Skip to main content

13 yrs after Modi pressure, SEWA reiterates political, bureaucratic interference, refusal of space in New Economy

A SEWA-supported fish marketing cooperative
By Rajiv Shah
Nearly 13 years after the Narendra Modi government in Gujarat reportedly tried to pressure the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) for his political ends, India's premier organization, headquartered in Ahmedabad, and working with poor women in the informal sector, thinks that even today political-bureaucratic pressure remains high, mainly due to its wide support among women.
Relations between Modi and SEWA had gone so sour in 2005 that US consul-general (CG) in Mumbai Michael S Owen reportedly sent a cable saying that Modi's BJP in Gujarat tried to "use" SEWA as a “conduit to disseminate communal ideologies”; and when the group resisted there were attempts to “obstruct” its work by withholding grants, “ostensibly over financial irregularities.”
Accessed by the Hinduthrough WikiLeaks dated September 22, 2005, the report quotes SEWA general secretary Reema Nanawati as telling Owen that the organisation was facing the “wrath” of the state government for “resisting” pressure.
Nanawati alleged, the Modi government was being “vindictive” and “obstructing” SEWA's activities in the Kutch region, pointing out how the resistance was making the GOG more vindictive and causing it to step up its pressure on the organization. Due to lack of funds, over 12,000 extremely poor SEWA members have not received wages for over five months.
Meanwhile, a new report, titled, “Advancing cooperation among women workers in the informal economy: The SEWA way”, released this month, prepared by SEWA and its cooperatives wing, SEWA Cooperative Federation, in association with the Geneva-based International Labour Organization (ILO), has complained that though SEWA-run cooperatives across India "have avoided any political affiliations", the organized membership of cooperatives is "often seen as a potential support base by political parties."
The report notes, "SEWA’s approach underlines the need for cooperatives to maintain their autonomy and independence from political interventions. The SEWA cooperatives follow ethical practices in their production of goods and services, which can at times put them at a disadvantaged position compared to other private operators in the market."
A masons' cooperative promoted by SEWA
Giving the examples cooperatives promoted by SEWA, the report says, Ekta Organic Produce Cooperative is "often unable to access subsidized seeds and fertilizers which get diverted to organizations with clear political affiliation and influence." Similarly, Ruaab, another cooperative, "has to compete with garment manufacturers who are able to reduce their costs and prices by following unethical practices."
A third cooperative, Saundarya Cleaning Cooperative, says the report, "has lost cleaning contracts in the past because they have refused to offer bribes to officials who decide to whom to award contracts. The organized memberships of cooperatives are often seen as an opportunity for capture by political parties. Hence, cooperatives need to be aware and alert to such dangers and be on guard against them."
Sharply criticising "bureaucratization and politicization of cooperative departments", the report states, "SEWA has observed the bureaucratization and politicization of the cooperative departments in several states. Though the government of India has promoted the formation of cooperatives as a constitutional right for all Indians since 2012, the promotion and support for the growth and development of existing and new cooperatives remain limited."
At a SEWA garments cooperative
The report suggests, there were efforts under the previous UPA government "at consulting with cooperatives across India, including those supported by SEWA, through the National Advisory Council (NAC) of the Government of India, chaired by former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
NAC even "finalized a set of recommendations to enable cooperatives of different kinds to develop further through greater access to financial services, flexible and simpler regulations and appropriate capacity-building."
Thus, there was even "a special focus on women’s cooperatives, including recommendations to support women’s leadership, representation in cooperatives and their boards, and access to social security, including childcare to enable their active participation", the report underlines, "However, these recommendations, while accepted by the government at that time, were not followed through for implementation."
SEWA claims it was the first organization in India to include many of the activities such as healthcare, childcare, and insurance into the cooperative movement in order to empower women. Currently supporting 112 cooperatives across India, SEWA report says, "These cooperatives now function alongside other formal organizations in their respective areas of business."
Quoting political-bureaucratic interference as one of the challenges in "building of SEWA’s cooperative movement", it says, they have been largely "external" in nature, pointing out, "SEWA has observed that a challenge faced by many of the earlier cooperatives was resistance from the officers in the cooperative registrar’s office."
The report states, "SEWA has noted that cooperatives in India may not be considered as part of the ‘new economy’, even though they represent an important strategy for joint and democratic production of goods and services, especially among the poor in the urban informal and rural economies."
It adds, "While most economic policies are quite supportive towards the growth and expansion of private enterprises in general, the regulatory environment remains more stringent for the formation and expansion of cooperative enterprises."
ILO-supported SEWA report
"It is in this context, for instance, that Ruaab, the artisans’ cooperative in Delhi, was registered as a producer company instead of a cooperative", the report says, adding, " Also, while the insurance sector in India has been deregulated and several private players, including multinational insurance companies, have been licensed, the licensing of microinsurers, serving the low-income market, continues to be a challenge. The capital requirement for both large insurance companies and microinsurers is INR 1 Billion or approximately $15 Million."
It underlines, "This huge capital requirement is a significant barrier for VimoSEWA which wants to convert itself into a full-fledged insurer but does not have access to this volume of capital. Further, this amount of capital is not required for cooperatives serving workers who can afford premiums of INR 50 ($0.75) per annum to a maximum of INR 1,200 ($18) per annum."
---
Click HERE to download report

