Don't let the cooperative sector collapsetext_fields
The Enforcement Directorate has apprehended a CPI leader in connection with the misappropriation at the Kandal Cooperative Bank, and a KPCC general secretaryin connection with embezzlement at the Pulpalli Cooperative Bank. The disclosed figures indicate embezzlement of crores of rupees in both instances. The investigation is ongoing, with several CPM leaders already detained in connection with the misappropriation of hundreds of crores of rupees at the Karuvannur Bank. It had earlier been revealed that the BJP and the Muslim League are not lagging behind in their involvement in cooperative organizations' embezzlement. This reveals a competitive trend among major parties to plunder the funds deposited by the public in cooperative organizations through misappropriations, whether the leadership is aware of it or not. Months ago, the government stated in the Assembly that there was embezzlement in about 400 cooperative organizations in Kerala, and investors cannot be repaid their money in many of them. Kerala is one of the states with the strongest cooperative movements in the country. Although the cooperative sector is active in many other states, it is doubtful whether there is a system that has won the trust and support of all sections of the people to such an extent. In Kerala, people, regardless of whether they are poor or rich, first rely on cooperative banks for their financial needs. It is their own feeling of owning them that motivates them to do this. In Kerala, where political influence pervades all spheres, politics is also evident in the cooperative sector. That is not wrong either. Election to cooperative enterprises are held in rural areas with the same spirit and zeal as see in general elections. In such a case, the opportunity for cheating and fraud to enter the system that people consider their own and their source of succour should not have been allowed. Some party leaders have also openly admitted this, albeit late.
Cooperative societies were started with noble goals. The cooperative movement has made a significant contribution to the financial security of ordinary people, protection from usurers, and support for small-scale enterprises, and ultimately to the social progress of Kerala. The role played by cooperative societies in the development of Kerala's rural areas is invaluable and unforgettable. However, the news coming from the cooperative sector for a few years is not that encouraging. The goals of the societies got derailed as political organizations took over and swallowed the societies beyond the control of the government. Corruption and nepotism have become their hallmarks. Appointments were made only for family members and party members. The fact is that no party is different in this. These parties and their leaders are not unaware of the efforts made by the central government, both overtly and coverly, to infiltrate and control the cooperative institutions in Kerala. A CPM leader himself said the other day that institutions should not be given an opportunity to let the ED enter there by indulging in corruption.
The Congress and the CPI have taken action against the leaders arrested by the ED, but the CPM has not taken any such action in the case of Karuvannur. Instead, it has been protecting the accused. Corruption and the attitude of the parties towards it have created a major decline in public trust in cooperative societies. The Reserve Bank's announcement that cooperative societies cannot be named 'banks', that some cooperative societies are not eligible to accept deposits, and that such deposits will not be covered by insurance, is creating further apprehensions. In such an environment, steps need to be taken to regain the trust that people had in cooperative societies. Every bank should come forward to publish accurate statistics and issue a white paper. The government should also be ready to take strict action against erring bodies found to be involved in irregularities. A situation in which cooperative societies cease to exist due to the erosion of trust will cause irreparable damage to the Kerala society.