M A I N   N E W S

Powers of junior officers cut
Cannot issue arrest warrants
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 12
A decision to withdraw powers of junior officers to issue arrest warrants of farmers with regard to the recovery of cooperative loans has been taken by the Punjab Government.

However, the notorious Section 67-A of the Punjab Cooperative Act under which recovery of loans is ordered from defaulter farmers by effecting their arrest would continue to be part of the Punjab Cooperative Act.

Informed official sources said that the issue to withdraw the powers from junior officers was discussed at the top official level.

As the authorities concerned felt that such powers are “misused” at the lower level, a decision has been taken to delegate these powers to the officers of Joint Registrar level posted at divisional headquarters in the Cooperative Department.

Earlier, such powers were vested with Assistant Registrars, who are posted at the subdivisional level. Even the Joint Registrars concerned would be asked to issue arrest warrants in the rarest of the rare cases such as of habitual defaulters, who are capable of returning the loans but are not doing so deliberately.

When asked a senior officer of the state government said that the decision regarding powers was being implemented immediately. He said that an order would be circulated by the Registrar of Cooperative Societies withdrawing the powers delegated to Assistant Registrars and to vest the same in the Joint Registrars concerned.

However, the government has obviously rejected the main demand of the various farmer organisations to remove the section 67-A from the Cooperative Act.

At the meetings held with the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and other senior ministers in the past, various factions of the Bharti Kisan Union have been urging to amend the Cooperative Act to remove this section 67-A, which is used against defaulter farmers to recover loans.

Farmers have been saying that big defaulter industrialists, who have not returned hundreds crore of rupees of nationalised banks, have never been arrested by issuing such warrants. There was over Rs 1,00,000 crore defaulter amount to paid by industrialists for the past several years, they say.

Most of such defaulter industrialists have been installing new units but not returning loans taken on earlier ones, farmer leaders add.

In fact even the previous Badal Government, which had promised to remove Section 67-A, did not fulfil the promise.

The issue to increase the tenure of elected cooperative bodies to five years has also been discussed. However, there is no unanimity on this issue among all concerned in the Cooperative

Department. Some of the officers are of the view that there should be no change in the existing rules regarding tenure. But political leadership wanted that tenure should be enhanced. To increase the tenure, necessary amendments would have to be made in the cooperative rules.

Even the move to the make elected representatives of cooperative bodies real owners of the cooperative movements seems to have been shelved. At present there is a tight control of the officers of the elected cooperative bodies, which are virtually toothless tigers.

Managing Directors, who are government officers of apex cooperative bodies and Assistant Registrars and Deputy Registrars in the rural areas dictate terms to elected cooperative managements. Because of this reason, cooperative movement in Punjab is called” official movement” and not people’s movement.

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