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Labour & Development, Vol.

18, June 2011


65

Rethinking Cooperatives in Rural


Development: A Case Study of Handloom
Weavers Cooperatives in Manipur
Otojit Kshetrimayum* 4

Handloom weaving is the torchbearer of Manipurs culture and heritage.


It is also the largest cottage industry in the State. It is a household
activity based on age-old tradition. Every household used to have
its own loom and produced cloths for its family members. The family
becomes an occupational unit by the fact that they have a skill in it. An
individuals status was evaluated on the basis of skill and craftsmanship.
The industry which started to meet limited demands developed as a
profession for certain groups of people and the ideas of commercialisation
and marketing of the products as a means of economy entered the
field. The introduction of cooperatives has added a new dimension
in the process of industrialisation of handloom sector in Manipur.
Cooperatives are one of the implementing strategies of the Gandhian
model of rural development. Therefore, the study makes an attempt
to bring out how the modern development of cooperatives changes the
structure of handloom weaving in rural Manipur with ramifications
spreading out from the family to the global market. This paper tries to
investigate the role of cooperatives as an agent of rural development in
the form of empowerment of rural women with reference to handloom
weavers cooperative societies of Manipur. It also seeks to examine the
constraining factors in the role of the cooperatives as an instrument of
rural development in Manipur.

I. INTRODUCTION

The rural economy of India is facing the problem of rural


unemployment, rural inequality and rural poverty. These three basic
problems confronting the rural economy are sought to be addressed by
depending upon the efficiencies of rural industries, which adopt the labour
intensive technique of production. A low income and labour surplus
economy like India cannot dispense with the employment intensive
industrial development. It was in recognition of this aspect that promotion
of handicrafts, handlooms, tiny and small industries have been an objective
in the post-independence period in India. The state has been acting as the

* Associate Fellow, V.V. Giri National Labour Institute, NOIDA. E-mail: otojit@gmail.com
66 Labour & Development

facilitator of development with application of various instruments. One


of the instruments is cooperative society. The cooperative society is the
institution close to the people and formed with the article of unified action
based on available local resources. This is perhaps one advantage having
strong bearing upon the process of economic decentralisation.

The introduction of Cooperative Credit Societies Act in 1904 marked


the beginning of the cooperative movement in India. The objective
of this Act, as stated in its preamble, was to encourage thrift, self help
and cooperation amongst agriculturists, artisans and persons of limited
means. The movement gave a fresh impetus with the enactment of another
Cooperative Societies Act in 1912. As a result, the number of societies,
their membership and the amount of working capital increased steadily
(Mathur, 1988: 65-76). Since the attainment of Indias independence,
cooperatives assumed a great significance in poverty removal and faster
socio-economic growth. The Union Government has formulated a National
Policy on Cooperatives in consultation with States. The objective of the
National Policy is to facilitate all-round development of the cooperatives in
the country and to work as guiding force for the States towards successful
cooperatives. The policy, envisages that cooperatives be provided
necessary support, encouragement and assistance and to ensure that they
work as autonomous self-reliant and democratically managed institutions
accountable to their members.

The government has, from time to time taken important steps


to reorganise and to develop the cooperative movement in terms of
recommendations of various committees and acts like Cooperative
Planning Committee (1946), All India Rural Credit Survey Committee
(1954), Vaikunth Lal Mehta Committee (1960), Multi-State Cooperative
Societies Act (2002), The NCDC (Amendment) Act (2002) etc. Further, with
the advent of the planning process, cooperatives became an integral part of
the Five Year Plans. In fact, it is considered as the basis of planned growth
and social development. The Cooperative Planning Committee observed,
The cooperative society has an important role to play as the most suitable
medium for the democratisation of economic planning. It provides the
local unit, which can fulfill the dual function of educating public opinion
in favour of a plan and of execution (Report of the Cooperative Planning
Committee, 1946).

