A. Background Note on TRIFED
1.1 The Government of India realised long back that one of the major areas which can provide the pace of economic development of various tribal sections comprising a little more than 8% of the country’s populace and spreading across the length and breadth of the land is by way of procurement and marketing of various tribal produce such as Millet, Oilseeds, Agricultural Crops, Horticulture and other Minor Forest Produce. Tribal particularly those living in the interior areas depend for their livelihood to a considerable extent on agriculture, forest-operations and also on collection and sale of minor forest produce. Experience in some states has shown that collection and sale of minor forest produce can provide large employment opportunity and that too at the doorstep of tribals at a time when other avenues of employment are minimal. Trade and marketing practices in respect of agricultural produce continue to remain unorganised by and large in the tribal areas in a large measure. Ensuring a fair economic price to the tribals through marketing of forest produce with a view to ending exploitation poses even a greater problem as vested interest are deeply entrenched and even the state level Cooperative Corporation/Federation find themselves ill-equipped to deal with prevailing private trade practices.
1.2 Seasonal fluctuation of prices, uncertainty of markets, perishability of the products and exploitative role of middlemen and private parties add to the existing complications. Thus, institutionalisation of natural products trade assumed critical importance to bring about socio-economic development of the tribals, TDCCs and other state level agencies can make a dent in this field if they derive strength and marketing support from a stronger organisation at the national level.
1.3 With this background, the Government of India has set up a national level apex body by the name of the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India Limited (TRIFED) – an organisation committed to serving the needs of the tribals and contributing to the upgradation of their living standards. TRIFED has been registered as a Multi-State Cooperative Society on 6th August, 1987 in accordance with the provisions of the Multi-State Cooperative Societies Act, 1984 with a registered office in Delhi, under the then Ministry of Welfare. TRIFED aimed at a whole new organisational concept for the sustainable exploitation of nature’s bounty through tirbals. What nature provides, TRIFED supplies and the ultimate beneficiaries are the tribal farmers, tribal farm labourers, or any other segment or organisation of tribal society involved in collection, processing and marketing and/or engaged in any activity connected with the same.
1.4 The broad objectives of TRIFED as enumerated in the Bye-laws are given below:
(i) To organise and plan the growth and development of natural products and their trade on national, scientific and commercial basis in the interest of the tribal population in the country.
(ii) The strive to ensure higher earning and larger employment opportunities for the tribal population by formulation of suitable economic schemes based on natural products.
(iii) To ensure full utilisation of natural products available in the tribal areas including farm and forest produce by exploring new uses for the products and by improving their marketability through organised effort.
(iv) To boost up the economic and commercial viability of the TDCCs, FDCs and other state level agencies dealing with procurement, processing and marketing of natural products by providing marketing support to them with a view to achieve the above objectives.
(v) To arrange finances for itself and its supported activities with the above end in view.
(vi) To identify items of Minor Forest Produce (MFP) in different states to be brought under the ambit of the cooperative marketing and make recommendations for fixation of minimum prices of such MFP in the tribal areas by each state.
1.5 To achieve the objectives set forth above, TRIFED performs the following, amongst other functions:
(i) To undertake or to promote on its own or on behalf of its members Inter-State, Intra-State or International trade, commerce and industry. Also to undertake wherever necessary purchase, import, sale, export, franchising distribution, trade etc. of natural products and allied articles and commodities in pursuance of the above objectives.
(ii) To act as agency of canalisation of import, export and inter-sate trade of natural products, allied articles and commodities under any scheme formulated by Government of India or any State Government or Government Agency.
(iii) To undertake collection, processing, grading, standardising, packing, branding and production of natural products to attain and further the objectives of TRIFED.
(iv) To act as agent of any Government agency, Cooperative or other organisation for purchase, import, storage, processing, production, distribution, marketing, export etc. of natural products and commodities, articles as well as finished products derived from raw-materials based on natural products.
(v) To act as ware-housing agent under the Warehousing Act and rent of its own godowns, cold storage and other premises.
(vi) To undertake preparation of Techno-economic feasibility reports and where necessary, to take up installation and management of factories, processing houses, projects and similar industrial or commercial ventures for and on behalf of members/Govt. Agencies, Co-operatives and other organisations in fulfilment of its objectives.
(vii) To undertake consultancy work for the benefit of members. Also to undertake consultancy work for any party, person, organisation, business institution or other organisation including Government and semi-Government, in the areas where Federation has expertise.
(viii) To organise seminars, workshops, conferences, exhibitions, trade-fairs and such other activities within the country and abroad to further the objectives of the TRIFED.
(ix) To undertake product development, produced innovation, market development, market research, sales promotion, publicity, advertising and allied activities to further the development of natural products, trade and industry.
(x) To undertake or organise, training in technical and commercial marketing and other related areas for members, employees, etc.
