The common practice by the elected members to visit their respective Assembly Constituency once in five years, just to seek votes, is expected to change, if the assurance of the Chief Minister, Conrad Kongkal Sangma made on the Floor of August House in the ongoing Budget Session that his Cabinet Ministers will visit all the eleven districts once in every three months on a rotation basis to review and improve the implementation of the various schemes, is to be taken at face value. He also assured that the touring by the cabinet ministers to the different districts will start in the first quarter itself.
Conrad added that his government may not do different things but we will do things differently. He made these assurances while clarifying that the cabinet ministers will also conduct public hearings to discuss and understand the problems faced by the people in these respective districts. Accordingly the ministers will also submit regular reports to the state government in order to ensure implementation of the various schemes are properly monitored and improved.
It may be noted here that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government of Narendra Damodardas Modi, in an attempt to install BJP governments in the North Eastern Region, and to erase the concept that Delhi bahut door hai (Delhi is too far), Modi had made sure that his ministers regularly visit the region to take stock of the ground reality, on the implementation of the central schemes.
Till the verdict of the three Assemblies of the region- Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya, Modi claims since 2014 his ministers have already made over 200 visits to the northeast region. While in the past, the visit of the Central Minister or VVIPs are indeed rare. Modi also informed that final touches are being given to start 10 battalions of the Indian Reserve Battalion in the region, of which two would be in Manipur. It would provide jobs to 2,000 youths.
In the case of the visit by Central Ministers, we are yet to witness any constructive changes from the 200 visits claimed. Meghalaya too has the share in all this, where North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences (NEIGRIHMS) was pulled up during such a surprise visit. However, other projects like the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) housing or transportation were never reviewed during these visits by the Central leaders.
The same is with the central sponsored schemes like highways, bio-technology, tourism, agriculture and water resources which are all in disarray in Meghalaya. So also is the NDA flagship programmes like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan or the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Awas Yojana just naming a few from the list of 30 which are still non-starters in Meghalaya, yet the state government has never been pulled up.
Conrad is bold enough to borrow this formula, assuring that his Cabinet Ministers will visit all the eleven districts once in every three months on a rotation basis, and accordingly submit the report. This is of course a noble gesture, however, all such visits should not just end in the inspection of bungalows, of which the prime purposes of such buildings have turned into a getaway destination for most officials and legislators.
Also, the visit should not be just mandatory, but the visiting Minister should do the homework well, so that during the suggested public hearing, he or she should be able to rectify or solve the problems if any by the citizen of the district.
Conrad will have a lot to deal with for such visit, starting from supplying drinkable water in the state, reaching health care to the villages, road connectivity to remote areas, education system, improving the living standards of the farming community in Meghalaya, and of course the border haats along the international border.
Yet another mission of the Conrad Cabinet is to tap the Human Resources in the state and guide them towards their respective talents, not to forget the urgent need of generating employment in the state are all screaming for the attention of the state government, and if such a field visit by the Cabinet Ministers should be able to attend to such issues in Meghalaya. Otherwise all such visits will only be a number in the file, like the claim of over 200 visits by Central ministers, but there is not concrete development in the region.