Co-operative Banks in India

The Co-operative bank has a history of almost 100 years. The Co-operative banks are an important constituent of the Indian Financial System, judging by the role assigned to them, the expectations they are supposed to fulfill, their number, and the number of offices they operate. The co-operative movement originated in the West, but the importance that such banks have assumed in India is rarely paralleled anywhere else in the world. Their role in rural financing continues to be important even today, and their business in the urban areas also has increased phenomenally in recent years mainly due to the sharp increase in the number of co-operative banks.

While the co-operative banks in rural areas mainly finance agricultural based activities including farming, cattle, milk, hatchery, personal finance etc. along with some small scale industries and self-employment driven activities, the co-operative banks in urban areas mainly finance various categories of people for self-employment, industries, small scale units, home finance, consumer finance, personal finance, etc. Some of the co-operative banks are quite forward looking and have developed sufficient core competencies to challenge state and private sector banks.

According to NAFCUB the total deposits & lendings of Co-operative Banks is much more than Old Private Sector Banks & also the New Private Sector Banks. This exponential growth of Co-operative Banks is attributed mainly to their much better local reach, personal interaction with customers, their ability to catch the nerve of the local clientele. Though registered under the Co-operative Societies Act of the Respective States (where formed originally) the banking related activities of the co-operative banks are also regulated by the Reserve Bank of India. They are governed by the Banking Regulations Act 1949 and Banking Laws (Co-operative Societies) Act, 1965.

There are two main categories of the co-operative banks.

  • Short term lending oriented co-operative Banks – within this category there are three sub categories of banks viz state co-operative banks, District co-operative banks and Primary Agricultural co-operative societies.
  • Long term lending oriented co-operative Banks – within the second category there are land development banks at three levels state level, district level and village level.

Features of Cooperative Banks

Co-operative Banks are organized and managed on the principal of co-operation, self-help, and mutual help. They function with the rule of “one member, one vote”. Function on “no profit, no loss” basis. Co-operative banks, as a principle, do not pursue the goal of profit maximization. Co-operative bank performs all the main banking functions of deposit mobilization, supply of credit and provision of remittance facilities. Co-operative Banks provide limited banking products and are functionally specialists in agriculture related products. However, co-operative banks now provide housing loans also.

UCBs provide working capital loans and term loan as well.
The State Co-operative Banks (SCBs), Central Co-operative Banks (CCBs) and Urban Co-operative Banks (UCBs) can normally extend housing loans upto Rs 1 lakh to an individual. The scheduled UCBs, however, can lend upto Rs 3 lakh for housing purposes.

The UCBs can provide advances against shares and debentures also. Co-operative bank do banking business mainly in the agriculture and rural sector. However, UCBs, SCBs, and CCBs operate in semi urban, urban, and metropolitan areas also.

The urban and non-agricultural business of these banks has grown over the years. The co-operative banks demonstrate a shift from rural to urban, while the commercial banks, from urban to rural. Co-operative banks are perhaps the first government sponsored, government-supported, and government-subsidized financial agency in India. They get financial and other help from the Reserve Bank of India NABARD, central government and state governments. They constitute the “most favoured” banking sector with risk of nationalization. For commercial banks, the Reserve Bank of India is lender of last resort, but co-operative banks it is the lender of first resort which provides financial resources in the form of contribution to the initial capital (through state government), working capital, refinance.

Co-operative Banks belong to the money market as well as to the capital market. Primary agricultural credit societies provide short term and medium term loans. Land Development Banks (LDBs) provide long-term loans. SCBs and CCBs also provide both short term and term loans. Co-operative banks are financial intermediaries only partially. The sources of their funds (resources) are (a) central and state government, (b) the Reserve Bank of India and NABARD, (c) other co-operative institutions, (d) ownership funds and, (e) deposits or debenture issues. It is interesting to note that intra-sectoral flows of funds are much greater in co-operative banking than in commercial banking. Inter-bank deposits, borrowings, and credit from a significant part of assets and liabilities of co-operative banks. This means that intra-sectoral competition is absent and intra-sectoral integration is high for co-operative bank.

Some co-operative banks are scheduled banks, while others are non-scheduled banks. For instance, SCBs and some UCBs are scheduled banks but other co-operative bank are non-scheduled banks. At present, 28 SCBs and 11 UCBs with Demand and Time Liabilities over Rs 50 crore each included in the Second Schedule of the Reserve Bank of India Act.

Co-operative Banks are subject to CRR and liquidity requirements as other scheduled and non-scheduled banks are. However, their requirements are less than commercial banks. Since 1966 the lending and deposit rate of commercial banks have been directly regulated by the Reserve Bank of India. Although the Reserve Bank of India had power to regulate the rate co-operative bank but this have been exercised only after 1979 in respect of non-agricultural advances they were free to charge any rates at their discretion. Although the main aim of the co-operative bank is to provide cheaper credit to their members and not to maximize profits, they may access the money market to improve their income so as to remain viable.

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