(xi) To organise and maintain information and data bank to disseminate information to the members as well as planners, researchers and associate organisations and business circle.
(xii) To subscribe to the share capital of other cooperative institutions as well as public joint sector enterprises if and when considered necessary for fulfilling the objectives of TRIFED.
(xiii) To coordinate and undertake pricing, production, processing, storage, sales, distribution and similar policy formulation for all members with a view to hold the members to enter the domestic and foreign market on a united front.
(xiv) To undertake identification, designing, planning, organising, implementation and monitoring of forestry or agro-forestry projects of commercial importance so that marginal and otherwise unproductive resources including land yield optimum results to generate and maximise economic growth for ultimate beneficiaries and members.
(xv) To do all such things or undertake such other business or activities as may be incidental or conducive to the attainment of any or all the above objects of the TRIFED.
1.6 I Membership
Under bye-laws the membership of TRIFED shall be open to the following:
(i) State Level Tribal Cooperative Federations/corporations.
(ii) State Level Organisations dealing in Minor Forest Produce collected by tribals.
(iii) Any other specialized cooperative commodity federations dealing in tribal produce.
(iv) Government of India.
(v) National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC).
(vi) National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (NAFED).
1.7 Besides TRIFED has also extended `Nominal Membership’ to other persons/societies/institutions not covered above but with whom it is likely to do business or store goods or arrange sales thereof, provided the application for admission to such membership is received along with the admission fee of Rs.1000/- and is duly accepted by the Board of Directors, may be admitted as nominal members. Such admission fee shall not be refundable in any case. Such members will not have the right to vote or participate in the management of the federation or in the sharing of its profits or liabilities.
1.8 Application for admission as member and for allotment of shares shall be made to the Managing Director in the form, if any, prescribed by TRIFED for the purpose. Every such application shall be disposed of by the Board of Directors who shall have power to grant admission or to refuse it after recording reasons for such refusal, provided however that applicant whose application has been refused by the Board of Directors may appeal to the General Body and if the General Body so directs it shall be admitted as a member of TRIFED. The decision of the General Body shall be final.
1.9 When an application has been admitted to membership by the Board of Directors and applicant has paid its admission fee and full value of at least one share money, it shall be deemed to have acquired all the rights and incurred all the obligations and liabilities of a member of TRIFED as laid down in the Act, Rules made thereunder and these bye-laws.
1.10 The membership shall cease:
(i) On cancellation of the registration of the member society.
(ii) On redemption/retirement of the entire share capital of NCDC/Government Organisations and undertakings.
(iii) On expulsion of a member under the circumstances given in Byelaws.
1.11 As per the Bye-laws, only when a member has paid its admission fee and full value of at least one share money, then shall it be deemed to have acquired all the rights and incurred all the obligations and liabilities of a member of TRIFED. Besides, TRIFED has also extended `Nominal Membership’ to persons/societies/institutions who wanted to do business or store goods or arrange sales thereof with a payment of Rs.1000/- as admission fee. Such members will not have the right to vote or participate in the management of the Federation or in the sharing of its profit or liabilities. The Committee note that TRIFED has opened its door to all but feel that there is less of tribal participation in the trading activities of TRIFED. The Committee, therefore, recommend that TRIFED should take immediate steps to involve more tribals in trading activities by amending the Bye-laws.
1.12 The General Body of TRIFED shall consist of one representative each of the members admitted under bye-law No.4 and the Directors on the Board of Directors of the TRIFED including co-opted Directors.
1.13 The ultimate authority in all matters relating to the administration of TRIFED shall rest in the General Body provided that the General Body shall not interfere with the exercise by the Board or any officer of any power conferred on them by these Bye-laws.
III Board of Director
1.14 According to Bye-laws of the TRIFED there shall be a Board of Directors which shall exercise all the powers of TRIFED except those reserved for the general Body. The Board of Directors shall consist of seven representatives to be elected from amongst State level Tribal Cooperative Federations/Corporations (admitted under Bye-Law 4.1.1); two representatives to be elected from amongst members of state level organization dealing in Minor Forest Produce collected by tribals; one nominee of the National Cooperative Development Corporation; one nominee of NAFED and thirteen nominees of Government of India out of which seven shall be tribal representatives. The Managing Director who shall be appointed by the Board of Directors with the prior approval of the Government of India shall be the Chief Executive officer of TRIFED and shall conduct the business of the Federation and shall exercise control over the administration of TRIFED subject to the decisions of the Board/General Body.
1.15 TRIFED is an apex level federation of State Tribal Development Cooperative Federations and State Forest Corporations. The Head office of the TRIFED is located at Delhi. TRIFED has its own wide network of agencies throughout the country for the procurement, processing and marketing of forest and agricultural commodities produced in the tribal areas of the country.
