Address by Shri. B.K. Nehru Governor of Assam

Inaugural Session

Meghalaya Legislative Assembly

TURA

MR. SPEAKER AND HON'BLE MEMBERS,

        This is a great day for the new State of Meghalaya. The Provisional Legislative Assembly of Meghalaya is holding its first sitting to-day. One of the purposes of setting up the State of Meghalaya is that the people of this area may be able to concentrate on their problems and find solutions for them through their own representative institutions. My Government will keep this basic objective in view and will discharge conscientiously the debt of responsibility and trust which the people of Meghalaya have reposed in it. The authority and resources of the new State will be held and used in trust for the benefit of the people of Meghalaya regardless of any consideration of class or creed. My Government will not permit any distinctions on parochial considerations and will endeavour to work for the progress and prosperity of all the people of this State.

        The formation of the new State is only the beginning. Before the Government lies hard and unremitting toil. The problems of the State in all their diversity will have to be studied and the availability of resources will have to be assessed. Administrative agencies will have to be evolved and place on a sound footing for a bold development effort. In fact, the whole fabric of administration has to be built up, housed and made to function. It is no small task. Administrative machinery in a modern democratic State is fairly complicated. It relies on the smooth functioning of different authorities with clearly demarcated spheres through a sophisticated system of checks and balances. The task of the new Government is a stupendous one. The edifice of the new State has to be built up brick by brick. It will be necessary to work out departmental staff patterns and to find staff trained for various duties and responsibilities. At the moment we are making a beginning with the process of evolving Secretariat organisation. There are no nuclei around which departmental working organisations can be built up. Departmental hierarchies will have to be constructed from the lowest level. There is an acute scarcity of office and residential accommodation in Shillong. Recently, the Government of Assam has agreed to make some office buildings available to the Government of Meghalaya. Before these can be used it will be necessary to furnish and equip them. Residential accommodation in Shillong is also a very serious problem. The new Government is struggling with the problem of finding houses for its Ministers, officers and employees. Many months of patient and hard work will be needed before the wheels of machinery will start turning smoothly.

        As the Members are aware, an integrated Hill Plan was under implementation for the development of areas included in the autonomous districts of Assam. It is the earnest desire of my Government that with the creation of Meghalaya, the tempo and pace of development in the State will be stepped up and every effort be made to ensure that the State catches up with the rest of the country as early as possible.

        The amendments which have been made in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution enable the District Councils to exercise functions on behalf of the State Government in respect of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Community Projects, Co-operation, Village Planning and Social Welfare. My Government proposes to initiate action to entrust some of these functions to the District Councils on mutually agreed terms. The District Councils have a great responsibility to maintain local customs and traditions and to promote and improve such democratic institutions as Syiems, Dollois, Nokmas, Laskars, Sirdars etc. Government propose to help the District Councils in every way in discharging this responsibility. There is no ground for any apprehension that with the creation of Meghalaya, the local customs, traditions and the above-mentioned institutions under the District Councils would be adversely affected in any manner. My Government will respect and support the traditional agencies and local institutions under the District Councils.

        This State is largely populated by the Scheduled Tribes who are economically behind their brethren in other parts of the Country. My Government intends to embark on a programme of development for the new State of Meghalaya. This programme will cover the development of Agriculture, improvement of means of communications, judicious exploitation of natural resources and improvement of employment opportunities. We would like to wean away the people from destructive exploitations of available resources such as the practice of jhumming which destroys our forest wealth. We have to demonstrate the advantage of settled modes of cultivation which help to conserve forest wealth and generally improve the face of the countryside. Meghalaya is specially suitable for the development of animal husbandry, poultry farming, horticulture and fishing.

        A certain amount of re-organisation of settlements appears necessary for the introduction of modern methods of Agriculture. This would be particularly so if we have to mechanise our farming. In the Garo Hills, in particular there is an urgent need to re-group villages in order to introduce viable farming units, and for provision of Water Supply, Public Health, Education and other facilities. This programme for re-grouping will have to be undertaken after carefully considering the feasibilities and the interests of the local people concerned.

        Meghalaya has abundant forest and mineral resources. This wealth should be tapped and industries based on forest and mineral raw materials should be set up. A diversified economy and optimum use of resources will help to raise the standard of living of the people. My Government will work for the creation of the necessary infra-structure so that industries are attracted to Meghalaya. To enable a proper plan of utilisation to be drawn up, it will be necessary to undertake a comprehensive survey of the whole State with a view to locating deposits of minerals and the extent thereof. A Directorate of Mining and Geology will have to be organised to undertake this work, if necessary in collaboration with the Geological Survey of India. We have extensive sal forests and vast tracts of bamboo and pine on the higher altitudes. The suitability of the area for raising plantations of fast-growing pulp wood species indicates potential for starting a paper mill in Garo Hills and newsprint mill in Khasi Hills. The possibility of forest development and modern forestry practices in Meghalaya are enormous; with proper management there is no reason why we should not be able to attain standard of growth and judicious exploitation comparable with some of the most advanced countries in Europe.

        The people of the State especially those living near the southern border with Pakistan have been adversely affected by the disappearance of traditional market in East Pakistan. The State Government will have to examine measures for the economic rehabilitation of these people. We will have to take up with the Government of India the need for more centres for trade to be opened on the border. The problem of communications in the State is a crucial one. There is no railway in Meghalaya and the State is entirely dependent on road communications. In March 1969, Meghalaya area had less than 4 kilometres of surfaced roads from 100 kilometres of area. The corresponding figures for other States are much higher. My Government has already taken up with the Government of India the question of an airport at Shillong so as to make our capital city more easily accessible. Another step of immense benefit to Meghalaya will be the extension of the railway line from Gauhati to Byrnihat which would facilitate the transport of materials and goods into and out of the centres of production in Meghalaya. The Shillong-Tura road, the Damra-Baghmara road and the Paiken-Tura road are very essential for the economic development of the new State.

        In the field of Public Health also, much remains to be done. With the exception of the Civil Hospital in Shillong, all hospitals in the State are ill-equipped and the full complement of qualified doctors and specialists is not available. In most cases the primary health centres and dispensaries are without staff and the equipment provided is very inadequate. Measures will have to be evolved to make service in the rural areas attractive to the doctors. It will be the endeavour of the Government to equip the existing hospitals and dispensaries up to the required standard and to man them with qualified doctors and staff.

        In the field of Technical Education, Government will have to evolve a scheme with a practical bias, keeping in view the way of life, aptitude and the economic condition of the people. With this object in view, the growth of Polytechnics and Junior Technical Schools will have to be encouraged.

        My Government will place before you during the current session the following legislative measures :-

  (1)    A Bill for the Removal of certain Disqualifications for being chosen as and for being a member of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly. An Ordinance incorporating these provisions was issued on the 7th April, 1970.
  (2)    Ministers' Salaries and Allowances Bill.
  (3)    The Speakers', Deputy Speaker's and the Legislative Assembly Members' Salaries and Allowances Bills.
  (4)    The contingency Fund of Meghalaya Bill.
  (5)    A resolution enabling the setting up of a Central University in the Shillong area.

        The State of Meghalaya has just been born. There has been sympathy and understanding all around and this augers well for the new State. The members of the State Government, its officers and agents will have to strive very hard to take stock of the problems, assess the requirements and to work for the betterment of the people. This is a sacred task for which, I am sure, everybody will work with determination, sincerity and goodwill.

JAI HIND