Author: Ӎ. Ní Sídach
The roots of co-operatives in India can be traced back to the end of the 19th century when farmers decided to ‘pool in their meagre resources for solving common problems related to credit, supplies of inputs and marketing of agricultural produce.’ Since then, India has seen a flourishing of co-operative societies in various sectors, which have formed part of government policies to tackle poverty.
Additionally, it is now an established fact that millions of women who are part of co-operatives now lead more dignified lives. They have a say in individual and household decision-making, they are financially independent and are also active catalysts in the growth and prosperity of their own families. Co-operatives are not silver bullets when it comes to women’s empowerment, but they are a step in the right direction.
However, for a long time as we celebrated the power of co-operatives to transform lives, we have overlooked the most obvious question, ‘Are co-operatives only helping gender binaries?’ The answer, unfortunately, is ‘yes’. Men and women from the success stories of co-operatives, but what about those who fall out of this gender division? The transgender population in India, according to the 2011 Census, is approximately 4.9 lakhs. It is well-known that trans people face prejudice, discrimination and violence, and therefore their actual presence in our population is understated. Their access to education is replete with barriers and ultimately most of them have to resort to begging, dancing at weddings, and sex work to earn their livelihood.
Fortunately, this is slowly changing. The government of Kerala (India) during the 8th Kerala Co-operative Congress, announced that it will be setting up co-operative societies for trans people. State Minister for Tourism and Co-operation Kadakampally Surendran said: “financial assistance, including grants, would be given through these societies, which would help transgender people become self-sufficient.” This historic decision is in the continuance of the Transgender Policy set up by the Kerala Government (incidentally the first in India), to end social stigma and facilitate a life of dignity for them.
Incidentally, aren’t these the founding principles of any co-operative? A common socio-economic goal achieved by the help of peers through mutual trust and effort. Co-operatives that are run by transgender people have the potential to lift them from poverty, make them financially independent and radically transform their life choices. Currently, there are independent initiatives across the country that seek to impart skills to the transgender community in order for them to find jobs.
This includes training them in computer literacy, communicating in English as well as a beautician and other job courses. The reach of these initiatives is limited and therefore they impact only a small number of people.
Demonetization had crippled the livelihood avenues for this community. The cash crunch, coupled with harassment in long queues at banks and ATMs, had forced many back into the circle of poverty they had struggled out of. Through co-operatives, transgender people will be able to withstand the vagaries of the economy and safeguard their incomes, not to mention lead the lives they aspired to.
Photo: Representational image of the Indian transgender population. Photograph credit: Creative Commons
The problem is NOT about water but the poor decision-makering system that led to the water problem and the larger issue of environmental Management and climate change.
This happens all over the world because we keep electing people affluence into office where they set policies based on the perspective of their social class.
If access to high quality education wasn’t based on social class, creating a rigidly stratified class system that wouldn’t be as likely to happen. However, people don’t want to change or stop the class system, they just want a higher status seat at the table and the comforting fiction of justice.
Even on those rare occasions when people who don’t come from affluence get elected, their lack of opportunity for the same quality of education in and out of the classrooms, and worse, if they do fight for and achieve a better education, part of that education ends up infused with the biases of century after century of power and wealth that shaped that academic culture and do we are back where we started.
None of that accounts for the corrupting influence of wealth on the basic function of campaigning for office to a degree of distinction that defies all reason, and which means being compromised by the deals made of necessity to get elected.
This isn’t just Mexico with this problem.
It is the US and everywhere else the public infrastructure is not considered the most important responsibility government serves, but instead that trust between government and people is handed over to the corporations of the Oligarchs.
This privatization at every level of government results in government as Pacification Theater, the comforting fiction of a control designed to keep us from rising up as one, abd sharpening the guillotines for those who deserve it, breaking this hypnotic hold on us, their manipulating us into murdering each other for their benefit.
We have to stop playing their game and find the will to place public good ahead of every thing else.
The environment, the water and quality of food, medical care and medicine must come first.
Fundamental infrastructure of power, communications, transportation must be reinvented as a top priority.
Lifelong education and training must become the norm.
And the collaborative, co-operative decision-makering which defines democracy must be a responsibility distributed across more people at more levels with greater cohesion, transparency, and accountability and valued as the single most important and enabling technology we collectively own instead of a distasteful chore we hire somebody else to do for us so we can get back to our immediate self interests.
An assisted multi-stage form is currently in design and production. This questionnaire is intended to serve as an instrument for pre-scheduled live-assisted critical self-reflection, analysis, and assessment enabling the prospect to determine if their values, goals, and expectations are compatible with those of the community.
What Co-operative Capitalism is NOT!