Co-operation means working together jointly. A Co-operative Society is essentially an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily on the basis of equality to meet common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations of the members through jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprises by honest means. Co-operative Societies are expected to function according to certain Co-operative Principles as well as per provisions of the Co-operative Societies Act and the Rules. Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.
As per latest revision made by the International Co-operative Alliance in 1995, the seven Co-operative Principles are:-
Voluntary and Open Membership
Democratic Member Control
Member Economic Participation
Autonomy and Independence
Education, Training and Information
Co-operation among Co-operatives
Concern for Community
Co-operatives all over the world have become an effective and potential instrument of economic development. There is not a single major sphere of economic activity which has not been touched by Co-operatives. Co-operatives are also envisaged as an instrument for implementing many important policies like agricultural credit, urban credit, market intervention, price support for agricultural commodities through Co-operative wholesale stores, public distribution system etc.
The co-operative societies in West Bengal are now governed by The West Bengal Co-operative Societies Act, 1983 and The West Bengal Co-operative Societies Rules, 1987. A Bill was placed in the West Bengal Legislative Assembly in 2006 in order to replace the present Act and after having received the assent of the Hon'ble President of India, it has been notified in the Official Gazette of the State Government as 'The West Bengal Co-operative Societies Act, 2006'. The date of enforcement of this new Act has not been notified as yet.
In July, 2010, a special provision on Co-operative Credit Structure Entities has been passed in the Assembly (for incorporation in the new Act) as 'The West Bengal Co-operative Societies (Amendment) Bill, 2010' . This will also require the assent of the Hon'ble President.
Recently, Rule 223 of The West Bengal Co-operative Societies Rules,1987 has been amended.