Comments

Uma said…
BJP and its supporters are known to harass NGOs across India. If they really want to improve the lives of the destitute, they should support the NGOs and work hand-in-hand with them

TRENDING

India performs 'poorly' in Quality of Life Index, ranks 62nd out of 64 countries

Counterview Desk “Expat Insider”, which claims to be one of the world’s most extensive surveys about living and working abroad, in a survey of 20,259 participants from around the globe, has found that of the 64 destinations around the globe, has found that while Taiwan is the best destination for persons living outside their native country, closely by Vietnam and Portugal, India ranks 59th.

Youngest of 16 activists jailed for sedition, Mahesh Raut 'fought' mining on tribal land

By Surabhi Agarwal, Sandeep Pandey* A compassionate human being, always popular among his friends and colleagues because of his friendly nature and human sensitivity, 33-year-old Mahesh Raut, champion of the democratic rights of the marginalised Adivasi people of Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, has been in prison for over two years now.

India's GDP down by 50%, not 23%, job loss 200 million not 122 million: Top economist

By Our Representative  One of India’s topmost economists has estimated that India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decline was around 50%, and not 23%, as claimed by the Government of India’s top data body, National Statistical Organization (NSO). Prof Arun Kumar, who is Malcolm S Adiseshiah chair professor, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi, said this was delivering a web policy speech, organised by the Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi.

Human development index: India performs worse than G-20 developing countries

By Rajiv Shah A new book, “Sustainable Development in India: A Comparison with the G-20”, authored by Dr Keshab Chandra Mandal, has regretted that though India’s GDP has doubled over the last one decade, its human development indicators are worse than not just developed countries of the Group of 20 countries but also developing countries who its members.

Stan Swamy vs Arnab Goswami: Are activists fighting a losing battle? Whither justice?

By Fr Sunil Macwan SJ* It is time one raised pertinent questions over the courts denying bail to Fr Stan Swamy, who was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), and granting it to Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of the Republic TV, arrested under the charge of abetting suicide of Avay Naik, who ended his life in 2018. It is travesty of justice that a human rights activist is not only denied bail but is also made to wait for weeks to hear a response to his legitimate request for a straw to drink water, while Arnab Goswami walks free.

India among heavily impacted by Covid-19, China 'notoriously' evading transparency

By NS Venkataraman* With the year 2020 inevitably ending in the next few weeks, the thought amongst the people all over the world is whether the coming year 2021 will be free of Covid-19 (often dubbed as Wuhan virus, as it known to have spread from Wuhan in China).In the early 2020, many people thought that Covid-19 would be a localized affair in China but later on, it proved to be a global pandemic.

Namaz in Mathura temple: Haridwar, Ayodhya monks seek Faisal Khan's release

By Our Representative As many as 23 members of the Hindu Voices for Peace (HVP), including the founder president of the well-known Haridwar-based Matri Sadan Ashram, Swami Shivananda Saraswati, and a one of its top monks, Brahmachari Aatmabodhanand, have expressed their “dismay” over the arrest of Khudai Khidmatdar chief Faisal Khan and three others on charges of “promoting enmity between religions” and “defiling a place of worship” after they offered namaz in Mathura’s Nand Baba temple premises on October 29.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Government of India 'refuses' to admit: 52% of bird species show declining trend

Finn's Weaver  By Our Representative The Government of India has been pushing out “misleading” data on the country’s drastic wildlife decline, says a well-researched report, pointing towards how top ministers are hiding data on biodiversity losses, even as obfuscating its own data. It quotes “State of India’s Birds Report 2020” to note that of the 261 out of 867 bird species for which long-term trends could be determined, 52% have declined since the year 2000, with 22% declining strongly.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.