The main thrust of Handloom Weavers Cooperative Societies is


to promote the working of handloom industry as well as economic
conditions of the weavers by providing infrastructural support. These
Rethinking Cooperatives in Rural Development 67

societies have these objectives: to safeguard the interests of the weavers


from the exploitation of and clutches of the middlemen; to supply of raw
materials, equipments and other facilities to the members according to
their capability of production; to provide finance for promoting industrial
activities of the members; to provide technical assistance for raising
and maintaining quality in texture, dyeing and production of standard
goods; to provide training in new and sophisticated designs which have
high demand; and to dispose reasonable wages regularly to the weaving
members to enable them to continue in the weaving profession thereby
improving their standard of living as well as improving the handloom
production. It is in this context that a very pertinent question which needs
to be explored here is Do these cooperatives really empower the weavers?
We are going to investigate this by taking up a case study of handloom
cooperative weavers of Manipur who are exclusively women.

II. THE CRAFT OF WEAVING

There are many myths about the origin of cloth and weaving in India.
The hill people of East and West India tell a story of the first weaver, a
girl named Hambrumai, who used to lie in the forest and look up at the
interlacing of the branches and leaves, or watch the ripples in the stream
and then imitate these images by weaving beautiful cloth. However, the
porcupine, Harium, was jealous and tried to steal her cloth. He shattered
her loom with a rock and let the fragments fall into the river where they
washed downstream to the plains. There, the people pieced the loom back
together and learned how to weave.

The art of weaving of the meiteis of Manipur is based on a mythical


foundation. The meities are the predominant community in Manipur.
According to the manuscript on mythology called leinunglon, the
supreme goddess of the traditional pantheon, leimarel is said to have
had introduced the work of weaving as a necessary item of work in the
whole course of creation of the universe. It is also stated that the goddess
panthoibi was the first primeval celestial ancestress of the Meitei and it
was she who introduced the art of weaving by imitating the pattern of
weave that a spider applies when it is weaving its cobweb. The leinunglon
mentions that the first cloth made by panthoibi was of material obtained
from the soft membrane of wood and bamboo. It is recorded in the same
source that tamitnu, one of the seven primeval celestial ancestress of the
Meitei, produced cotton for manufacturing cloth for the first time. For this,
She is known as the goddess of cotton. The manuscript also states that
leimarel, the chief of those seven primeval ancestress, invented the art of
68 Labour & Development

making thread yarn from raw cotton for use in weaving. To commemorate
this achievement, the office of sinkhombi was instituted, and maintained
throughout the history of the people, to look after the craft of weaving. The
place where the weaving is done was called sinsang. The word sinsang
also refers to the institution that functions as the administrative machinery
to deal with the production of royal cloths.

According to the Meitei mythological traditions, the most ancient


female dress is the chinphi phanek and the laiphi (muslin) and the first
male style of dressing the loin is the khwangli laikhal. The creation myth
of the meiteis holds it that the seven goddesses and the nine gods who
performed the creation works were clad in the respective dress mentioned
above.

Since the yore, the meiteis have been observing the ritualistic festival
of umanglai haraoba (or lai haraoba). One of the important rituals of
lai haraoba is the performance of the dance of pam yanba. In this ritual
dance, the hand movements of the maibis (priestess) accompanied with
songs depict cultivation of land and sowing of cotton seeds, plucking of
cotton, ginning, carding, then spinning and weaving of clothes, cutting it
and finally dedicating it to lainingthou (male deity) and lairembi (female
deity) for the prosperity and well-being of the people and the land.
From this ritual dance depiction, it can be asserted that from early times
people dedicated their hand-woven clothes before using to liningthou
and lairembi. Moreover, amongst the meiteis, use of hand spun and hand
woven cotton fabric is part of their traditional ritual. For instance, not only
the traditional priests and priestesses (maibas and maibis) use hand spun
and hand-woven fabrics in the performance of lai haraoba but also those
who participate in the procession.