1.16 TRIFED has 15 Branch offices spread across various States of India. They are divided into Zonal, Regional and Field Offices. There are 4 Zonal Offices located at Jagdalpur, Bhubaneswar, Guwahati and Mumbai. There are 8 Regional offices located at Bhopal, Chennai, Visakhapatnam, Ranchi, Calcutta, Nasik, Ahmedabad and Udaipur and there are 2 Field Offices at Hyderabad and Mysore. Besides, TRIFED has proposed to set up 2 Regional Offices at Siliguri and Itanagar.
1.17 The criteria for opening of branch offices have been the tribal population, the collection/potential of the minor forest produces and also the availability of natural products in a state. Besides, other factors such as proximity, transport, communications etc. are surveyed prior to setting up of branch offices. The new branches of TRIFED are opened with the approval of the Board of Directors.
1.18 Regional offices of TRIFED are mainly located at the cities where the Head Office of State Development Tribal Corporation/Forest Development Corporation exists. This has been done with a view to have a better liaison with State Development Tribal Corporation/Forest Development Corporation who are also engaged in the procurement and marketing of tribal produces.
1.19 During the evidence when the Committee pointed out that in Gujarat even though the population of Scheduled Tribes is more than 14% it has only one regional office that too in Ahmedabad where there is not a single tribal, the Managing Director explained:
“Regarding the zonal office our effort is always for taking a very urgent decision. As you are aware, the commodities market is so volatile that so many changes take place very fast. So many changes take place in the market that situation is something different in the morning at 9 O’Clock and it changes entirely in the evening at 4 O’Clock. We want a very quick communication and decision between the field office and the regional office and so on. For this purpose we have got the zonal office system. We have made necessary changes. All the officers have an equal status or of regional status. In Mumbai office there is only a Senior Manager there. Incidentally, the officer at the Ahmedabad office is a senior person to the officer at Mumbai. It is not that the Ahmedabad office reports to Mumbai. He can take his own decisions. Between him and a decision there is only a telephone call to the E.D. or to me or whichever officer he wants to speak. There is absolutely nothing that differentiates and all officers have equal status. It is not that we wanted to downgrade the Ahmedabad office. In fact, as far as we are concerned, Gujarat is a very important place for us for business. Incidentally this is one place where we have very good business. We do not want to underplay any particular thing. Wherever there is any business opportunity, we would like to come in.”
1.20 During the evidence when the Committee desired to know the position regarding the Management decision to open an office at Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh the Managing Director explained:
“We would like to do it within this financial year. I have already visited Itanagar. The hon’ble Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh was kind enough to spend a lot of time with me. We have personally looked into it. We are looking for a space. I think, in this financial year which is coming to an end in another three and a half months. We will certainly do it.”
1.21 The Committee were also informed that new offices have not been opened in the tribals dominated North Eastern States of Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland because as per mandate of TRIFED, procurement and other activities are undertaken through TDCCs/Cooperative Societies. Presently, TRIFED is using the extension services of these organizations for various activities. Recently TRIFED has also extended market intervention for handicrafts items, artifacts etc. as in other parts of the country to the North Eastern States. Apart from above, a number of produces are seasonal in nature. So during the harvesting period regular staff are deputed for procurement. Moreover, because of the resource crunch new offices could not be opened.
1.22 TRIFED with its Head Office at New Delhi has a wide network of 15 branch offices throughout the country for procurement, processing and marketing of forests and agricultural commodities produced by the tribals. In addition TRIFED has proposed to set up 2 Regional offices at Siliguri and Itanagar. One of the main reason for the setting up of TRIFED is to ensure that tribals get remunerative prices for their agricultural and minor forest produce and to provide large employment opportunity to them. The Committee have noted that the zonal and Regional Offices of TRIFED are generally located at cities where only a few tribal could reach or where there is hardly any tribal populace such as Ahmedabad Regional office. The Committee, therefore, recommend that the location of the offices of TRIFED should be close to tribal inhabited areas or districts. The Committee also desires to know the progress made towards the opening up of new offices in Siliguri and Itanagar.
1.23 The Committee also note that TRIFED has no branch offices in the tribal dominated states of Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Nagaland though these states boast of rich minor forest produce. TRIFED use the service of TDCCs/Cooperative societies and deputation of regular staff for procurement in these states during harvesting seasons. Recently TRIFED has also entered into handlooms, handicrafts and artifacts items business especially from the northeastern states. The Committee are of the view that since these north-eastern states have rich natural resources, minor forest produce, agricultural, handlooms, handicrafts and artifacts items TRIFED has more responsibility and key role to play in the trading activities of tribal produces in these areas. The Committee desire that TRIFED should make its presence felt by the tribals of these states by setting up at least field offices preferably at places predominantly inhabited by tribals.