Answer :

The cooperative society is a voluntary association of persons, who join together with the motive of the welfare of the members.

The characteristics of a cooperative society are listed below.


(i) Voluntary membership: The membership of a cooperative society is voluntary. A person is free to join a cooperative society, and can also leave anytime as per his desire. There cannot be any compulsion for him to join or quit a society.


(ii) Legal status: Registration of a cooperative society is compulsory. This accords a separate identity to the society which is distinct from its members. As a result of being a separate legal entity, it is not affected by the entry or exit of its members.


(iii) Limited liability: The liability of the members of a cooperative society is limited to the extent of the amount contributed by them as capital. This defines the maximum risk that a member can be asked to bear.


(iv) Control: In a cooperative society, the power to take decisions lies in the hands of an elected managing committee. The right to vote gives the members a chance to choose the members who will constitute the managing committee and this lends the cooperative society a democratic character.


(v) Service motive: The cooperative society through its purpose emphasizes the values of mutual help and welfare.


Merits


(i) The principle of ‘one man one vote’ governs the cooperative society. Irrespective of the amount of capital contribution by a member, each member is entitled to equal voting rights.


(ii) The liability of members of a cooperative society is limited to the extent of their capital contribution. The personal assets of the members are, therefore, safe from being used to repay business debts.


(iii) Death, bankruptcy or insanity of the members do not affect the continuity of a cooperative society. A society, therefore, operates unaffected by any change in the membership.


(iv) The members generally offer honorary services to the society. As the focus is on the elimination of middlemen, this helps in reducing costs. The customers or producers themselves are members of the society, and hence the risk of bad debts is lower.


(v) The cooperative society exemplifies the idea of democracy and hence finds support from the Government in the form of low taxes, subsidies, and low-interest rates on loans.


(vi) The cooperative society can be started with a minimum of ten members. The registration procedure is simple involving a few legal formalities. Its formation is governed by the provisions of the Cooperative Societies Act 1912.


Limitations


(i) Resources of a cooperative society consist of capital contributions of the members with limited means. The low rate of dividend offered on investment also acts as a deterrent in attracting membership or more capital from the members.


(ii) Cooperative societies are unable to attract and employ expert managers because of their inability to pay them high salaries. The members who offer honorary services voluntarily are generally not professionally equipped to handle the management functions effectively.


(iii) As a result of open discussions in the meetings of members as well as disclosure obligations as per the Societies Act, it is difficult to maintain secrecy about the operations of a cooperative.


Iv In return of the privileges offered by the government, cooperative societies have to comply with several rules and regulations related to auditing of accounts, submission of accounts, etc. Interference in the functioning of the cooperative organisation through the control exercised by the state cooperative departments also negatively affects its freedom of operation.


(v) Differences of opinion: Internal quarrels arising as a result of contrary viewpoints may lead to difficulties in decision making. Personal interests may start to dominate the welfare motive and the benefit of other members may take a backseat if the personal gain is given preference by certain members.


Types of Cooperative Societies:


(i) Consumer’s cooperative societies:


The consumer cooperative societies are formed to protect the interests of consumers. The members comprise of consumers desirous of obtaining good quality products at reasonable prices.


The society aims at eliminating middlemen to achieve economy in operations


(ii) Producer's cooperative societies: These societies are set up to protect the interest of small producers. The society aims to fight against the big capitalists and enhance the bargaining power of the small producers. It supplies raw materials, equipment and other inputs to the members and also buys their output for sale. Profits among the members are generally distributed based on their contributions to the total pool of goods produced or sold by the society.


(iii) Marketing cooperative societies: Such societies are established to help small producers in selling their products. The members consist of producers who wish to obtain reasonable prices for their output. The society aims to eliminate middlemen and improve the competitive position of its members by securing a favourable market for the products.


(iv) Farmer's cooperative societies: These societies are established to protect the interests of farmers by providing better inputs at a reasonable cost. The members comprise farmers who wish to jointly take up farming activities. The aim is to gain the benefits of large scale farming and increase productivity. Such societies provide better quality seeds, fertilizers, machinery and other modern techniques for use in the cultivation of crops.


(v) Credit cooperative societies: Credit cooperative societies are established for providing easy credit on reasonable terms to the members. The members comprise of persons who seek financial help in the form of loans. Such societies aim to protect the members from the exploitation of lenders who charge high rates of interest on loans. Such societies provide loans to members out of the amounts collected as capital and deposits from the members and charge low rates of interest.


(vi) Cooperative housing societies: Cooperative housing societies are established to help people with limited income to construct houses at reasonable costs. The members of these societies consist of people who are desirous of procuring residential accommodation at lower costs. The aim is to solve the housing problems of the members by constructing houses and giving the option of paying in instalments.


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