The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a comprehensive programme to strengthen cooperative movement in the country by establishing viable Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS), dairy cooperatives and fishery cooperatives at panchayat and village levels.
Chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Cabinet decided that the initial target of the programme will be to establish two lakh multipurpose PACS, Dairy and Fishery Cooperatives in the next five years and strengthen existing societies.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur told newspersons that the programme conceived by Home & Cooperation Minister Amit Shah will provide farmer members with requisite forward and backward linkages to market their produce, enhance their income, obtain credit facilities and other services at village level.
The new cooperatives and societies will be established in villages not served by any of them so far. The action plan for implementation of the project shall be prepared by NABARD, National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) and the National Fishery Development Board (NFDB).
The primary cooperative societies which cannot be revived will be identified for winding up, and new primary cooperative societies will be established in their area of operation.
Establishing new PACS/dairy/fishery cooperative societies will generate employment opportunities in rural areas, with multiplier effect for the rural economy. The plan will enable farmers to realize better prices for their products, expand the size of their markets and weave them seamlessly into the supply chain.
A high-level Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) under the chairmanship of Home & Cooperation Minister with other concerned Ministers as members has been constituted and empowered to take necessary steps.
To increase the viability of PACS and diversify their business activities to make them vibrant economic entities at Panchayat level, model bye-laws of PACS have been prepared by the Ministry after consultation with all the stakeholders.
These Model bye-laws of PACS will enable them to undertake more than 25 business activities which, inter alia, include dairy, fishery, setting up of godowns, procurement of foodgrains, fertilizers, seeds, LPG/CNG/Petrol/Diesel distributorship, short-term & long-term credit, custom hiring centers, common service centers, Fair Price Shops, community irrigation, Business Correspondent activities, Common Service Centre, etc.
The model byelaws have been circulated to all States and Union Territories on 5th January, 2023 for their adoption by PACS after making suitable changes as per respective State Cooperative Acts.
A national cooperative database is also being prepared by Ministry of Cooperation where country-wide mapping of cooperatives at Panchayat and village level is being carried out with the support of Registrar of Cooperative Societies of the States and Union Territories.
The PACS, around 98,995 in number and having a member base of 13 crore, constitute the lowest tier of the Short-Term Cooperative Credit (STCC) structure in the country, providing short-term and medium-term credit and other input services, like seed, fertilizer, pesticide distribution, etc. to member farmers. These are refinanced by NABARD through 352 District Central Cooperative Banks (DCCBs) and 34 State Cooperative Banks (StCBs).
The primary dairy cooperative societies, around 1,99,182 in number and having around 1.5 crore members, are engaged in procurement of milk from farmers, providing milk testing facilities, cattle feed sale, extension services, etc. to the members.
The primary fishery cooperative societies, around 25,297 in number and having around 38 lakh members, cater to one of the most marginalized sections of the society, providing them marketing facilities, assisting in procuring fishing equipment, fish seed and feed, and also providing credit facilities to the members on a limited scale.
However, there are still 1.6 lakh Panchayats without PACS and nearly two lakh Panchayats without any dairy cooperative society.