Cooperative societies work to uplift weaker section of society: H.K Sharma

H.K Sharma, Secretary of Cooperative Department, Sikkim

The vision of the Department is to bring the majority of people of the state under the cooperative fold for overall socio-economic development in a sustainable manner, says H.K Sharma, Secretary of Cooperative Department, Sikkim in an interview with Elets News Network (ENN).

What is the vision of the Cooperative Department, Sikkim?

The main objective for establishing the Cooperative Department was to provide impetus to the Cooperative Management in the state. As an institution based department, we work as a facilitator for cooperative societies in terms of providing legal framework under which cooperative societies are registered. We also provide guidance and financial support.

It is the vision of the department to bring the majority of the state’s people under the cooperative fold for overall socio-economic development of the state in a sustainable manner by settling different profit making business depending upon the scope of raw materials and market so that like-minded people join hands to establish any profit oriented business through cooperative societies.

What are the major sectors or departments that come under the purview of this department and what are the roles played by the Department to develop these sectors?

The cooperatives were registered initially for public distribution system and consumer items. Over the period of time, agriculture and allied activities, tourism have become some of the major sectors where cooperatives have been registered. Besides, cooperatives under education, health and public works (contractor and labor) have also been registered. The department also addresses the agricultural credit need of the people through cooperative banks and primary agriculture cooperative societies.

As the secretary of the department, what are the initiatives taken by you?

Since my posting to the department in July 2019, I have extensively toured and visited cooperatives registered in the rural areas taking stock of all the challenges faced by the cooperative societies. We have identified weak cooperatives and have taken initiatives to adopt these by our field functionaries. Initiative is also being taken to go beyond the consumer business and motivate people to register cooperatives in different sector like tourism, health, on value addition etc. We are laying emphasis on educating and spreading awareness amongst people as well. We are also taking initiatives to make cooperative programmes into government policies and making cooperative a priority policy of the state.

What are the various welfare measures taken for the development of the weaker members of the state?

Cooperative societies are basically business institutions for the upliftment of socio-economic needs of the weaker section of society. It is owned and managed by the members themselves and are democratically controlled by the elected board of members. Though our legally binding Act and Rules of the state governing the cooperative societies, it is ensured that there is equal representation of weaker section of members in the board enabling them to voice their opinion in management of the cooperatives. The government has also helped in subscribing share capital in the cooperatives for the weaker sections of society. Several welfare schemes of government like distribution of Public Distribution System Items have also been channelised through cooperatives. Rural credit needs of people have also been addressed through cooperative sector. Marketing of agricultural produce has also been to a certain extent channelised through cooperatives. Majority of the weaker section members can avail these benefits through cooperative societies.

How are you leveraging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Blockchain etc for offering seamless services to the citizens?

Since the cooperative sectors are developing in the state and is already facing challenge in terms of technology. Most cooperatives in Sikkim are way behind in IT. We have a huge challenge in making our cooperative societies avail IT and at the first instance we are taking steps to computerising our cooperatives.

What is your message for the readers of eGov magazine?

It is the duty of every citizen of the country to support the government in its e-governance policy if we have to move ahead and be a part with the rest of the world. eGovernance magazine has been putting its sincere efforts to reach to all sections of society. I wish all the very best in their endeavour.