Innovation fund likely for co-op lenders to foster farm entrepreneurs

The committee also recommended expanding the ambit of PACs, to bring in women, youth and weaker section. (Photo: Bloomberg)
The committee also recommended expanding the ambit of PACs, to bring in women, youth and weaker section. (Photo: Bloomberg)

Summary

  • No specific size or outlay for the fund has been recommended; the ministry of cooperation will take a call on the size

New Delhi: A committee charged with drafting a new national cooperation policy has recommended that a national innovation fund be set up to encourage entrepreneurship in primary agricultural credit societies (PACs), a member of the committee said.

No specific size or outlay for the fund has been recommended; the ministry of cooperation will take a call on the size, the member added, requesting not to be named.

The committee also recommended expanding the ambit of PACs —which lend to farmers at the grassroots level—to bring in women, youth and weaker sections including scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, especially in hill areas, with the help of farmer-producing organizations, self-help groups and joint liability groups.

Other recommendations include strengthening the cooperatives’ credit structure and financing; creating infrastructure and technology; promoting high-quality education, training and research; and establishing good governance and networks.

Queries sent to the cooperation ministry secretary and the spokesperson remained unanswered at press time.

The new national cooperation policy is being formed to promote a cooperative-based economic development model, ensuring that technology, skills and education work together. A committee of 49 members was formed in September 2022 under the chairmanship of former union minister Suresh Prabhu.

According to the member cited above, the committee’s recommendations were submitted last December to the ministry of cooperation after 17 meetings and four stakeholder workshops across the country.

The ministry is in the final process of formulating the new policy, which is expected to be out soon.

A policy draft prepared by the committee will expand the reach of cooperative societies if implemented.

“Cooperatives are primarily in fisheries, dairy and credit. With the new emerging opportunities, the cooperative society needs to diversify into other businesses like tourism, hospitals, multi-purpose co-op society, and insurance to bring a social-economic environment," the member said, adding that the draft also talks about giving a level playing field to cooperatives in order to strengthen them.

There is also a strong recommendation on governance and networking.

“Innovation and technology need to be brought in to strengthen the whole thing in education to take the agenda of cooperation forward," the member said.

Prabhu declined to comment as the ministry is in the process of finalizing the new national cooperation policy, which is likely to get approval in a fortnight or so.

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