Cooperatives Still Vital In Corona Infected Agro-Economy
During British rule, the farmers were exploited by zamindar and village heads or influents. In order to save the farmers from poverty the cooperatives started its journey by proclamation cooperative credit society in 1904. In the course of time, this cooperative has become popular to different people irrespective of their caste and creed. There are almost one lakh and fifty thousand cooperative societies in the country. The farmers, workers and many low-income group people are inboard in the society. Through society, they have organized cooperative farms and entrepreneurships. Small-scale business or trades are also run through cooperatives. So cooperative is a good way for ensuring a sound socio-economic condition of poor people. If cooperatives are expanded and given special incentives or interest free loan, the unemployed youth may have the opportunity to earn and maintain their livelihood. Cooperative is a good concept of development. There are lot of examples who have been doing extraordinary economic activities and earning a good deal of money. Moreover, a large number of migrant workers will be jobless for corona crisis. If they become jobless, how will they maintain their livelihood and what will happen to their family members? In our country, about five crores of people are dependent on their remittances, which they send from abroad. In this stern reality of corona people's life will be very miserable. Even their school going children will be dropped out from schooling and proper study. Ultimately it will be a burden for the society. Under the circumstances, if those one crore migrant work force and their school and college going children become pro-active, given the chance for running small business and create market demand in and outside the country, only then our economy will stand and we will be able to survive. So we need a good planning where our workers can utilize the brain as well can invest the particular amount of money. The monitory subject may be considered from government side. But that must be properly handled and managed. By proper use of resources, we can stand any odd situation of economy and gradually economic condition may be improved. Once there is a positive trend in the manufacturing mechanism and at the same time quality is ensured, it would be possible to face any worse situation. Again, if products are of international standard and if we can create a good market in abroad then our demand-supply chain will be activated. Our students, youths all have to be duty bound by the strong sense of productivity.
After independence, Bangladesh as a war-ravaged country, our nation's father dreamt to build the nation by utilizing the concept of cooperatives and he wanted to bring permanent framework by using this concept. Even Bangabandhu declared this sector as the second important nationalized state resources sector. He also emphasized to launch fish firm, poultry, hatchery, handicrafts, food processing center and cottage industry. To strengthen the socio-economic state of the people, poet Rabindranath Tagore also gave due importance to this sector. He said that cooperative output may decrease the miseries of general people and income generation is increased by it. Moreover, the discrimination in between the high and low is being reduced. Poet Tagore also urged for people's unity and well-being through cooperatives. Even during his visit in Ireland he was astonished to see their cooperative movement. Today cooperative model has been recognized as a universally tested model for poverty alleviation and economic development. In many parts of the world, cooperatives are playing a pivotal role for ensuring stable and sustainable life. Many countries in the world are becoming self-developed by using this concept. In Bangladesh, it had a good role after independence by the inspiration of Dr. Akhtar Hamid. People can bring any change in individual and social life and can face any sort of challenges. Bangladesh is an agro-based country. The country has its immense possibility of development by using the cooperative concept. So, "all for each and each for all" might be the message by which our farmers will go front and take the spirit as of movement. If it so happens, Bangladesh may face the challenge of corona crisis.
One of the important ways to handle the possible economic downturn will be to appropriately mobilise the millions of micro-enterprises (ME) scattered all over the country by addressing their financing requirements. MEs are powerful job creators, agents of inclusive growth and drivers of productivity. MEs' economic activities begin with small amounts of capital investment, often financed by Microfinance Institutions (MFIs). The Bangladesh Industrial Policy 2016 defines micro-enterprises as small businesses having fixed asset values between half a million to five million Taka and 10-24 workers. Bangladesh Bank defines ME as a firm/business which is not a public limited company; they may be service or business ME with fixed assets of Tk 50,000 to 50 lakh (25 employees), or industrial ME having fixed assets of Tk 50,000 to 1.5 crore and maximum 50 employees. The return on investment is higher in micro-enterprises than in small, medium and large enterprises. The employment share of micro-enterprises is greater in developing countries compared to the developed world. Cooperative concept can play a vital role in micro-enterprises.
It is evident that the world economy will collapse due to Covid-19. We do not know what will happen in the world with this Covid-19 issue. The world may be divided, leadership will fall, and people will be crazy and critical. A different world will appear. No one will bother for his or her neighbor. Everybody will defend in his own style or way. So, for survival of nation and the people, government must have circumstantial and profound thoughts on which substantial projects program and schemes are duly taken. No ambitious program will suit to this moment. No bureaucracy, no aristocracy only strong ethical ideological plan and program may be viable which will minimize this grievous situation. Necessary measures need to be taken considering our poor people. Meanwhile, our Prime Minister has announced package program on the destitute considering their social position. Due to Covid-19 many people will lose job, many will be removed from mills and factories. In this situation, the big figure will come from the migrant workers. All the migrants will be unemployed and treated as a burden of family.
In addition, there are a number of marginal people in agriculture sector and in many other professions. To promote them agricultural loan and SME loan may be sanctioned who are occupied in different vocational and technical job. GDP might not be a subject of debate for the time. During the yearly budget time, this should not be taken into cognizance. If the corona situation appears more fatal, it may spoil the advancement of last one decade. The first priority of the time would be towards life and livelihood. The whole world is working only with this spirit, because, men are behind GDP of a country. If man can survive, GDP will survive.
Finally, it can be said employment generation and poverty alleviation need to be focused to build up a self-reliant Bangladesh through the cooperatives movement. So, building up an honest and skilled administration is necessary in every cooperative to achieve desired results. The government should take proper initiatives in a bid to increase public-cooperative partnership in different development activities and enacting laws to boost the country's cooperative sector. Every year different program has been undertaken by the cooperative department. This year it will be observed with commitment to fulfilling the goals of cooperative movement. Again, the day will carry the message to implement the program throughout the country by its effective plan and to materialize the SDG-2030 and all other vision-oriented activities aiming to fulfill Bangabandhu's dream by cooperative concepts.
(Dr. Forqan Uddin Ahmed is former DDG of Bangladesh Ansar & VDP)