A framework of evolution of weaving in Manipur from mythological,


royal, and colonial to state patronage can be developed. Under the royal
patronage the craft of weaving was lineage based and feudalistic. While
there was modernisation and institutionalisation during the colonial rule,
the process of cooperatisation and entrepreneurship started under the
modern democratic state. The framework can be represented as follows:

Under royal patronage Lineage based, Feudalistic

Under Colonial rule Modernisation, Institutionalisation

Under the state Cooperatisation, Entrepreneurship


Rethinking Cooperatives in Rural Development 69

The handloom weaving industry in Manipur is a household activity


based on age-old tradition. It is the torchbearer of Manipur culture and
heritage. It is also the largest cottage industry in the State. Weaving industry
in Manipur is not just an economic activity, which needs only economic
explanation. It may be said that there is concomitant relationship between
its origin as an industry and the cultural demand of society. The industry
is sustained, as there is need of the costumes of different clans and for
various secular and religious occasions. So, it is a medium, which serves
as a repository and transmitter of culture and civilisation. The costumes
serve as narratives of a different kind, which is neither oral nor written but
one, which inheres and tells the history, cultural identity, social structure,
gender roles etc. This means that there is a deeper structure cloistered in the
handloom works apart from its economic understanding.Owing to these
cultural connotations, weaving was a very popular household industry in
the traditional Meitei world.

One of the special features of this industry in Manipur is that women


are the only weavers. Majority of the weavers in the state are self-employed
artisans who are carrying on their profession in their own homes with the
assistance of their family members in pre-loom and post-loom process.
The industry which started to meet limited demands developed as a
profession for certain groups of people and the ideas of commercialisation
and marketing of the products as a means of economy entered the field.
The introduction of cooperatives has added a new dimension in the process
of industrialisation of the handloom sector in Manipur.

In Manipur, the formal cooperative movement was introduced in 1939


with the extension of Indian Cooperative Societies Act, 1912. Cooperative
movement with 350 Societies having a membership of 21,000 in the
year 1950-51 now comprises of 5,493 Cooperative Societies with a total
membership of 5,08,748 (as on 31st March 2011). With the organisation
of weavers cooperatives in the state in the year 1951-52, a new era for
handloom industry began. The weaving cooperatives were organised and
established with a view to help the weavers particularly in the supply of
raw materials, such as yarn and marketing of the products. The Manipur
State Handloom Weavers Cooperative Society was established in the year
1955 as an apex institution to play a pivotal role to procure and supply
the required raw materials and equipments to the weavers and to market
finished products of the societies affiliated to the State Society. There are
1,700 handloom weavers cooperative societies with 1, 89,465 members
(Annual Administration Report, 2010-11). This shows that handloom
70 Labour & Development

weavers cooperatives constitute about 31per cent and 22 per cent of the
total cooperatives and members respectively in Manipur. The movement
has now covered the whole of Manipur.

III. COOPERATIVES: A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK

Cooperatives are one of the implementing strategies of Gandhian


model of rural development. Gandhiji saw a great virtue in cooperation as
an instrument of rural development (Singh, 1999: 85-89). Cooperatives are
considered as significant tools to adopt participatory approach not only
for the rural development but also economic empowerment of women. A
distinctive feature of these bodies is that they are organised on the basis
of certain principles, the most important of which, from the sociologists
point of view, are equality among members and the democratic principle
in management. Cooperatives are self-help organisations based on certain
rules and regulations and democratic principles. They serve as a training
ground and prepare the members for their active part in the larger
sphere of political democracy (Rajagopalan, 1970: xvi). Deviating from
contemporary social movements theory which emphasises centralised
organisational forms, Sangeetha Purushothanam amply demonstrates that
a decentralised, loosely structured network of organisations can actually
increase the visibility and participation of poor women, enable them to
bargain for resources, and change state policy, while simultaneously
protecting the autonomy of the organisations involved (Purushotaman,
1998).

