SHILLONG, April 12: Thursday’s session of the ongoing Budget session of the Assembly witnessed a walk – out being staged by the Opposition through which it expressed how strongly opposed it is to the Chief Minister, Conrad Sangma’s plans of issuing work permits to Bangladesh nationals.
Not satisfied by the reply given by Conrad during the short discussion on the issue which was moved by Congress MLA from East Shillong Ampareen Lyngdoh, the Opposition decided to stage a walk - out.
Strongly opposing the CM’s recent proposal to the Centre, members of the Congress and lone Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement (KHNAM) MLA Adelbert Nongrum demanded the state government to immediately drop the idea of work permit to Bangladesh nationals.
Before staging the walkout, Leader of Opposition, Dr. Mukul Sangma said, “We have heard the exhaustive reply of a “matured” CM and his reply indicates his complete disregard and disrespect for the sentiments of the people of the state and the region. Therefore, we will continue to demonstrate our protest against this anti-people agenda of this government by staging a walk-out.”
Dr. Sangma along with 19 other Congress MLAs immediately walked out of the Assembly hall as a mark of protest. However, Nongrum who is neither supporting the ruling nor the opposition, refused to join them in the protest.
In the course of his reply, Conrad had said that issuing of work permit to Bangladeshi nationals was only an “idea” that has been brought forward for discussion as to whether it will help in protecting the people and the land from illegal immigration or not.
He said that the matter came up during a discussion with the Union External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj, who had stressed the importance of taking the Act East Policy to a new level and ensure that states benefit from it.
“Therefore before assessing and discussing about the need for scrapping this (idea), let us discuss and look at all the pros and cons and let us not be people who simply look at the word and say I can’t accept this,” Conrad said.
He however maintained that the matter related to issuing of the work permit to foreign nationals is totally a subject matter of the Central government and that it has nothing to do with the state government.
Opining that the Opposition has failed to see the “big picture”, Conrad said, “Everybody is missing the big picture. The point here is that we are talking about economic development, about trade and the Act East Policy.”
Conrad also said that trade and economic development comes with more movement of products and people.
“There is need to ensure that the mechanism comes in to balance these two factors – economic development and illegal immigration,” he said while adding, “If the process is too tight, economic development suffers and if process is too loose, then illegal immigration will happen. We need to find a way that can balance these two things, which is a real challenge.”
Informing that a meeting of all the Chief Ministers to discuss the Act East Policy will be held in New Delhi on May 4, Conrad urged all the members to give their suggestions on how to make the Act East policy a strong one that will ensure development and protection to the people.
Assuring that the government will do whatever it takes to protect the interest of the people of the state, Conrad said, “We will never compromise on our identity, we will never compromise on our land and we will not compromise on our youth.”
Earlier while participating in the short discussion, Dr. Sangma accused the ruling National People’s Party (NPP) of cheating and betraying the people of the state and urged the CM to stop his proposal.
“This (issuing of work permit to Bangladeshis) is not a proposal of the NPP or the MDA. Has this been part of the NPP’s election manifesto? If not, then it is a betrayal of not only the people of Meghalaya but the North East region and nation as a whole?” he said.
He also asked whether the idea of issuing of work permit to Bangladesh nationals was part of the Government of India’s proposal on Citizenship Act (which seeks to grant citizenship to Hindus from Bangladesh).
“I could see (in reports) the Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Sawraj and Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju appreciating this proposal (by the CM). But it may be good for them but it is not good for Meghalaya and North East region,” Dr. Sangma said.
Reacting to this, Conrad charged the Opposition leader of giving an immature statement and likened it to an election speech.
“I urge the Opposition let us be real statesmen and focus on issues that affect us. Let us take things in a positive manner and let us not give election speeches and political speeches here in the House. Let us give ideas that will take the state forward as the citizens expect us to be matured and take steps that are going to be in the interest of the people of the state,” he said.
Congress MLA Himalaya Muktan Shangpliang while referring to the opposition expressed by several NGOs in the state against the issuing of work permit to Bangladesh nationals said that in fact, to even have a thought about it is wrong.
He also wanted to know under what law or provision of the Constitution of India does the Chief Minister want to issue work permits to foreign nationals while urging the government to instead speed up the setting up of the entry-exit points to check influx and illegal immigration.
On the other hand, MLA from Umroi George B Lyngdoh while pointing out the implications of the NRC conducted by Assam government said, “The idea of the government will open the floodgates to these families (Bangladeshis) and it is like inviting them to our state.”
Echoing similar concerns, KHNAM MLA from North Shillong Adelbert Nongrum said that the proposal of the Chief Minister to issue work permit to Bangladesh nationals is highly objectionable and urged the MDA government to refrain from this idea which might create chaos in the state.