Maharashtra government puts off co-operative society polls by a year

Sunday, 29 December 2013 - 7:44am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
Decision will delay setting up autonomous authority.

If you are living in a large housing society where elections are overdue, you would have to wait for at least one more year, till the proposed election authority to monitor the polls in co-operative bodies is set up.

A few months ago, the state government decided to set up an autonomous election authority for co-operative bodies, to be headed by a commissioner. The process was to be completed by the end of 2013. Now, the government has decided to postpone all elections to co-operative bodies till December 31, 2014, in view of the Lok Sabha and state assembly polls due next year.

The state election authority will now supervise, control and conduct polls in all registered co-operatives. This step was taken under the 97th Constitutional amendment, which aims to ensure autonomous and democratic functioning of co-operatives and accountability of the management to the members and other stakeholders.

But the government has not appointed a commissioner to head the authority yet. The commissioner is to be a retired civil service officer not below the rank of a secretary. Now, it is concerned that the government machinery will have to be engaged in the general elections process.

“The Lok Sabha and state assembly polls are due next year. So these elections are being postponed. Also, the polls to co-operative bodies affect the dynamics of local politics,” said a senior official in the co-operation department.

Polls for about 32,000 co-operative bodies, including about 12,000 housing societies, have not happened since 2011 when the amendment to the co-operatives act took away the elections from the purview of the registrar.

A new election authority would prevent political pressure being exerted on officials in the co-operation department and the voters in these hotly contested elections.

The postponement has angered some in the co-operatives sector. “We are not in agreement with the government’s decision... this is unjust. At least co-operative housing societies and small credit societies should have been exempted from this,” said Ramesh Prabhu, chairman, Maharashtra Societies Welfare Association.

He pointed out that the government’s stay on decision-making by the old committees had affected the progress of work related to redevelopment, conveyance and repairs of buildings.

Advocate Vinod Sampat pointed out that the decision had caused multiple problems. He alleged that the decision to set up the election authority was taken to mollycoddle the sugar lobby, but that it would on the contrary increase political interference in elections to these bodies.

On March 31, 2012, Maharashtra had 2.28 lakh co-operative societies with about 5.25 crore members. Among them 88,472 were co-operative housing societies with 23.11 lakh members.

According to Maharashtra’s economic survey, there are 25,437 co-operative dairy societies, 15,004 urban co-operative credit societies, 526 urban banks, 21,443 primary agricultural credit societies and 202 sugar co-operatives.

Officials explained that as and when the elections to co-operative bodies is taken up by the new authority, it would take about 30 days to complete the election process. They also pointed out that states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu had already set up the election authority.

Polling matters to be with state
The state election authority, which would operate along the lines of the election commission, will supervise, control and conduct the polls in all registered co-operatives like housing societies, banks, credit societies and milk federations, that have a membership of more than 100.

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