By Francis Khongwar
Shillong (Meghalaya), Sept 17 : Chief Minister Conrad Sanmga today told the state Assembly that he has forwarded the memorandum that was sent to him to the Union Ministry of External Affairs relating to the hardship and harassment faced by the Khasi and Garo communities in Bangladesh.
Replying to the issue moved Congress Opposition Member George B. Lyngdoh on the insecurity faced by the Khasi and Garo communities in Bangladesh, Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma informed that he received the information that betelnut trees belonging to the Khasi were cut down by the Social Forestry of Bangladesh, following which, these communities organized demonstration and rallies to air their grievances. The Chief Minister also urged the Union Ministry of Home Affairs to take action on the matter.
CM Conrad also strongly rejected the Congress Opposition allegation that the NPP led coalition Meghalaya Democratic Alliance Government is a total failure. Replying to the short duration discussion on the “Failure of Government in the state” moved by Congress Opposition Member Himalaya M. Shangpliang, the Chief Minister said the present Government during its three three years and half term has done much more that the previous Governments which were in power for nearly 47 year. While trying to substantiate his statement, the Chief Minister said that Meghalaya, which was negatively looked at by the Government of India for being ranked in the 28th position for Covid-19 management, it is now ranked in the 3rd place in the country.
The Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma said Meghalaya at one point of time was at the brink of being Blacklisted by the Government for the implementation of PMGSY Scheme. He said five years ago, the expenditure for implementation of the PMGSY Scheme was to the tune of 600 crore rupee; but now, the expenditure has risen to 1,300 crore rupees because of effective implementation of the scheme by the present Government. He also said that he astonished to know that before the year 2018, before MDA Government took over the reign of the state, the number of registered Self Help Groups was only 3,000 in number and now there are 33,000 Self Help Groups and the expenditure in this regard has jumped up to the tune of 200 crore rupees and termed them as great achievement.
He also said before this Government came, the pensioners were having so much hardship in getting their pension in time, but now, the pensioners are getting their due regularly and in time because the Government has put in the money in advance, which will be sufficient for three months.
Conrad K. Sangma also informed the House on the last day of the six-day of Autumn Session of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly that in the previous years, the people who tried to get information from the Departments they would get no response from the officials and if they were lucky, they would get the information after a long time. The Chief Minister said the present Government has not reversed the practice with the new legislation named Meghalaya Right To Public Service Act-2020. He said through this Act, the official is mandated to give the information within the stipulated time and the Act mandates that if information is denied, action can be taken against the official.
On the much talked issue relating to the demand for Implementation of Inner Line Permit in Meghalaya, in which, the member of the Opposition members have alleged the present Government of do nothing about it, the Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma said in the year 2013 the then Congress Government in Meghalaya had firmly stated that there should be no ILP in the state, He said it would be unfair to accuse the incumbent Government without knowing the ground reality. The Chief Minister also added that it was this Government that managed in passing a Resolution in the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly and it is pursuing the matter with the Centre. The Chief Minister also said that due to the efforts of the state Government to ensure the safety and security of the residents of the state that an Entry and Exit point was set up in Ri Bhoi District of the state and in other districts also.
The Meghalaya Legislative Assembly today passed the Meghalaya Appropriation Bill-2021 to enable the state Government to withdraw an amount of 1470 crore 48 lakh, 58 thousand and 379 rupees from the Consolidated Fund of Meghalaya for the financial year 2021-2021. Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma introduced the Bill on the last day of the Autumn Session of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly. The Bill will enable the state Government towards defraying the several charges which will come in the course of payment for the various services incurred by the Government’s Department during the year ending the 31st March 2021.
Minister in-charge Public Health department, Renikton Lyngdoh Thongkhar today informed the House that the state capital requires 9.20 million gallon of water per day. Replying to a query asked by opposition Congress Member Ampareen Lyngdoh during question hour, the Minister said, the department is continuously upgrading the infrastructure including taking water quality improvement measures.
Reiterating that the turbid water that is being received by the residents of the state capital for the past few days is because a new 1000 mm diameter pipe was used for the supply of the water. Since the pipe was lying for several years the water received was turbid. The department has gone back to distributing water through the old 750 mm pipe, but it has burst and is being repaired. He said that efforts are on to supply clean drinking water to the residents of the state capital and urged the residents to bear with the inconvenience. He further said that the Umkhen Water supply is out of order and the repair work would cost the department Rs. 13.2 crore and the department is working to get the fund so that water could be supplied form the Umkhen water supply project.
Earlier, opposition Congress legislator, Ampareen Lyngdoh displayed a bottle of water which was turbid and asked when the residents would get clean drinking water. She also displayed photographs of reservoirs and sought answers from the Minister why it was unclean. Thongkhar said, all efforts are being put in so that residents get safe and clean drinking water including commission of the Greater Shillong Water Supply Scheme (GSWSS) phase 3. He said work is on to complete this important project and hopefully by the end of this fiscal the project would be commissioned. He further denied that there was acute shortage of water and said the water that was being supplied at the moment is adequate. Several other Members raised concern over the quality of water being supplied and urged the minister to take urgent steps to rectify it to which Thongkhar assured the matter is being prioritized by the department.
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma today said the Meghalaya Government would take a decision on palm cultivation after delicately balancing the livelihood aspect of the people and the environment. Intervening during the question hour in the Assembly, Sangma said, the state government has not taken any decisions yet on palm oil cultivation, but it would do so after examining the project details of the Central Government on the project. Stating that there are 3.90 lakh hectare wastelands in the state, Sangma said that the state may consider using some of these wastelands for palm cultivation. “There are wastelands where this (palm) cultivation could take place and does not affect the environment,” he said, adding that farmers who wish to explore the palm cultivation sector can also do so.
The central government has identified the northeastern region and the Andamans for palm cultivation under the National Mission on Edible Oil-Palm Oil. Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently announced Rs. 11,000 crore under this mission. “It is a very delicate matter. We need to see the opportunities because of the fact that the government of India is going to pump a lot of money, but just because they (centre) are giving money that doesn’t mean we will compromise on our environment,” Sangma said. Emphasizing the importance of taking “everyone along” while taking a decision on the issue, the Chief Minister made it clear such cultivation would not come at the cost of forest cover.“Our stand is very clear and we are all concerned about the environment and forest cover. We will be working towards increasing our forest cover at least by 400 to 500 square km,” he added. Minister in charge Forests and Environment, James Sangma also assured the members that no action would be taken at the cost of forest cover or endangering the fragile bio-diversity of the state. “We will not take any action which will harm the ecology or the delicate bio-diversity of the state,” James said.
Earlier the members from the opposition Congress raised concerns regarding the palm cultivation in the state highlighting the dangers it poses to the environment. Congress legislator Mohendro Rapsang asked if the government will reject palm oil cultivation because of its potential threat to the forest cover to which James reiterated that no decision has been taken yet and everything is in the realm of speculation at the moment.