West Bengal has topped the list in financing self-help groups in cooperative sector across India, said state co-operative minister Arup Roy at the first conference of the West Bengal Co-operative Bank Employees’ Sangha here in the city today.

Highlighting the achievement of West Bengal in credit linkage of self-help groups in the cooperative sector, the minister said that the state has provided credit to more than 97,000 self-help groups during 2018-19, far ahead of Maharashtra which has come second.

Speaking at the conference, Mr Roy mentioned the pivotal role that the co-operative banking sector has played in the eradication of poverty and development of agriculture. “State co-operative banks have played a key role in the development of agricultural sector in the state. Many constructive things can be done through this co-operative system. Cooperative banks continue to provide loans to marginalised sectors of the society at a much lower interest rate than the nationalised banks do. Currently there are around 2.20 lakh self-help groups which are the beneficiaries of the loans provided by the cooperative banks,” he said.

Assuring that the Bengal government is committed to stand by this sector, he urged that no coercive legal measures should be taken against the farmers who fail to repay the loans. “If anybody gets a loan without proper documentation, the government will take strong action against such corrupt practices. But if any poor farmer fails to pay back his loan, we will approach them and try to convince them about the benefits of repaying the loan amount,” Mr Roy said.

He also announced that the state government has decided that the salaries and loans of employees working in local bodies such as panchayats and municipalities as well as those of schools and colleges in districts will be dispensed through the District Central Cooperative Banks. Funds of various welfare schemes taken up by the government will also be disbursed through these banks, he added.

Sanjoy Datta, the convener of the event and general secretary of West Bengal State Cooperative Bank Permanent Employees Association said this conference has been organised to ensure the proper implementation of financial projects of the state government by cooperatives banks across West Bengal and strengthen the bonds between the employees of the cooperative banks and the cooperation department. The chairman of Federation of Urban Cooperative Banks and Credit Societies Limited Satyabrata Samanta, was also present at the programme