| Co-Operatives In Natural Resources Management Workshop report 10 |
Another set of co-operatives studied by collaborators were land-based commodity co-operatives such as minor forest produce (MFP) co-operatives in Raipur (M.P.) by Marothia (1992), a sheep breeders’ co-operative in Rajasthan by Ray (1992) and salt miners’ co-operatives in the Little Rann of Kutch by Singh and Bhattacharya (1992). The primary purpose of establishment of these co-operatives was to remove exploitation of members by the middlemen and contractors and provide an alternate channel for marketing. These case-studies focused on co-operatives of communities which depend for their livelihood on natural resources. In the first case, the resource was a natural reserved forest from which members gathered MFP. In the second one, the resource was a common pool range land; and in the third case, it was brine - a CPR. The MFP co-operatives studied by Marothia were more like government bodies than people’s organisation. The members had little control on their management. According to Marothia, the co-operatives could not provide substantial benefits to members, except perhaps, to ensure proper wages. The primary co-operatives were poorly managed and their members did not have much participation in their affairs except by way of collection of MFP and their disposal through them. In contrast, the overall control of the sheep breeders’ co-operative was in the hands of its members. But a closer and more critical examination revealed that most of the members were either nominated or came from special caste groups. As a result, the sense of participation was lacking among members for whom certain number of seats were reserved. A sense of indifference was dominant among the members and it was the manager, a paid employee, who was running the entire show. Non-members were not interested in becoming members of the society (Ray, 1992). This shows that people did not think that the society would be able to meet their objectives.
Singh and Bhattacharya’s (1992) case-study of mandalis (salt miners’ co-operatives) in Kutch, describes the plight of poor agarias (salt miners), mostly landless poor, the process and economics of salt manufacture, and marketing of salt. The case-study suggests that the lot of agarias could be improved by increasing the efficiency of mandalis and enhancing their access to larger areas of brine. But amid a situation where already private salt traders having a strong hold on marketing and production operation (65 percent), how mandalis can be made effective is moot point. The authors, however, feel that since government owns the existing brine resource it has leverage to restructure the mandalis in favour of poor agarias by leasing out more areas of brine to mandalis. Restructuring mandalis on the line of Anand Pattern dairy co-operatives will not only save brine which is a CPR from uncontrolled exploitation by private traders but would also ensure social justice for which poor agarias are craving for years.