A cooperative society is defined by the International Cooperative


Alliance (ICA) in its Congress held in Manchester in 1995 as an autonomous
association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic,
social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and
democratically controlled enterprise. The following seven principles
were formulated in the Congress i) Voluntary and Open Membership;
ii) Democratic Member Control; iii) Member Economic Participation; iv)
Autonomy and Independence; v) Education, Training and Information; vi)
Cooperation among Cooperatives; vii) Concern for Community.

The co-operative movement grew out of a need to change the existing


society through an ideology based on egalitarianism. The early co-operators
such as the Rochdale Pioneers and Robert Owen in England, Herr Schultz
and F. W. Raiffeinsen in Germany propagated the co-operative movement
as an alternative to the exploitative nature of capitalist society in nineteenth
century Europe. Co-operation for them was a vehicle through which
Rethinking Cooperatives in Rural Development 71

capitalist exploitation could be replaced by an egalitarian and just society.


They envisioned co-operatives as instruments for transforming their
societies. In this way, the objectives of co-operatives differ not only from
those of private enterprise but also from traditional forms of exchange and
reciprocal relations.

A cooperative does not exist in principality only. It is an organisation,


an economic enterprise, which has certain structure. It exists in a society and
not outside it. It is the elasticity of the permissiveness and the need structure
of a given society which determine the nature and type of cooperative
associations. A cooperative is affected by the surrounding structure-its
structure and objective for which it is formed are influenced by societal
conditions. Digby considered cooperation as an economic enterprise, the
structure and objective of which are somewhat between those of a private
enterprise and public undertaking (Digby, 1972). Florence emphasises
the absence of a capital providing class in a cooperative (Florence, 1968:
390-396). Fay considers a cooperative as originating among the weak for
joint trading. For him Cooperative describes producers and consumers
not as possessors, nor as individuals or role occupants, but as social beings
consciously pooling their resources in mutually beneficial ways, in the
name of a common ideal and in common opposition, too, to those people
and institution seeking to exploit them (Fay, 1952).

IV. METHODOLOGY

The overall objective of the present study is to analyse the relationship


between cooperatives and rural development in terms of whether being
a cooperative member has really empowered the handloom weavers
who are exclusively women and rural based. It also tries to examine the
constraining factors in the role of handloom weavers cooperative societies
as an instrument of rural development in Manipur. This study has covered
five villages of Imphal East district of Manipur viz., Ucheckon, Bashikhong,
Khurai Sajor Leikai, Khurai Thangjam Leikai and Khurai Khonangkhong.
For this study, 250 handloom cooperative weavers belonging to these
five villages were selected through random sampling. The primary data
were collected with the help of an interview schedule. Focused group
discussions were also conducted.
72 Labour & Development

V. ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION

5.1 Age Group of Members of Cooperatives

Age and socio-economic activities are inter-related. The study shows


that majority of the members belong to the 36-45 age group with 46 per
cent followed by 46-55 age group with 24 per cent. Only 5.6 per cent and
6.4 per cent of the total respondents belong to 18-25 and above 55 age
groups respectively, which may imply that there is less involvement of
younger and much older generations in the cooperative activities.

5.2 Educational Qualification of Members

Education is an important determining factor of ones social


consciousness. It is observed from this study that majority of the
respondents i.e., 57.6 per cent are undermatric, which may generally affect
their level of awareness and decision making.

5.3 Annual Family Income of the Members

The data shows that about half of the total respondents have an annual
family income of less than ten thousand rupees. This indicates that most
of the weavers belong to very poor families. Therefore, they do not have
sufficient capital to invest in their work i.e., weaving.

5.4 Nature of Joining the Cooperative

Decision making is also another facet of empowerment. It is important


to underscore under which circumstances the members join cooperative. It
is observed that the least percent i.e., 25.6 per cent of the total respondents
became cooperative membership only through meeting and consensus
among the prospective members. However, majority of the respondents
became members either through relatives and neighbours initiative and
enrolment through persuasion made by the President or the Chairman of
the cooperative society. This very nature of forming a cooperative is quite
contrary to one of the basic principles of cooperative i.e., voluntary and
open membership.

