On Wednesday, the Union Cabinet approved the Multi-State Cooperative Societies (Amendment) Bill, 2022, which seeks to improve accountability and transparency, as well as ease of doing business.
It is anticipated that the Bill will be introduced during the winter session of Parliament.
Amit Shah, the Union Cooperation Minister, announced the government’s intention to amend the existing multi-state cooperative society law. In addition, Shah announced that a new national cooperative policy would be introduced.
As soon as the Cooperation Ministry was established in July 2021, consultations with stakeholders were conducted to formulate a new cooperative policy and amend existing legislation.
Several sources indicate that the Bill will “incorporate provisions of the 97th Constitutional Amendment.” A source stated that the plan will improve governance, reform electoral processes, strengthen monitoring mechanisms, “improve” the composition of the Board, enhance transparency and accountability, improve ease of doing business, increase financial discipline and allow multi-state cooperative societies to raise funds.
“Provisions have been proposed for the establishment of cooperative election authorities, cooperative information officers, cooperative ombudsman, etc., in order to make multi-state cooperative societies more democratic, transparent, and accountable,” the source said. In order to reduce complaints and malpractice, the election authority will ensure that elections are conducted fair, free, and on time.
The proposed Bill will provide for the debarment of offenders for three years and introduce more “electoral discipline”. An ombudsman will be appointed to resolve grievances of cooperative members “in a structured manner,” the source said.
It appears that the Bill proposes to appoint a Cooperative Information Officer, who will provide timely access to information to members in order to “enhance” transparency.
The source explained that provisions concerning the representation of women and Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe members on the boards of multi-state cooperative societies have been included in order to promote equity and facilitate inclusion. A provision has been made to promote professional management by appointing co-opted directors who are experienced in banking, management, cooperative management, finance, or have specializations in any field relating to the objects and activities of such multi-state cooperative society.