Jennifer Meyer-Ueding, Department for Agricultural Economics, Humboldt University Berlin
Urban Members' Organizations?
The study pictures the co-operative sector in Hyderabad. Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs)1 are employed as object of comparison. Whereas RWAs are a distinctive urban phenomenon in India, co-operatives are a typical rural form of organization and much less common in urban India. The urban co-operatives’ lack of autonomy and their shortcomings with regard to participation and collective action are expounded and compared to RWAs.
Participative governance and collective action are used as empirical-analytical concepts which look at the execution of participation and its relevance. It is investigated in how far affected stakeholders (here: members of the co-operatives or RWAs) are included in processes of planning and decision-making. The study deliberates how the degree of participative governance in the investigated urban co-operatives suits or conflicts elementary co-operative principles according to Draheim or the International Co- operative Alliance (ICA). The study scrutinizes how the participatory character of the urban co-operatives influences their capabilities and effectiveness. In comparison, it is looked at the participatory performance of RWAs. Besides, it is questioned whether the shape of both organizational forms in Hyderabad makes them part of the sphere of urban civil society2 or makes them miss its boundaries.
Empirical research in Hyderabad started in 2009 and is still going on. Methodologically the study follows a triangulation of data and methods (qualitative semi-structured individual and group interviews, observations, document analysis, review of statistics). RWAs are associations of residents of houses or apartments buildings. They are concerned with the maintenance and the security of their housings and the neighborhood and deal with public services concerning their neighborhood, e.g. water or solid waste management.
Co-operatives are a prominent phenomenon in rural India, less so in urban India. Since colonial rule and extending until today Indian co-operatives have been kept under government control. The state of Andhra Pradesh is characterized by the co-existence of an older restrictive legislation (APCS Act of 1964) and a post-1990er more liberal legislation on co-operatives (APMACS Act 1995). The study shows that while in rural Andra Pradesh the new legislation is fanning out, the majority of Hyderabad’s co- operatives are still registered under the APCS Act 1964. They lack autonomy and contradict co-operative principles showing certain shortcomings partcipitative governance. These shortcomings in participation go ahead with shortcomings in their capabilities. Accordingly, the lack of autonomy is highlighted as a core problem of the co- operative sector in Hyderabad. The contrasted RWAs are more autonomous and largely comply with civil society. But here too, participatory governance faces difficulties, inter alia the lack of bottom-up participation. The study’s conclusion points out that enhanced participation within urban co-operatives and RWAs can provide surplus on different levels from increased productivity and stability of the organizations up to members’ accumulation of social and political skills and capitals.