The 10th Session of the Meghalaya Assembly, was installed on March 6, 2018 after the swearing in of Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) coalition led by National People’s Party (NPP) Supremo Conrad Kongkal Sangma, son of former Lok Sabha Speaker, Late Purno Agitok Sangma, as the 12th Chief Minister of Meghalaya, along with other 11 ministers. Governor Ganga Prasad administered the oath of office and secrecy to the 40-year-old Tura Lok Sabha member, watching the ceremony were Home Minister Rajnath Singh, BJP President Amit Shah, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu, Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh, designated Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and former Assam and Mizoram Chief Ministers Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and Zoramthanga. Outgoing Chief Minister, Dr Mukul M Sangma was also present on the occasion.
The 10th Session of the Assembly has broken the jinx for the youth in politics even though this time female legislators have been reduced to 3 by way of Dr Mazel Ampareen Lyngdoh (Cong), Agatha Kongkal Sangma (NPP) and Dikkanchi D Shira (Cong). Off course Willamnagar Assembly Constituency in East Garo Hills district, which is represented by Deborah C. Marak, still has to go to polls after the killing of NCP candidate Jonathane N Sangma in an IED blast on 18 February.
This session has the two youngest legislators – Wailadmiki Shylla (NPP) from Jowai Constituency and Gavin Miguel Mylliem (PDF) from Sohra constituency who are both just 26 years. The oldest member is Timothy Shira (NPP) from Resubelpara constituency who is 68 years old. There are as many as 10 members between the age group of 25 to 35 years old and 24 members between the age group of 36 to 45 years old which sums up the youthful August House, with a Chief Minister who is just 40 years old.
The new faces are a most welcome sign as it seems that the slogan of ‘Change’ did really work. Now it is a duty to make sure that all the elected members, particularly the first timers need to undergo Parliamentary procedure training on how the session is being conducted and how to maintain the privileges of the elected members.
It is widely known that in Meghalaya, administration, especially government administration, does not mean only paperwork. Both the Bureaucrats and the Legislators in the state are simply performing their daily duties without any innovative methods to simplify the work culture to benefit the masses. The state government should understand its weak and strong points, and perform accordingly.
The 46 year old Meghalaya has seen 22 Chief Ministers; it is the painful truth that the Chief Minister literary has to plead with the Central Government even for a meager increase in the annual budget allotted to the state by the Planning Commission, whereas states like Kerala or Karnataka or Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra simply ‘instruct’ the Central Government to sanction their schemes and provide increased Plan funds.
In order to gain the trust of the central government, particular with the incumbent youthful legislators, Meghalaya needs to perform, do its homework to tap the natural resources and its strengths, and then approach the Centre for the additional funds needed to implement development activities and also take care of the burgeoning administrative machinery.
Indeed, for how long can a state be dependable on doles by the Centre by way of Plan and Non Plan funds? When will we become self-sufficient? Are we asking for the moon when we talk of self-sufficiency since the state has no other revenue income except from the Excise and taxation department?
Let us take an example of how we do not use our resources and power of bargaining. The Centre is ready to provide Rs. 1000 crore (Yes, Rupees One Thousand crore) as advance on royalty for uranium mining in the state. Successive Meghalaya Governments have not accepted the money. This, at a time when the state government is finding it difficult to even pay its employees according to the recommendations of the Pay panel.
Same is the case of Smart Cities, where Meghalaya could not made it even in three attempts.
“This is your money. Why do you seek handouts from us when we are ready to give you your money?” is the line adopted by the Centre. Does this mean that we are rather comfortable in eking out handouts and loans which we cannot repay in the near or distant future? Unless we tap our resources and reach a position of financial strength, how are we going to repay the loans availed from the Centre?
We have been hearing about the promotion of tourism but where is the basic infrastructure for this? To point out a minor laxity in our planning, we see that on Sundays places like Golf link, Upper Shillong or Lady Hydari Park are thronged by hundreds of visitors and tourists but the parking of vehicles is always in a haphazard manner.
Compare this with a small state like Sikkim. There, be it a local taxi or tourist vehicle, special training is provided to drivers on how to deal with tourists and traffic rules are maintained with the outmost discipline.
Can our basic necessities like the tourist and local taxi drivers be disciplined? We know about how the local taxi drivers break each and every traffic law be it over-loading or the driver speaking over his cell phone or smoking while driving.
The irony of the state is nature and “Clean Shillong”. If one cares to take a walk around the city, we will know how clean our Shillong is!
We are talking about broader government administration. That word may seem to be Greek to our decision makers sitting at the Main Secretariat. Even having a young and dynamic Chief Minister, with his second innings in the office, we still see that our Ministers, MLAs, Parliamentary Secretaries, Commissioners and Secretaries, and every else remaining absent from their office for long hours. That is no way to run an administration.
Every individual in the street is saying that the state administration needs to do a rethink, but where do we begin? The state of affairs is like a tea strainer. Which hole is to be plugged first? Should status quo be allowed to remain and allow the next man in-charge to take the lead?