New Delhi: A Constitution amendment bill seeking to make the right to form cooperative societies a Fundamental Right was moved in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.
   
"It is expected that these provisions (in the Bill) will not only ensure autonomous and democratic functioning of cooperatives, but (will also) enhance public faith in these institutions", Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said, moving the bill for consideration and passage.
   
The amendments, he said, will ensure accountability of management of cooperatives and provide for deterrence for violation of the provisions of the law.
   
"Right to form cooperatives societies (will be made) a Fundamental Right by insertion of words 'cooperative societies in sub clause (c) of clause (1) of Article 19," Pawar said, adding by doing so the government has accepted one of the major recommendations of the Standing Committee which had earlier scrutinised the 111th Constitution bill.
   
The Bill, he said, has taken care of the other suggestion of the Committee by introducing provisions for setting up a specialised agency on the lines of Election Commission for conducting elections of the cooperative societies.
   
The basic objective of the bill, Pawar said, is to ensure that the cooperative societies function in a democratic, professional, autonomous and economically sound manner.
   
The changes in the Constitution will empower Parliament in case of multi-state cooperative societies and state legislatures in case of other cooperative societies to make effective laws for running of such institutions. The Bill, Pawar said, seeks to incorporate a clause in the
Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution for voluntary formation, autonomous functioning, democratic control and professional management of cooperative societies.
   
In the Bill, there will be provision for incorporation, regulation and winding up of cooperative based on the principles of democracy.
   
There will also be cap on the number of directors of a cooperative society at 21, he said, adding the term of each director and office bearers of the board will have a term of five years.
   
The Bill prescribes a time limit of six months for which a board of cooperative society can be kept under suspension by the government.
   
The changes also provide for independent professional audit of cooperative societies and right of access to information to members of such institutions.
   
Pawar said the bill will empower the government to obtain periodic reports of the activities and accounts of cooperative societies.
   
There will be provision for reserving one seat for SC/ST and two seats for women on the board of every cooperative society.
   
The bill outlines the offences relating to functioning of cooperative societies and penalty for their violation.
   
Presently, cooperative societies function in several sectors like agricultural, housing, fertilisers, dairy, fisheries, handloom and handicrafts.

Regretting that many cooperative institutions are not being managed professionally, Pawar said, "The performance in qualitative terms has not been up to the desired level.”
   
"In many cases, these cooperatives are heavily dependent on financial support from the government, which has led to intervention in their day to day functioning. There are also instances of avoidable political interference in working of these institutions," he said.
   
Under the current provisions, cooperatives present in several states are regulated by Multi-State Cooperative Societies Act, 1984, while those operating in one state are governed by the legislation of the respective state.
   
Anto Antony (Cong), Shailendra Kumar (SP), Anandrao Adsul (Shiv Sena) and Baliram (BSP) also participated in the debate.

(Agencies)