Marad Akshayashree members in front of the Samrudhi Store in Thrippunithura.
Ernakulam: Christudas (58), a Christian by religion, from Padappakkara in Kollam, steers the operations of Sangh Parivar's Akshayasree units in his area. The five Akshayasree units here are run purely by Christians. There are around 75 Christian members in the units. Another Akshayasree in Koottikkada, Kollam, is operated by Muslims. Similarly, there are many Akshayasree units across the state run by members of minority communities.
According to concerned office-bearers, there are over two-lakh members in the 7,800 Akshayasrees across the state. Six percent among the members are from minority communities.
'CPM and Kudumbasree have looted us for years with no development in the area and no welfare for the people. When I heard about Akshayasree, I took initiative in forming the unit here some months back and also inspired others to join. In a few days, we formed five units of Akshayasrees. We all get loans for our needs at low interest rates and get good support from the team to start new ventures. We are planning various initiatives to lift our lives,' said Christudas.
After joining Akshayasree, Christudas was contacted by local CPM activists to to join Kudumbasree. 'I don't want to join Kudumbasree or CPM as nothing for our welfare was done by them,' added Christudas. The words of Christudas should be read in line with the RSS-BJP plan to woo minorities to expand their footprint in the state.
Despite the high-decibel campaign on Sabarimala issue, love-jihad row, religious sentiments, Hindu consolidation etc BJP still finds it tough to win a seat in the assembly and parliament elections in Kerala. The party couldn't retain even Nemom , the sole seat it had won in 2016. After failing repeatedly in the attempts to win over the state, Kerala BJP has learned a big lesson that without keeping a close contact with the minority communities, the dream of winning seats in Kerala will not be fulfilled.
Counter consolidation of minority votes, division of votes in triangular fights and factional feuds in the party were termed as the reasons in various review meetings of the party for the electoral setbacks. The success story of the CPM in building strong party bases at ground level through Kudumbasree units inspired the state BJP-RSS factions. Kudumbasree was inaugurated by the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on May 17, 1998. What started as a mission to eradicate poverty in rural areas has gradually become a strong working ground of CPM.
'Thousands of RSS and BJP workers, who had joined Kudumbasree, have become staunch supporters of CPM. In fact, it was an eye opener and the Akshayasrees were launched with an intention to give a befitting reply to CPM in the same manner,' said a BJP representative on condition of anonymity.
What is Akshayasree and Sahakar Bharati?
The Akshayasree was started in Kerala in 2011. It is part of the larger national network of BJP's Sahakar Bharti, a pan-India NGO of cooperatives. Sahakar Bharati was started by RSS activists Laxmanrao Inamdar and Madhavrao Godbole in 1978. In Kerala, Sahakar Bharati started its operations in 2001. Sahakar Bharati has six units, mahila cells, self-help-groups (SHGs), dairy and milk farmers cell, credit cell, fishermen cell and employee cell. Akshayasree and Gramin Samruddhi stores fall under SHGs. The structure of SHG-cooperatives associated with BJP and RSS stems from Sahakar Bharati.
In 2010, Akshayasree Paraspara Sahaya Susthira Vikasana Mission was formed in Thrissur to expand its activities through SHGs. In 2011, the first Akshayasree was formed in Thrissur. The Akshayasree mission plans to have nearly 25,000 units by 2024. According to the concerned leaders, around 25 lakh members of Akshayasrees are women.
Akshayasree groups urge members to start Nidhi companies, jan oushadhi and mahila cells too as part of the activities.
Nidhi companies are small societies registered under Companies Act as per a central government scheme. It can lend and borrow money from the members but no deposits can be accepted. It requires a minimum of seven members to register and a capital of Rs 5 lakhs is needed to start operation. It requires no RBI registration.
Flourishing Sangh Parivar-initiated ventures in Kerala
Ernakulam: Have you ever noticed a board titled 'Samrudhi Store' when you pass by Petta Metro Station at Tripunithura in Ernakulam. It's part of a flourishing network operated by Sangh Parivar forces as is one of the nearly 60 such supermarkets in the state. The particular supermarket is run by the members of a group of Akshayasrees, a self-help-group that comes under Sahakar Bharathi, an NGO of cooperatives.
The Samruddhi Store in Thrippunithura has a success story to tell as is the collective effort of a group of people from different walks of life. 'The idea of forming an Akshayasree came to our mind in the beginning of 2019 after being inspired by the success stories of various Akshayasrees across the state. With eleven members we formed a group as a minimum of 11 members and a maximum of 20 members are required to form an Akshayasree,' said Jayadas KS, Treasurer of Marad Akshayasree Regional Federation.
Jayadas, Unnikrishnan, M Mohanan, Jayan and Rajeev were in the forefront during the initial days of the mission. ``We contacted the district coordinator of the Akshayasree mission and the first Akshayasree was registered the same year. We did not stop there; in fact it was a beginning. In a limited period, we brought like-minded people together and succeeded in forming 32 Akshayasrees in one year with as many as 266 members,' said Jayadas.
By joining 6 to seven Akshayasrees, they formed five clusters and from each cluster two to three members were elected. With the elected members Marad Akshayasree Regional Federation was registered under Sahakar Bharati in August 2020. 'The federation has 12 representatives with secretary, president, treasurer and other executive members. Soon after the federation was registered, we started thinking of doing something beneficial for our members. There came the idea of forming 'Samrudhi Store' and in December 2020 it became a reality. As many as 200 people from the Akshayasree have contributed money, ranging from Rs 1,000 to 50,000, to start the supermarket. We got a 1,500 square feet space at a building behind Petta Metro Station to start the store. We have been encouraging all Akshayasrees to produce various products and sell them at the store,' added Jayadas.
The supermarket has five lady staff and the committee members are also active to manage its operations. 'The store runs on profit and is a source of revenue for many. Now we are planning to form a cooperative bank soon under the federation. The store gets decent business daily with the maximum sale at Rs 35,000 and the minimum at Rs 5,000,' added Jayadas.
This success story of the Sangh Parivar-initiated venture is not an isolated incident as there are thousands of such ventures across the state. This time the Sangh Parivar is determined to have concrete results. And the reports originating from the various parts of Kerala testify to the slow and steady formula of winning the race in the long term. Both RSS and BJP seem to have learnt the lessons which the Congress has failed to implement in the form Janasree (to be continued).