The 16-member team of Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on Citizenship Amendment Bill ended its hearing in Shillong on May 11, 2018. On the culmination of his trip to Shillong, JPC Chairperson Rajendra Agarwal said that the committee is entrusted with the task to visit various states and meet respective stakeholders and take their view forward to the Centre. The committee will submit its recommendation to Lok Sabha in which it will mention various states opposing the bill as there were rather demand for implementation of Inner Line Permit has been raised by some groups.
The JPC was formed following protests from Opposition Parties in Parliament over the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government’s attempt to pass the bill. The JPC has visited several states in connection with the bill so far. Earlier, amidst protests by social and students’ organisation greeted the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on Citizenship (Amendment) Bill of 2016 holds its two-day hearing in Meghalaya.
The bill, which the BJP-led NDA government wants to push through, seeks to grant citizenship to minority communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who entered India before December 31, 2014 to escape from religious persecution.
Organisations such as Khasi Students’ Union, Federation of Khasi-Jaintia and Garo People and Hynniewtrep National Youth Front staged protests outside the State Convention Centre in Shillong where the 16-member JPC team, led by BJP Lok Sabha member Rajendra Agarwal, conducted the hearing. The protests followed the decision of Meghalaya cabinet to oppose the bill.
It is perhaps for once where the state government- Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) led by National People’s Party (NPP) headed by Conrad Kongkal Sangma, the social organizations and pressure groups are in one voice in opposing the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
There are still many more other issues and demands, where the ruling government in the state along with the social, civil and pressure groups jointly could easily pressurized the Centre to implement.
The state government just a month back had shocked the citizens here when Chief Minister mooted the idea of issuing Work Permit to Bangladeshi nationals to address the challenge of infiltration. Sangma made this proposal to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj when the former along with State Home Minister James Kongkal Sangma and Tourism Minister Metbah Lyngdoh called on her. This proposal ripped up fear psychosis of the pressure groups in the state and other social activists terming it a dangerous idea, where the live example could be witnessed from the immediate neighbouring state like Assam.
This time his cabinet has unanimously decided to reject the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 at a Cabinet meeting chaired by the Chief Minister on May 8, 2018. The meeting was held just a day ahead of the visit by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Bill.
As mentioned by Bhubaneswar Kalita, Rajya Sabha MP and a member of the committee said during its visit to the state and meeting with various stakeholders everyone opposed the amendment bill as there were rather demand for implementation of ILP has been raised by some groups.
The demand for the implementation of the Inner Line Permit’s main aim is to check on influx, hence the pressure groups from Meghalaya, while opposing the idea of issuances of work permit for Bangladeshis added that the Chief Minister and his cabinet should focus on pro tribal policies for the state. Some of them include setting up Entry/Exit points all over Meghalaya to contain the illegal inflow of outsiders into Meghalaya, the effective implementation of Land Transfer Act 1972, check all Benami transactions and implementation of Meghalaya Benami Transaction Act, Meghalaya Residential Bill and work a way out from these unending sufferings of our people and respect the peoples’ mandate.
It may be recalled that after the ban of rat-hole coal mining by the National Green Tribunal, most of the migrant labourers have left the state, while most of the indigenous tribals are still unemployed. Therefore, the government should generate more employment for the citizens in the state, more than issuing the work permit for Bangladeshis. The availability of vacancies should be filled up by the citizens of Meghalaya first. At the same time government should sensitize the masses on the dignity of work, otherwise such work permits will mean that the government is inviting people from other nations to occupy the jobs of the locals.
Meghalaya is known to the outside world as a sleepy hill station due to early shutting down of the market, and opening late in the morning. The official work starts only by 10:00 AM, while the metro cities start the factory by 7:30AM. The Time Zone adopted by the North Eastern region in general and Meghalaya in particular is preventing the growth of Trade and Commerce as well as the service industries, where the shift system is not commonly practiced, unlike in Mumbai, known as the city which never sleeps, where some of the companies are having as many as three shifts within 24 hours.
It is not only because of the absence of manufacturing or producing industries, the working hours have been cut short in Meghalaya even for the educational institutions, which begin late compared to other states. Hence the class routine of almost all the institutions has been dragged on for whole day. At the same time, most of the students require private coaching popularly known as tuition here which has further prolonged their study hours.
Under such circumstances, it is difficult for the student community from the state to seek part-time jobs, either to support their own tuition fee, or to lend a helping hand to the family in the present high cost of living. Besides that the youth find it difficult to understand the meaning of dignity of work, as most of them are not working.
It is not at all a surprise when the projects or schemes are being abandoned at the drop of a hat, as the central funds are exhausted or stopped, even if the projects are extremely beneficial to the grass root level, as the state government cannot sustain itself. Meghalaya is yet to work out projects which are self-sustainable; for every penny it is dependent on central schemes.
Over dependence on natural resources has worsened the work culture and dignity of labour in the state. Under such circumstances if the Work Permit is implemented, Meghalaya will surely be flooded with migrant workers, and if they settled down here, it is feared that the demography of the indigenous tribals will surely change, as witnessed with the football players hired by the local football teams. After the contracts expire, most of them have settled down here by marrying the locals. Hence, both the work permit and the proposed Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 are being opposed, while providing an opportunity for the pressure group to stressed on an alternative like ILP, which the JPC will surely mentioned in their findings for the Lok Sabha.