The Union Cooperation Ministry is working on a new central scheme to modernise and digitalise over 97,000 primary agriculture cooperative societies (PACs) spread across the country, with a budget outlay of around Rs 2,000-3000 crore over the next five years.
Primary agriculture cooperative societies (PACs) — commonly known as agri-cooperative credit societies — are village-level lending institutions based on cooperative principles. They provide short and medium term loans to rural people to meet their financial requirements. There are about 97,961 PACs across the country, out of which viable ones are about 65,000.
“We are working on a central scheme to computeralise PACs. The aim is to ensure seamless connectivity of panchayat level PACs till headquarters,” a senior Cooperation Ministry official told PTI. After digitalisation of PACs, banking procedures will get smooth and will benefit in auditing. Besides, it will ensure the benefit of farm loans reaches the last mile because in a few states agri-credit is still disbursed through PACs, he said.
Stating that it would be a “futuristic scheme”, the official said the computerisation will also enable PACs to create new vocations like setting up of godowns. Since PACs are under the ambit of state government, the scheme envisaged will be on a 60:40 basis for five years, he said and added, total budget is expected to be Rs 2,000-3,000 crore. Back in 2017, the government had moved a proposal to computerise PACs with a budget outlay of Rs 1950 crore. However, it could not get the cabinet clearance.
Earlier when the Cooperation Department was part of the Union Agriculture Ministry, only one scheme, the Integrated Scheme of Agriculture Cooperation (ISAC) — under which subsidy is being given to PACs for upgrading their capital infrastructure — was being implemented. A new Ministry of Cooperation was formed in July this year to strengthen the cooperative movement. It is working on a new cooperative policy and some central schemes. The official said that the Department of Personnel and Training (DOP) has already created and sanctioned 168 posts for the new ministry.