Cooperators’ inability to emerge as a pressure group on the country’s political scene has meant that political parties do not take them seriously. This is evident from the fact that the word ”cooperative” has not received much mention in the manifestoes of the two leading political parties’-Congress and BJP. That is to say, cooperative does not figure in these parties’ scheme of things.
While BJP does have a heading “cooperative” in its content-table, Congress hardly even thinks it worth a penny. But even BJP talks more of FPOs than cooperatives. The failure of the cooperative leadership to make this sector a force to reckon with is more than obvious from the two manifestoes.
The BJP manifesto on page 14 says “We recognize that cooperatives and Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) can play in ensuring beer market linkages and opportunities in the agricultural sector and we are committed to support and strengthen them.
“We will enable the creation of 10,000 new Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) by 2022 to ensure economies of scale for farmers regarding access to inputs and markets”, the Manifesto claims.
Among other things, the BJP manifesto talks of setting up a mechanism of direct marketing of vegetables, fruits, dairy and fishery products through farmers’ cooperative organizations so as to ensure better price returns to the farmers.
Other issues in the list include doubling farmers’ income by 2022, Pradhan Samman Nidhi, Pension for small and marginal farmers, Rs 25 lakh crore investment in the Agri-rural sector and Interest-free Kisan Credit Card loans.
Though Congress Manifesto on Agriculture starts with a quote of Jawaharlal Nehru who said, ‘Everything can wait but not agriculture’, it fails to mention co-operative so dear to Nehru’s heart anywhere in its table of contents.
Listing BJP’s failure on the farm sector, it recalls how demonetization devastated the cash-based agricultural economy. It says “co-operative credit societies and apex co-operative banks were denied the right to convert their deposits, thereby choking the flow of co-operative credit to the farmers.
Congress manifesto mentions a separate “Kisan Budget”. It also promises to establish a permanent National Commission on Agricultural Development and Planning consisting of farmers, agricultural scientists and agricultural economists. The recommendations of the Commission shall be ordinarily binding on the government.
Congress also promises to establish a Commission on Marginal Farmers and Agricultural Labour. “We will completely re-design the BJP government’s failed Fasal Bima Yojana (Crop Insurance Scheme) that has only enriched the insurance companies at the cost of the farmers”, the manifesto reads.
Congress also talks of promoting Farmer Producer Companies/Organisations to enable farmers to access inputs, technology and markets.
We will launch a national project to double the value of production in 5 years in dairying and poultry, claims Congress saying it will also promote organic farming, encourage farmers to use mixed fertilizers and pesticides, support verification of organic products, and help them secure better prices for organic products.