Pandemic underscores need for reviving Cooperative Societies in North-East

[TamilNet, Friday, 01 May 2020, 21:36 GMT]
SL State-owned retail chain and private supermarket food cities have failed to provide critical supplies at subsidised prices to the people of North-East during the pandemic measures. However, the Multi-Purpose Cooperative Societies (MPCS’s), which were almost in stalemate for years, have again found their use invaluable during the pandemic curfew and lockdown in 2020. The cooperative societies played a crucial role in providing reasonably priced products for a long time, especially during the times of war. The MPCS’s were particularly active during the LTTE-run de-facto state of Tamil Eelam as they were effectively organised and managed without corruption.

Colombo imposed a tight economic blockade against the LTTE-administered Jaffna between 1990 and 1996 and on Vanni during the times of war.

The cooperative societies were helping to confront the economic blockade ensuring subsidised supplies to the people.

The cooperative system, which evolved during the British rule, became a provincial subject with the 13th Amendment of the SL Constitution in 1989.

After the end of the genocidal war in 2009, the SL State neglected them. It promoted the largest state-owned retail chain “Lanka Sathosa” through the Colombo-based central Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

In the meantime, the genocidal onslaught also destroyed the entire infrastructure inflicting heavy losses to the properties of the MPCS’s in Vanni.

The Northern Provincial Council, under former Chief Minister Justice C.V. Wigneswaran attempted to revive the cooperative societies. The progress was slow due to lack of resources. But, the system had resumed to a certain extent before the pandemic.

Yet, the SL State-owned Sathosa and privately-owned retail networks such as Cargills Food City supermarkets were outperforming the MPCS’s.

However, the SL State-owned and private retail chains were not people-centric in the occupied country of Eezham Tamils during the pandemic.

Although the SL President announced subsidised prices for rice, canned fish and dal, the Colombo establishment-centric food chains didn’t ensure equitable access to subsidised supplies as far as the Tamil areas are concerned.

Under the curfew, cooperative societies have mobilised to distribute essential products with mobile services at affordable prices.

Various district-level authorities and Colombo-based departments that come under the SL State also have extended loans and guarantees to enable the MPCS’s to operationalise the mobile services and supplies.

For example, in Mannaar district alone, there are seven MPCS's functioning in Mannaar, Madu, Naanaaddaan, Maanthai West, Maanthai North, Maanthai South and Musali.

District Secretary of Mannaar (GA) has also provided loans to the MPCS's to support their operation. Most of the cooperative societies have received a million rupee to expand their work, civil sources in Mannaar said. Except for Musali, where only a mobile unit is functioning, all other societies have resumed their services in the district.


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