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, the cable, and 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 had alleged, 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, she added. Due to lack of funds, over 12,000 extremely poor SEWA members have not received wages for over five months, Nanawati claimed”, Owen added.
A 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 now said 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 Sheth 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

Noam Chomsky, top scholars ask NRIs to take stand on human rights violations in India

Counterview Desk
Renowned world scholars, including Noam Chomsky, James Petras, Angela Davis, Fredric Jameson, Bruno Latour, Ilan Pappe, Judith Butler, among others, have issued a statement castigating the Narendra Modi government for allegedly creating an environment of fear through arrests, intimidation and violence.

Actionable programme for 2019 polls amidst lynch mobs, caste violence, hate mongering

Counterview Desk
Reclaiming the Republic, a civil rights network, has released a document prepared under the chairmanship of Justice AP Shah (retired) -- and backed, among others, by Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan, bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander, economist Prabhat Patnaik, Right to transparency activist Anjali Bhardwaj and social scientist Yogendra Yadav  (click HERE for full list) -- with the "aim" of putting forth policy and legislative reforms needed to “protect” and “strengthen” the Constitutional safeguards for India’s democratic polity.

India under Modi "promoted" crony business, protected financial fraudsters, fueled bigotry

By Sandeep* and Rahul Pandey**
Narendra Modi's ascension to power was accompanied with jubilation and expectation. His supporters were expecting an end to era of corruption and initiation of good governance which was described as Achche Din. His party's adherence to idea of nationalism was believed to make India a vibrant country and guide India to be a world leader. He gave the slogan of 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas' conveying that his government was for all.
Corruption The government system is infested with corruption. A minimum of 10% is siphoned off from government schemes and projects, some of which goes back to political party in power and remaining is pocketed by various administrative, executive and political functionaries. This corruption continues and has increased. Now an additional Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) person working as Official on Special Duty or some equivalent position in every government department also has a share in this booty.
The Narendra M…

Inviting Rajapaksa to India "insult" to 1,40,000 Tamils killed by Sri Lankan army

Counterview Desk
In the context of Sri Lankan opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa being invited in India, about 75 human rights activists*, claiming to be concerned about rights violations during the civil war in Sri Lanka, especially in 2009, have joined together to express their dissent through a statement.

Modi wants Pak govt be held responsible for JeM terror strike: World doesn't agree

By Sandeep Pandey*
I went to participate in a candle light homage paying event at Dr BR Ambedkar's statue organised by about 200 Dalit students on Hazratganj main crossing in Lucknow on February 16, 2019 evening, two days after the dastardly terrorist act in Pulwana, Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), in which 44 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel was killed.

Post-advisory, Govt of India appears reluctant to ban e-cigarettes, "harmful" to kids

By Rajiv Shah
Is the Government of India dilly-dallying over the issue of banning e-cigarettes, which have been declared by anti-tobacco activists across the world as providing “an entryway to nicotine addiction”, especially among the kids? It would seem so, if the latest developments are any guide.

A Godse legacy? BJP rulers have "refrained" from calling Gandhi Father of the Nation

By Dr Hari Desai*
What an agony! On one hand, the entire India is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but on the other side, so-called Hindu Mahasabha members have been found mock-enacting the killing of the Mahatma and celebrating the murder by distributing sweets!

No aadhaar, no ration? Hard blow by Gujarat govt on poor and marginalized

By Pankti Jog*
Only those who have aadhaar registration and linked it with ration card will get ration from a Public Distribution System (PDS) shop. This decision of the Gujarat government has hit very badly thousands of poor and marginalized communities of Gujarat, especially during the drought year.

Not just Indian women engineers, men too face sexual harassment at workplace: US study

By Rajiv Shah
A recent research, carried out jointly by two US-based non-profit organizations, Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and Center for WorkLife Law (WLL), based at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, has found that 45% of women engineers as against 28% of men engineers complained that it was perceived as “inappropriate when women argued at work, even when it was work-related.”

Anti-liquor march: Women padyatris "resolve" to occupy Karnataka state assembly

By Abhay, Swarna Bhat*
At a huge public convention held at Siddaganga Mutt on the Republic Day, January 26, 2019, in the presence of Sanehalli Sri Panditaradhya Swamiji, padyatris of the Madya Nishedha Andolana decided to intensify the ongoing liquor ban movement. A resolution passed at the convention, in which thousands of rural women joined in, the marching women declared that on reaching Bengaluru will “occupy Vidhan Soudha” on Mahatma Gandhi’s martyrdom day, January 30.