My enthusiasm seems to cause my world to endlessly offer me cooperative, co-creating experiences…
—Wayne Dyer, Motivational Speaker and Spiritual Author
In the mystic world of the late Wayne Dyer, the term ‘cooperative’ has the twin aura of togetherness and communion for those searching for answers to some of life’s eternal questions. In the world of business, the term ‘cooperative’ exudes the same kind of positivity and cooperation—especially in an Indian context—that Dyer discovered in his larger spiritual space.
Formally, the cooperative movement in India is well over a hundred years old. The first Cooperative Credit Societies Act of 1904 was passed to encourage thrift, self-help and cooperation. In fact, it was the Royal Commission of the time that had observed, “If cooperation fails, there will fail the best hope of rural India”. The cooperative movement in India today involves millions of citizens, mainly from our vast rural swathes. Its genesis lies in the spirit of togetherness that helps grow communities to further their financial health, and preserve the social base of the nation. Mahatma Gandhi had himself realized their importance in India, and earlier, while in South Africa, had set up the Tolstoy Farm and the Phoenix Settlement, both as cooperative settlements for families affected by the ongoing freedom struggle.
Given its historicity the Indian Government decided to institute the Ministry of Cooperation in July 2021. Union Home Minister Mr Amit Shah is in charge as India’s very first Minister of Cooperation. In late September, the first ever National Cooperative Conference known as the Sehkarita Sammelan was held. It was organized by a grouping of India’s most celebrated cooperatives, including some that are among the largest in the world. Mr Shah addressed an estimated gathering of two thousand people at the venue—the IG Indoor Stadium in eastern Delhi on the banks of the River Yamuna. Another 60 million joined the event virtually from across the nation. Mr Shah went on to outline the Government’s vision and roadmap for the development sector and did not fail to thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi generously for providing him the opportunity to helm India’s first Ministry of Cooperation.
Cooperatives, he enumerated, would play a crucial role in making India a USD 5 trillion economy. The target, therefore, is to increase the number of primary agriculture cooperatives from the present figure of about 65,000 to nearly three lakh in the next five years. The vision is to connect every village with a cooperative that will lead to prosperity. He cited the success story of brand Amul, part of a grand and inspiring cooperative movement that today involves 3.6 million farmers. “They did what no big corporate was able to,” Mr Shah added.