5.5 Reasons for Joining the Cooperative

One of the significant findings of the study is that nearly 50 per cent
of the total respondents join cooperatives as members because they feel
that it is part of their traditional occupation. While 29.6 per cent join it in
the hope of getting loan, 12 per cent and 8.8 per cent cited employment
Rethinking Cooperatives in Rural Development 73

and training respectively as their reasons. It is thus clear from this finding
that members are not aware of the main thrust of cooperative, which is
providing employment, credit and training.

5.6 Nature of Work of the Members

The nature of employment remains discouraging with part-time


weavers accounting for nearly 70 per cent. This indicates the marginal
importance given to weaving occupation as a basic and competitive source
of employment. One of the factors for this kind of condition may be due to
occupational multiplicity based on flexi-time. With this kind of prevailing
nature of work-culture the weavers cannot improve their economic status
in particular by just being a member of the society.

5.7 Types of Assistance Received by the Members

The main objectives of cooperative societies are to provide assistance


in terms of credit, training, infrastructure and marketing to their members.
Here, it is observed that maximum number of respondents have not
received any assistance from the society. Among the assistance received,
raw material stands the highest followed by credit. However, marketing
facility, which is considered to be one of the important instrument and for
ensuring better returns on the investment made by the weavers, is found to
be dismal. Therefore the link between the weavers and the market, which
the cooperatives are expected to provide, is indeed a failure.

5.8 Income Earned before and after Joining Cooperative

On question relating to income, it is observed that 66.4 per cent of the


respondents earn a monthly income between ` 0 - ` 500 both before and after
joining the society. This implies that there is no increase in income of the
weavers even after they join the society. However, there is slight increase
in income among the high monthly income earners. This may be due to
their involvement in the production of highly intricate designed products,
which are in great demand both in the domestic and national markets.
Thus, we could see the prevalence of hierarchy among the weavers. This
disparity in income clearly shows that cooperative does not enhance the
economic status of its members as a whole.

5.9 Awareness of Objectives and By-Laws of Cooperative

It is a general understanding that a member of an organisation


should have an awareness of its objectives and other matters related to it.
However, this study found out that nearly two-third of the members of the
74 Labour & Development

societies were unaware of these issues. This lack of consciousness among


the members clearly implies that they are passive participants, which
will in no way help them as one of the beneficiaries of the cooperative
movement.

5.10 Members Working for Middlemen

One of the objectives of cooperative is to safeguard the interests of


the weavers from the exploitation of and clutches of the middlemen.
However, the findings of this study show that almost two-third of the
total respondents still work for the middlemen. This implies that the poor
weavers have no alternative other than the middlemen for their survival.
This has a highly negative implication on the weavers socio-economic
empowerment as they are paid less wages.

5.11 Awareness of Any Central or State Government Welfare Schemes


for the Weavers

Some of the handloom development and welfare schemes implemented


by the government are Project Package Scheme, Deen Dayal Hathkargha
Protsahan Yojana, Integrated Handloom Village Development Project,
Workshed-cum-Housing, Health Package Scheme and other miscellaneous
handloom schemes. However, nearly 85 percent of the respondents are not
aware of any of these schemes. This clearly indicates the lowest level of
motivation and awareness among the weavers and the prevalence of one-
man institution.

In the course of our investigation, we have found various constraining


factors in the role of cooperatives as an agent of rural development. Most
of the weavers work as part time weavers with less professional outlook.
This is because of the existing social order where a housewife practically
manages all activities in the family, which becomes a constraint on the
production trend of the societies particularly in this age of rising commercial
competition from mill-made clothes. The low average earning of a member
per month may also explain the tendency for part time weaving. There
also occurs the flexi-time theory in weaving sector of Manipur. Most of
the part time weavers are involved in occupational multiplicity without
much importance being given to professional competence on large scale.
This has also resulted in the limited scale of production with static design
and innovation.

