Some unscrupulous cooperative operators have given the entire idea of this community-based economic approach a bad name
That the Problematic Cooperatives Wealth Management Committee (PCWMC) has sought claims from victims of Oriental Cooperatives, which was found to have committed the biggest fraud ever in the cooperative sector, comes as a big respite for those depositors who have been cheated. A Cooperatives Investigation Commission (CIC) formed by the government under the leadership of former Special Court chairman Gauri Bahadur Karki had found that Oriental Cooperatives had defrauded Rs 4.20 billion of 11,840 depositors. Now, the PCWMC, which is also led by Karki, has asked the victims to file claims through various coordination offices in each province by May 20. Hopefully, those who were swindled by this particular crooked company will get justice soon. But this is not the only company which has given cooperatives a bad name. The CIC said in November that it had found as many as 160 cooperatives in the Kathmandu Valley alone to be “problematic”, setting off alarm bells among depositors.
The cooperatives run by some unscrupulous individuals may have made the whole idea of this community-based economic approach look bad, but the real problem lies with lack of implementation of the regulations. The constitution has defined cooperatives as the third pillar of economy. Nepal has seen a tremendous growth of cooperatives since 1990, and they have played a vital role in boosting economic activities. By definition, a cooperative is an autonomous association of a group of interested members who get together to work and achieve their common goal of meeting economic, social and cultural needs. Some countries – for example India and Israel – have done extremely well in cooperatives which have helped improve living conditions of farmers in rural areas. Since cooperatives are jointly owned by all its members and decision making is democratically controlled, they can prove to be the most cost-effective and sustainable solution for financial and non-financial services in the rural areas.
But in Nepal, the priority seems to be misplaced, with cooperatives turning into micro-financing institutions. Cooperatives, mostly in urban centres, operate as saving and lending organisations. Management committees of some cooperatives lure depositors into parking their money with them for high rate of return. Cooperatives executives have been found to have used depositors’ money in housing, real estate and land plotting businesses, digressing from the original concept of cooperatives. This is exactly what happened in the case of Oriental Cooperatives. The ultimate goal of cooperatives should be the welfare of the community, which we have seen in various rural parts where cooperatives have their own wonderful success stories. They have not only worked well to create economic linkages at the grassroots but also to help uplift the living standards of farmers and empower women economically. They have seen a good growth with investments in various sectors such as dairy, vegetables, tea and coffee. For cooperatives to function as a strong third pillar of economy, the government needs to regulate them properly. Unscrupulous cooperatives must be forced to shut shop. The state must protect small savers.
District Public Health Office (DPO), Rupandehi has warned that the district has high risk of dengue outbreak. The DPO said as many as 280 people were found to be infected with the disease and two of them had died in the past 10 months of this fiscal. This is the highest number of people suffering from the disease, which affects people when female mosquitoes, mainly of the Aedes species, bite them. If a person is bitten second time, it will be very severe, according to Dr Rakesh Ashwani at the Universal College of Medical Sciences and Teaching Hospital, Bhairahawa.
The hospital has found that more people living in the southern part of the district are more prone to the disease than those living in the northern part. Doctors have advised people to be safe from mosquito bites. High fever, headache, eye ball ache, backbone ache, pain in bone and muscle, bleeding from nose and gum from other parts are the major symptoms of dengue. Keeping the local area clean is important to be safe from dengue outbreak. Flower vase, tyres, water tanks, refrigerators and water logs must be cleaned regularly to drive away mosquitoes from laying eggs. Summer is the season of dengue outbreak.
A version of this article appears in print on April 17, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.