IT-Cooperative Society: A New Dimension In The Cooperative Sector

What are Cooperatives?

Very few persons give attention on the topic—Cooperative Society. Most of the persons do not indulge in this area. Of course, there must be many reasons. Experts in this field have pointed out many things needed for correction as their opinion and thereby remedies. It is the need of the hour to produce genuine co-operators who can open the closed eyes of the people of Manipur particularly with the magic of Cooperative Society by adopting a model Cooperative Village. Once successfully ignited, then there will be many ones to follow. Though, the modern cooperative movement started in 1844, its real taste cannot reach our soil. At the beginning most of the societies began with prospective vision, but cannot sustain a long time. The philosophy behind the formation of the very association of persons is Living Together, Working Together and Progressive Together. The co-operation endeavors to empower isolated individuals who are individually weak, to come together in a democratic manner on the basis of equality to achieve the desired common economic interests.

Now, we may rethink and explore the intrinsic values of the cooperative society that have come into existence.

The representative body for cooperatives, the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), defines a cooperative as:

An autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations, through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.

1st Principle: Voluntary and Open Membership

Co-operatives are voluntary organizations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

2nd Principle: Democratic Member Control

Co-operatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are also organized in a democratic manner.

3rd Principle: Member Economic Participation

Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their co-operative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the co-operative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their co-operative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the co-operative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.

4th Principle: Autonomy and Independence

Co-operatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter to agreements with other organizations, including Governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their co-operative autonomy.

5th Principle: Education, Training and Information

Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so that they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public particularly young people and opinion leaders about the nature and benefits of co-operation.

6th Principle: Co-operation among Cooperatives

Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

7th Principle: Concern for Community

Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.

The first four of these are core principles without which a cooperative would lose its identity; they guarantee the conditions under which members own, control and benefit from the business. The education principle is really a commitment to make membership effective and so is a precondition for democratic control, while cooperation among cooperatives is really a business strategy without which cooperatives remain economically vulnerable.

The last principle, concern for community, is about corporate responsibility, and it leads into other concerns that the ICA is promoting such as prevention of poverty and protection of the environment.

General Assessment of the Cooperative Societies in Manipur

For the Year 2009-2010.

Total no. of registered Cooperative Societies 5306

Number of dormant Societies 1428

Number of defunct Societies 623

The following table shows the type wise basic statistical information of the Cooperative Societies in the State for the year 2009-2010.

Sl.No. Type of Societies No. of  Societies.
I Credit Societies
A. State Level Banks
(Agricultural Credit) :
Sub-Total 3
B. Primary Banks :
(Agricultural Credit) :
Sub- Total 14
C. Thrift & Credit Cooperative Societies
Sub-Total 94
D. Primary Agricultural Credit Cooperative Societies:
i. GP Level 139
ii. LAMPS 69
iii. Service 8
Sub-Total 216
II. Non-Credit, Non-Industrial Cooperative :
A. State Level :
Sub-Total 14
B. District Level
Sub-Total 9
C. Primaries :
Sub-Total 2555
III. Industrial :
A. State Level :
Sub-Total 4
B. Primaries :
Sub-Total 2397
Total : 5306

Source: Annual Administrative Report 2009-2010, Dept. of Cooperation-Govt. of Manipur.

A new dimension which is not yet pictured in the present cooperative scenario is none other than IT Sector. Through this sector, a need-based computer operational skill may be provided to each and every member of the society so as to get efficiency and effectiveness of the society.

For better passionate and more enthusiastic in the field of cooperative, a success story may be shared.

Improving lives through small scale training in computer skills:

Ndola Resource Cooperative Society, Zambia The International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD)-supported Resource Cooperative Society in Ndola, in the Copperbelt region of Zambia, trains its students in lifelong skills enabling them to improve their standard of living (source : iicd).

Unemployment has greatly increased which has brought about high levels of poverty. The few employed people are subjected to poor conditions of service. Recent statistical information entails that an average Zambian family feeds on less than a dollar a day.

Most Zambians have resorted to peasant farming, although an average Zambian finds it difficult to buy necessary farm inputs such as fertilizer seeds. Due to the above and other factors, most Zambian youths have resorted to beer drinking, stealing, smoking, prostitution and other immoral vices as they happen to find refuge in them.

The rapid population growth, and the spread of ignorance among youths and the general population are threatening. Most youths and women regard themselves as failures. This thought is in the minds of people in Zambia. Most of them rely on the aid that comes from Government and other well-wishers to sustain their lives. Every person can agree with us that when one thinks low of oneself, it results in low standard achievements. Generally it is because of this kind of thinking that causes them to think that they can never do anything constructive in life, and risk always being subjected to low education, illiteracy and poverty.