There is lack of sound commercial organisation of the society. It has


been observed that the societies do not function as commercial enterprises
Rethinking Cooperatives in Rural Development 75

based on professional norms, financial disciplines and written by-laws.


From time to time, one could also find the problem of vested interest of
a handful few who tend to dominate the process of decision making,
operational plan and implementation. The broad based discussion among
the members with reference to competitive market is fairly low. There are
also many one-man societies where prolonged continuation of the same
person as the sole executive is observed.

Another interesting observation is the use of land, either by the


President or the Secretary for the construction of office building and work
shed of the societies. The private land of the President or the Secretary is
hypothecated in the name of the society on paper. Now the land legally
belongs to the society. Office building and work shed are constructed on
the land. The members of the family continue to avail of the benefit of
accommodation for various purposes in the building being constructed.
Cosy drawing rooms, kitchen and bedrooms are seen in the premises of
the building. As such the purpose of the work-shed and office becomes
secondary. There is also a feeling among the functionaries of the cooperative
societies for having the office within their easy reach.

It is equally interesting to have reference to a list of members of


the weaving cooperative societies belonging to the same family and
close relatives. The promoter of the society particularly presidents and
secretaries have a tendency of getting the expected benefits monopolised
within the limited framework of family members and relatives. In some
cases, the societies have become a new form of individual property and a
mere family enterprise. Thus, the consideration of competitive production
becomes secondary while the primary consideration is to get full advantage
of loans, grants and subsidies.

The weaving cooperative societies in Manipur have been experiencing


the problem of fluctuating supply of yarn. The yarns of various kinds
required by the weaving cooperatives come from different states like West
Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra etc. The yarn supply in Imphal
market is controlled by a few businessmen. This has created one of the
serious constraints on the diversification of production. While some of the
weavers have commendable skills of diversified production of competitive
designs, production remains impossible with limited availability of
yarns.

The study reveals that there has not been any change in the type of
technology used for production in weaving industry in Manipur. The
76 Labour & Development

weavers still use the traditional loin looms, throw-shuttle looms and fly-
shuttle looms for their production. This has increased the burden on the
workforce and also increases the cost of production in the long run.

It has also been observed that practically the cooperative societies are
running mainly for the purpose of production with negligible attention to
the marketing system. There are no marketing cooperatives based on set
principles of large scale marketing. This has been one of the major hurdles
on the expansion or diversification of production of weavers cooperative
societies in Manipur.

The investigation reveals that there has been very low percentage of
cooperatives and also members who received credit or financial assistance
from the government. This shows that the societies in Manipur cannot
avail of the benefit of economies of scale because of lack of sufficient
credit support. Another factor, which affects the proper functioning of
cooperatives, is the inefficiency and unaccountability of the government
departments. The economic atmosphere has been largely disturbed by the
unabated practice of corruption and equally affected by bribery, nepotism
and favoritism.

VI. CONCLUSION

Rural development as a process aimed at improving the well being


and self realisation of people living outside the urbanised areas through
collective effort (Copp, 1972: 515-533). It is a strategy to enable a specific
group of people, poor rural women and men, to gain for themselves and
their children more of what they want and need. It involves helping the
poorest among those who seek a livelihood in the rural areas to demand
and control more of the benefits of rural development (Chambers,
1983:147). Cooperatives are organisations and one of the determinants
of rural development. The cooperative form of organisation is solely
designed for promoting the mutual interests of user patrons on the basis
of equality and equity. It is controlled by them on a democratic basis. It is
a local organisation, and provides for local participation. It is responsive
to local needs, as its policy is decided democratically by the local member-
users. It serves as a training ground for rural people in business and in
democracy (Singh, 1999: 109).

