Feast of Memories -11

Dr. Madhavan shares his reminiscences in a series of articles. He has named these memoirs as “Feast of Memories”. In this episode he talks about distribution of bonus to members of the cooperatives, audit of societies and attempts by private sector operators to stop operations of the newly formed cooperatives.

Audit of Anand Pattern Cooperatives

As per the bylaws of Anand Pattern cooperatives, 50 % of the profits earned by the society were to be distributed as bonus to its members, based on the transaction each member had with the cooperative. After the first set of cooperatives had completed its first financial year (1974-75), I approached the District Cooperative Auditor, Erode to arrange for the audit of the cooperatives.

The Auditor replied that audit of several cooperatives for past several years was pending for want of audit staff and that the audit of the milk cooperatives which had just completed one year cannot be audited now. I explained to him that the cooperatives had to disburse bonus and hence those were to be audited on priority.

Raising his eyebrows, he said how could there be a cooperative making profit and paying bonus when all the cooperatives in the state were under loss. He couldn’t believe Anand Pattern milk cooperative making profit! In any case, he regretted that it was not possible to audit the cooperatives immediately.

I met the Registrar of Cooperative Societies and the Chief Cooperative Audit Officer in Madras and requested them to arrange for early audit of milk cooperatives.

I explained to them the working of the Anand Pattern cooperatives and told that 50 % of the profits earned by the cooperatives will be disbursed as bonus. They were surprised to hear about cooperatives disbursing bonus when the existing cooperatives had not even paid share dividend to their members! I told them that the Anand Pattern cooperatives organised by the NDDB spearhead team in Erode had made good profits and that those cooperatives had sufficient amounts to be disbursed as bonus.

The Registrar and the Chief Cooperative Audit Officer were greatly impressed and ordered for immediate audit of all the Anand Pattern cooperatives.

The District Cooperative Audit Officer, Erode arranged for audit of all the Anand Pattern cooperatives immediately. After receiving the audit reports, the cooperatives distributed bonus (and share dividend) to the members. It was a great occasion and the bonus distribution function was celebrated like a “Mela”, attended by the entire village. Prominent dignitaries, renowned cooperators, senior government officials and others were chief guests at the bonus function.

Some VIPs who visited the cooperatives were: Mr C Subramaniam, Union Minister of Finance, Dr V Kurien, Chairman, NDDB, Mr P Bhattacharya, Member, Planning Commission, Govt of India, Dr SC Ray, Founder Secretary, NDDB, Mr PH Bhat, Deputy General Manager, Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union (AMUL), GM Jhala, Secretary, NDDB, Dr MN Menon, Animal Husbandry Commissioner & Joint Secretary, Government of India, Dr RP Aneja, Secretary, NDDB, Mr TN Laxminarayanan, Chief Secretary, Govt of Tamilnadu, Mr TN Seshan, Commissioner, Department of Agriculture, Government of Tamilnadu, Mr M Raghupathy, MD TNDDC & Milk Commissioner, Mr Kwaja Moinudeen, Collector, Coimbatore, to name a few.

Disbursement of bonus by the Anand Pattern cooperative was one of the promises we had made to the farmers at the time of organising the cooperatives. When bonus was distributed, the farmers were very happy and it had its impact on the milk collection: it went up! It was yet another blow to the private trade.

Win -Win Situation

One day, I received a letter from the District Collector, Mr Sivakumar asking me to enrol a Harijan milk producer as a member in a cooperative recently organised by our Team. The Harijan farmer carried the letter and delivered to me. I assured him that I will visit his village and do the needful, after talking to him.

I knew about this problem in that cooperative. The Gounder community in that village, who constituted the majority, didn’t want Harijan’s milk to be collected in the cooperative and strongly objected to it. They went to the extreme extent of saying that all of them will stop giving milk should Harijan’s milk was accepted.

The cooperative will collapse if the Gounder community withdrew. So, the option was whether to run the cooperative without Harijan milk or accept Harijan’s milk and lose the cooperative. Neither side was prepared for any compromise.

I knew that the matter had to be handled very carefully lest it would become very serious. Making the Harijan a member of the cooperative was definitely not the solution. A deal had to be stuck between the two making both happy: a difficult task indeed, but not impossible, I felt.

I met Mr Sivakumar and apprised him of the situation and the gravity of the matter. I told him that enrolling the Harijan as a member in the cooperative would only aggravate the matter. I assured him that I will settle the matter amicably and that he should leave it entirely to me. He agreed with me and I left his office.

I took the Harijan farmer into confidence and requested him not to precipitate the matter by insisting that he should be made a member of the cooperative immediately. Because, if he did that, the Gounder community will stop giving milk and the cooperative will stop. Eventually, both sides will lose and the village will be deprived of a cooperative.

I suggested to him that I will convince the Gounder community and get his milk accepted, as a non-member, for the time being. After the situation gets cooled down (may take a month or so), I will try to get him enrolled as a member of the cooperative. He thought for a while and agreed with my suggestion.

The Gounder community was adamant that the Harijan farmer should not be made a member of the cooperative. If he is made a member they will stop pouring milk in the cooperative. I knew the situation was very volatile and the Gounder community meant what they said. I put forward a proposal to them: collect milk from the Harijan in a separate can and send it to the dairy. The Harijan will not stand in the queue, along with other farmers. After a lot of persuasion, they agreed to the proposal. The Harijan also agreed to this proposal.

From next day, the Harijan’s milk was collected in a separate can and sent to the dairy along with other milk cans. This continued for several days, under our close supervision. But, the staff of the cooperative found this exercise very difficult, so also the President of the society.

After about two weeks or so, the staff of the society started collecting the Harijan’s milk in the same can where milk from other members was collected. But, the Harijan had to stand separate and pour milk. Even this arrangement, the staff found it difficult.

Other farmers also didn’t object to the Harijan standing closer to them while giving milk. This continued for some more days. One day, the Harijan was found standing in the same queue and giving milk. The farmers didn’t object, on the contrary, they accepted the change! The Harijan was also made a member of the cooperative.

A win-win situation for the Gounder community and the Harijan! Everybody was happy: the farmers, the Harijan, the Collector and, of course, the NDDB Team.

Contributed by Dr. E. Madhavan, Former Regional Director NDDB , Mumbai


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