sector. 98% of rural sector is associated with cooperatives. There is not a single village in India which does not have the presence of cooperative. Cooperatives play their role in Public Distribution System, loan to rural people for agriculture, purchase of animals, making available fertilizer and seeds, cheap housing loan etc.
Cooperatives have a direct influence on food-security. Food Security is a complex sustainable development issue the world over, linked to health through malnutrition, but also to sustainable economic development, environment and trade. There is a great deal of debate around food security. The Indian Govt. has succeeded in enacting the National Food Security Act. It gives right to the people to received adequate quantity of food grains at affordable prices. The act covers 75 percent of rural population and 50 percent of urban population or say a total of 82 crore people to get rice, wheat and coarse grains at a rate of Rs. 3, 2 and 1 per kg with uniform entitlement of 5 kg per persons per month. The entitlement of existing AAY households will remain at 35 kg per household per month. The government has estimated that they will be requiring 61 million tonnes of food to meet its obligation. It is a herculean task. It will require additional storage capacity, opening of new Fair Price Shops, inter-state transportation. All this require political will, sincere efforts and transparency at the centre and states level in Indian context. The same hold good in international cooperation also as cooperatives and only true cooperatives can build a Better World to live in.