From a small beginning, the co-operative movement in West Bengal has grown in strength over the years. The year 1904 marked the advent of the official Co-operative movement with the enactment of Co-operative Credit Societies Act of 1904 by the Government of India. The law was simple, as it had to deal with the large mass of agriculturists and elastic, as it allowed the Provincial Governments to frame their own Rules for the Development of the Co-operatives. In the year 1912 with the passing of the Co-operative Credit Societies Act of 1912 a new stimulus was given to the Co-operative Movement by allowing formation of Central Societies and Societies other than Credit. The Bengal Province had its own law on Co-operatives with enactment of the Bengal Co-operative Societies Act, 1940.The law was once again replaced by passing of the West Bengal Co-operative Societies Act, 1973.
Presently the West Bengal Co-operative Societies Act, 1983 and the Rules framed there under (West Bengal Co-operative Societies Rules, 1987), effective from 01-08-1987, provides the framework for the Co-operative Development in the State. From Primary agricultural Credit to Marketing societies and Consumer Co-operative stores, Co-operatives provide services to the people in various economic activities.
Every Co-operative Society has its own by-laws made by the members, which act as the basic document for carrying out its affairs and business. The principles to which the by-laws should conform to are:
a) The membership of a Co-operative Society shall be voluntary and shall be open to all persons who are eligible for such membership without any social, political, or religious discrimination;
b) Every member of a Co-operative Society, other than a nominal member, shall have equal right of voting in accordance with the principle of “one member, one vote” ;
c) Any surplus or saving arising out of the operation of a Co-operative Society shall belong to such Co-operative Society as a whole, and no individual member shall have any claim to such surplus or saving;
d) The surplus of a Co-operative Society shall be utilized for all or any of the following purposes-
i) providing for development of business of the Co-operative Society.
ii) providing service for common enjoyment of membership of the Co-operative Society
iii) distributing among the members of the Co-operative Society in proportion to the transaction of the members with the Co-operative Society .
e) A Co-operative Society shall arrange for the education of its members, office- bearers and employees and of people in the principles and practices of Co-operation;
f) A Co-operative Society shall, in every practical way, cooperate actively with other Co-operative Societies at the local, State or national level;
g) The share capital of a Co-operative Society shall receive the strictly limited rate of interest in the shape of dividend;
h) The affairs of a Co-operative Society shall be administered in accordance with the will of its members expressed through unanimous or majority decision at a meeting of the general body of members of the Co-operative Society;
i) The directors of the board for a Co-operative Society shall be accountable to the general body of Co-operative Society;