Cooperatives not only provide economic empowerment but also


socio-political empowerment to the people involved. Empowerment
is defined as a process by which the powerless gain control over the
Rethinking Cooperatives in Rural Development 77

circumstances of their lives. It includes both control over ideology and


attitudes (Batliwala, 1994). It means not only greater self-confidence, and an
inner transformation of ones consciousness that enables one to overcome
external barriers to accessing resources or changing traditional ideology.
The key elements of empowerment are: power, autonomy and self reliance,
entitlement, participation, and process of building awareness and capacity
(Panda, 2000). The essential prerequisites for empowerment through
organisation include the following elements: resources in the form of
finances, knowledge and technology, skills training, leadership formation,
building up of democratic processes, participation in policy and decision
making and techniques of conflict resolution (Sen and Brown, 1987: 89).
Three different approaches in the context of womens empowerment have
been identified by Batliwala: (a) the integrated development approach;
(b) the economic approach and; (c) consciousness raising cum awareness
approach. They are not mutually exclusive and have the potential to be
linked with each other. Whereas (a) and (b) address the practical needs
or material condition of women, (c) addresses the strategic needs or
position of women. Consciousness and awareness raising approach has
the potential to bring about long lasting change in the position of women
and has deeper implications (Batliwala, 1994).

From the preceding findings of the study, therefore, it can be


concluded that rural women who are members of the handloom weavers
cooperative societies cannot be considered as empowered by just being
members of these societies. This has been shown by the findings of the
study related to: nature of joining the cooperative, reasons for joining the
cooperative, nature of work of the members, types of assistance received
by the members, income earned before and after joining cooperative,
awareness of objectives and bye-laws of cooperative, members working
for middlemen, and awareness of any Central or State Government welfare
schemes for the weavers.

The study has also revealed that there are many constraining factors
in the role of cooperatives as an agent of rural development relating to
management, production, technology, raw materials, marketing, credit,
employment, and inefficiency and unaccountability of the government
departments. Thus, we see that the basic ideology and principles of
cooperatives are generally missing in the case of handloom weavers
cooperatives of Manipur.

This study hence tries to question the paradigm of rural development


in an era of participatory approach to development. It argues that the
78 Labour & Development

agencies for realising rural development may be through institutions like


cooperatives. Nevertheless, these institutions are seen as targets to meet
programme/plan requirements of the government. The members who
are mostly the poor like the weavers in this study still suffer isolation,
subordination and discrimination.

However, it is worth noting that despite these many challenges


there are indeed some success stories of women handloom cooperators
who have excelled and brought laurels to the state. Moreover, since most
of the weavers belong to family below poverty line they do not have
enough capital to invest in their businesses. Therefore, rural institutes like
cooperatives are their only hope as one of the instruments for financial
assistance, marketing and other benefits. In order to bring rural women
empowerment and cooperatives as an instrument of rural development
there is an urgent need for revitalisation and re-organisation of handloom
weavers cooperative societies. The level of members participation needs
to be improved by sensitising and motivating them before enrolment as
members and guiding them to develop a professional outlook in their
activities. This should be accompanied by efficiency and accountability
from the concerned government agencies. Moreover, the relationship
between state and cooperatives should be based on complementary
model i.e., the state and cooperatives develop a symbiotic and mutually
complementary relationship rather than administrative model in which
the state has a domineering role in the cooperative development.

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Batliwala, S. (1994), The Meaning of Womens Empowerment: New


Concepts from Action, in Gita Sen et. al. (eds) Population Policies
Reconsidered: Health, Empowerment and Rights, Harvard: Harvard
Centre for Population and Development Studies.

Chambers, Robert (1983), Rural Development: Putting the Last First, London:
Longman.

Copp, James H. (1972), Rural Sociology and Rural Development, Rural


Sociology, 37(4): 515-533.

Digby, Morgaret (1972), An Assessment of Indian Cooperative Movement,


in Ashok V. Bhuleshwar (ed.) Towards Socialist Transformation of Indian
Economy, Bombay: Popular Prakashan.
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