The Resource Cooperative Society: As Resource Cooperative Society, they believe that if they succumb to their weaknesses, they give up in everything that they are determined to do. However, when they highlight their strength, they shall endure to reach their goal. They think that thoughts can give rise to destiny, either good or bad. “Thoughts give rise to decision”, “Decision gives rise to action”, “Actions give rise to habit”, “Habit gives rise to character and Character shall give rise to Destiny”. They are situated within the heart of peoples’ home and interact constantly with the local surroundings, allowing them to understand that Zambian people are psychologically disturbed by their negative thoughts. They have been trying to change people’s thoughts, and encourage self-reliance. They have been training youths and women in pottery, brick making, tailoring, carpentry, joinery and last, but not least, computer skills. Together with these skills, they impart good morals and certain human values from them so that they live and work with people in harmony.

The impact of training: The skills that are imparted to them enable them to either work independently or be employed. The materials involved are very cheap, allowing them to work and live independently. In tailoring for instance, about ten women have been trained, a few which have been employed while most of them are running independent businesses after acquiring a sewing machine. In other instances, a lot of saving has been experienced as most women can now sow their children’s clothing when they get torn and in some instances clothes are sown in houses which are cheaper than those bought in shops, thereby reducing certain costs and expenses within the vicinity of the house. Brick training has seen about thirty youths working independently. They make bricks using ordinary clay which is free of charge. These bricks are burnt using fire wood and later sold. Some youths are hired to do some construction work which is also a skill obtained at their centre. Even though the impact has not been felt very much by the Ndola population at large, IICD have at least made a difference with the people that they have managed to train.

Introduction of computers: The introduction of computers has greatly strengthened their training programs and empowered a lot of youths. Knowledge and skills in handling computers and programs is very vital and necessary. Resource Cooperative Society is now a training centre for computer skills. Computer lessons have been conducted for not only registered members but also for the general community. Despite having only three computers they have managed to train over eighty students in one year. Most of the graduates have found employment as secretaries and other relevant jobs pertaining to the use of computers. They are able to generate income for the centre by offering computer lessons at a fee that is affordable for the surrounding community.

From all the training programs conducted at the centre, the desire to be trained in computer courses from the general public has greatly increased. The centre has been receiving orders from recognized firms and institutions of up to seventy students to be trained. Most of these well established institutions are offering courses which require computer training, and since they do not have computer lab, partnership is needed. When it is time for computer lessons they send their students to the centre and obtain their services, in turn generating income for the centre. It has however been difficult to run such big orders since they only have three computers and one printer.

Moving on as a Resource Centre: By increasing the number of computers they could meet the demand of the community, as well as improving the quality and nature of training, improve the standard of education offered at the centre, and increase the income that they generate. That income will in turn be used to improve the quality of other training skills offered at the centre such as pottery and brick making. They can use the proceeds to decorate their product and improve on the mankind and quality. Among other things, they are also looking at the acquisition of an overhead projector, as this would facilitate the release of information to their students and would again improve on the quality of education.

They are a team that believes in selfless service, where service is above self. Like what one man said; “The greatest reward a man can ever get out of his toil is not what he earns out of it, but what he becomes by it.” IICD are a team that would like to see Zambia change and consequently Africa. As the success story reveals us that collectivity is the underlying and urgency of the development of IT Sector in Cooperative.

And the followings are some of the areas where cooperative societies can work on:

-assembling of computer system & marketing.

-maintenance & repairing of computer and accessories.

-imparting training on computer hardware.

-imparting training on software.

-need-based software development.

-assisting projects works on software development for students and needy ones.

-imparting training on computer networking.

-availing annual maintenance contract on hardware and software.

-undergoing contract on setting up of LAN.

-providing IT-Solution at the spot of cooperative society as a part of cooperation among cooperatives—the 6th principle of cooperative society.

-web designing training programs.

-web designing for the cooperative societies on nominal charge.

-maintaining servers and giving a network of cooperative societies.

-setting up of DTP centers.

-providing Internet facilities by nominal charging.

-Knowledge imparting on Internet Security and Networking etc.

-imparting operational skill of accounting and inventory system using software.

-Human Resource sharing through on line interactivity.

In any organization, what is required is the Information—the life blood of the organization without which the organization is meaningless. But who is going to provide meaningful information in fast speed, the answer will be none other than IT which now acts as the best tool of management information system (MIS).

On top of this, as per the recommendation of Vaidyanathan Committee, every PACS (208 in the context of Manipur) will be provided a computer set along with a common accounting software for which training is a must. In the horizon of promoting cooperative movement, Institute of cooperative Management (ICM), Imphal and Centre for Cooperative Management (CCM), Lamphelpat always open the doors for Consultancy services, Training and Research on Cooperative and Allied subjects. Let’s hope for a new Manipur with a HUB of Information Technology that can provide IT-Solution to the Global market by associating the IT-Professionals, computer literates and educated unemployed sons and daughters of Manipur through cooperative movement.

*The article is written by K Surchandra Singh.

*The writer is a MIS Faculty at ICM, Imphal.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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