Meghalaya CM: Centre is not serious about North-East

Neelu Vyas

Meghalaya-CM-CUIn an exclusive interview to Rajya Sabha TV, Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma has alleged that the Centre is not serious about the North-East.

Sangma says Meghalaya will always remain underdeveloped as there is complete apathy from the centre and a lack of political will by the leadership.

 

Sangma has also called the Niti Ayog meetings absolutely fruitless. He says that the devolution of funds is still uniform for all the states despite the need for funds in the North-East states is much more.

On the issue of rising militancy in the Garo hills, Sangma has blamed the Border Security Force. Sangma says that Centre should have done an analysis of the number of officers needed to guard the borders but has failed to do so for many years now.

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

Have you been able to remove the underdeveloped tag from your state in the last two tenures you’ve had as CM?

Welfare tops state government’s agenda but fighting the ‘poor’ image is a big challenge. There is absolutely no advantage of having an international border in the state.

Coal mining is an important revenue generator for your state which has been banned by the National Green Tribunal. How are you fighting the financial crunch?

Of late there have been several concerns about mining activity. There needs to be a comprehensive policy for mining. The sector is witnessing immense growth but it is no longer under state government. Political will is key to the development of this sector.

What happens to the thousands of people associated with mining as they are now jobless?

People’s rights cannot be ignored. The state government and the Centre are collectively responsible for growth.

What is happening about Uranium mining? Is the state ready for it?

Regarding uranium mining, we will not use coercion. We will go slow on the process and take further steps only after winning people’s confidence. A consensus by the tribals is a must for uranium mining.

Education is in a mess in Meghalaya. How are you trying to change the scenario because there is a lot of corruption? Most of the teachers in the state also are not trained. Are any schemes being launched?

A faulty plan in implementation has created the mess. A state government needs access to funds. Meghalaya has a transparent recruitment system but the Centre and the state needs to be on the same page.

What about tourism? Roads are bad. There are even no proper restaurants?

National Highways are in a bad shape. You have also travelled by them and you have seen their condition. You can see how much the Centre seems to be focussing on Meghalaya! Niti Ayog meetings have not helped us at all. No action is taken despite us raising these concerns.  The ball is in the Centre’s court. They need to decide how they want to handle the North-East.

Why has the militancy not been curbed? And why are youths taking to arms?

Again the answer is that the Centre is not guarding the borders properly. How are the sophisticated weapons getting inside the state without any check? Despite employment opportunities, youths are taking to arms because they feel that is the easy way out. I know of people who have given up their jobs to pick up arms. Centre is not bothered about the borders.

Are you going to implement Inner Line Permit in your state?

There is no need for an Inner Line Permit in Meghalaya. There are enough laws to regulate the influx of the people. There is no demographic threat to our people. States like Mizoram and Arunachal which have implemeted ILP have not been able to check the number of outsiders.