Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad, popularly known as Lijjat, is an Indian women’s cooperative involved in manufacturing of various fast-moving consumer goods. The organisation’s main objective is empowerment of women by providing them employment opportunities. In an exclusive interview with Ankur Trivedi of Elets News Network (ENN), Pushpa Berry, Sanchalika, Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad, talks about the challenges faced in managing its Jabalpur branch without getting support from its head office in Mumbai. She also highlights the need to provide its female workers with a decent living place keeping in mind their security and sanitation needs. Excerpts:
How does your organization work?
In this organization, our female working population becomes the owner and shareholder of the company right from the day they start working without investing a single penny. It is a beautiful and unique concept that we created. The ladies then share the full profit as well without investing anything. At the end of the year, the full profit goes to these lady members in the ratio of the work they do during the year so that there is no dissatisfaction amongst them. Now, they are paid on a weekly basis for the work they do. These are the main things we keep in mind to provide a good working environment, otherwise there will be frequent dissatisfaction over the amount shared with everyone. We were running in losses for the first 2-3 years. After that, we started earning and then distributing the revenue as well. In 38 years in all, we have distributed Rs. 78 crores for the ratio of work the lady members have done. This year, as many as 3,415 ladies will get `9.2 crore which is going to be 125 percent of their earnings. Our branch is the biggest in India housing 3,415 females and the money they get is double the amount of what they are paid in other branches.
Have you been a part of any dispute ever?
We had a fight with our head office. We disputed that all the branches are supposed to be independent in their purchase, sale and policy matters but it wasn’t actually getting practised. So we said that we will do our own purchasing adhering to the same quality which they didn’t agree to. So the head office concluded closing down the Jabalpur branch so we went to the court.
How are you renewing your assets when you are distributing everything between your working members?
It is something that people should obviously be aware about in terms of the strategy we adopt for revenue distribution. For example, I have to distribute `9,20,00,000 (for the year 2015-2016) between my working members out which I will transfer `4,50,00,000 crore to their bank accounts. Now, half the amount left with us is invested in the infrastructure of machines and furniture on a month-by-month basis. Then I will start paying the rest of the amount from the next month with a back-date rate of interest. This way, we will distribute the entire amount of `9,20,000 in four months through the channel of earning and then distributing.
What are the challenges you face?
The biggest problem is that of dealing with the head office. I don’t take anything as a challenge, rather I try and deal with whatever comes my way. For example, I have been asked to pay income tax on what we earn but I don’t agree to it. My point is that this is the income of the 3,415 ladies, which is then distributed amongst them and I am not their boss. So every year, I have to go to the court consistently to take a stay to not pay the income tax.
Our institution has been recognised under KVIC (Khadi and Village Industries Commission) which entitles us to not pay any income tax. Our head office does not see us as one of the branches. Then we went to KVIC and gave them the right of information letter proving our “branch” status. Therefore, if we are still a branch, then why should we pay the income tax. We have even submitted our papers in the court showing our acceptance by KVIC.
Do you have any suggestions for our upcoming Jabalpur Smart City event?
The government is talking about developing a smart city today whereas I had mooted the same idea way back in the year 2000. I had suggested making a place called “Lijjat Nagar” by buying land from the government to develop a respectable place of living for all the female workers of Lijjat along with their families. The idea was to provide employment even to the non-working spouses of these ladies and give them a better life. But things could not shape up and hence the idea could not be implemented then. But it is better late than never and making smart cities is denitely a welcome move by the government.
Do you want to say anything else about Lijjat?
I would still want to provide a decent place of living for my female working class as a lot of them do not have proper accommodation even now. JMC had proposed giving us flats by taking a nominal amount from us and then investing it further through a loan taken. This was was highly appreciated by my ladies, 700 of whom applied for the same giving their bank account details as well. But nothing happened for the last 3-4 months. JMC had said that it would need to ascertain if these workers fall under any scheme and if at all, have a problem living in their present accommodation. Even aer saying so, nothing materialized from their end. I just want to provide my workers with a safer place in the midst of rising threat of robberies. The idea was also to equip them with basic facilities such as the supply of water and electricity.