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

March  Session

Meghalaya Legislative Assembly



        The autonomous State of Meghalaya will soon have completed a year of its existence. This period has been an eventful one. I shall refer briefly to the events of the past year and the future programme of my Government. Before I do so, I have, with great sorrow, to refer to the said demise of Shri B.P. Chaliha, the former Chief Minister of Assam. Shri Chaliha had won a place of high esteem in the hearts of the people of Assam and Meghalaya. His dealings were always marked by honesty, sincerity and a catholicity of outlook. The North-Eastern Region is poorer with the departure of this statesman.

        2. During the last twelve months, we have witnessed a sincere and competent effort made to work a novel and somewhat complicated constitutional experiment. There were considerable difficulties of mechanics and location and, to some of these, I referred in my address last year. My Government strove very hard to solve and overcome these difficulties and this was possible in some cases. In other cases, the problems remained and all concerned looked for a way out of the impasse. My Government then discussed with the Government of India and after mature deliberation, this House passed an unanimous resolution in its last session demanding full statehood for Meghalaya. Further discussions took place with the Prime Minister herself and finally she made the following announcement on the floor of the Parliament on the 10th November, 1970 :-

        "......................................... The decision to grant statehood to Manipur and Tripura, however, necessitated a fresh look at the status of Meghalaya. The Chief Minister of Meghalaya also that in the changed situation, Meghalaya should be made a separate State. Later, Shri K.C. Pant, visited the North-Eastern Region and discussed this matter with the Chief Minister and other Ministers of Meghalaya, as well as with the Ministers of Assam. Recently, the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly has passed a resolution demanding full statehood. On October 2nd, I was in Gauhati and further discussions were held with both the Governments. Taking these factors into account, Government have decided to accept in principle Meghalaya's demand for statehood......................."

        This announcement was greeted by the all the people of Meghalaya with enthusiasm. It is the earnest hope of my Government that a Bill granting full statehood to Meghalaya will be introduced and passed by the Parliament at the earliest.

        3. In my last address, I had referred to the stupendous problems faced by the new Government in evolving and properly organising the administrative machinery. The difficulties in securing the services of experienced and trained staff, absence of adequate office accommodation and the inherent limitations of the Assam Re-organisation (Meghalaya) Act continue to pose serious problems to the Government. The basic structure of the administrative machinery has however, been evolved integrating, in a large measure, the executive and secretariat wings in the light of the recommendation of the Department of Administrative Reforms of the Government of India. This, it is expected, will avoid delay in execution of development schemes and also enable the administration to function with increased efficiency and effectiveness. The staffing pattern for these Directorates has also been finalised.

        4. It is proposed to rationalise the system of recruitment to the different posts under the Government with a view to ensuring uniformity in standards. The Re-organisation Act provides for a common Public Service Commission between Assam and Meghalaya. Under the existing regulations, it is not necessary to consult the Public Service Commission in the case of appointments by direct recruitment to posts carrying pay-scales the maxima of which are less than Rs.501 per mensem. Government intend to centralise recruitment to these posts which are excluded from the purview of the Public Service Commission and are setting up a Selection Board for the purpose so that staff selection methods can be made more objective and systematic.

        5. The law and order situation during the year was normal in the State. On the East Pakistan border the situation was relatively quiet excepting for a few incidents of smuggling, cattle lifting, dacoity and kidnapping. Gambling in the form of betting connected with archery had reached serious proportions in Shillong and elsewhere and had resulted in the ruination of many families. Archery has been a traditional sport among the people of United Khasi and Jaintia Hills but recently there was an unhealthy development in which the old sport was exploited for the purpose of gambling by distorting it in a manner so as to reduce the element of skill and correspondingly to increase the element of chance. In order to put a stop to this menace, this House had passed the Meghalaya Prevention of Gambling Act, 1970 which was put into effect on 14th December 1970. This has been instrumental in largely controlling this social evil.

        6. One of the main purposes of setting up the State of Meghalaya was to accelerate the development of this region. Before the formation of Meghalaya, for the Fourth Five Year Plan including the year 1969-70, the Planning Commission had already earmarked an outlay of Rs.65 crores for the Integrated Hill Plan of the composite State of Assam. Out of this the share of Meghalaya was fixed at Rs.38 crores. This allocation, which was arrived at on the basis of population, falls short of the needs of the new State to meet the cost of certain essential development tasks designed to make up the leeway in the development of the area. As is well known. Meghalaya is among the most backward parts of the country. The objective of national planning in India is not only to raise the national income or per capita income but also to ensure that the benefit is evenly distributed, that the regional disparities in income and standard of living are narrowed down so that the process of economic development is accompanied by stability and absence of social tension. This can be achieved by keeping a watchful eye on the need for the development of the relatively backward areas and weaker sections of the community. My Government attach great importance to this aspect and have moved for increasing the plan outlay for the State and, also for dealing with the problems arising out of the geographical situation of Meghalaya as a border State. Besides, some schemes relating to regrouping of villages in Garo Hills, development of roads of economic and strategic importance, rehabilitation of the economy of the border areas, improvement of water supply in Shillong town and development of Shillong Tura-Jowai towns have been drawn up and sent to the Government of India for financial assistance for their implementation. The total cost of these adhoc programme would be of the order of Rs.35 crores of which about Rs.14 crores would be required during the remaining period of the Fourth Plan. 

        My Government had move the Government of India for declaring both the districts of Meghalaya as economically and industrially backward. I am glad to inform the House that the Government of India have accepted this proposal. As a result of this, concessional institutional finance and outright grant or subsidy by the Centre will be available to entrepreneurs in this State.

        While drawing up the development plans for Meghalaya, emphasis has been laid on building up an infra-structure particularly a well-knit communication system, area development and institutions for provision of facilities. Attention has also been given to better facilities in the field of education, medical and public health services and water supply.

        7. Meghalaya has a long border with East Pakistan. The partition of the country cut off the normal outlets for the produce of the border areas of Meghalaya affecting about 1,500 villages with a population of 1.75 lakhs. These figures imply 36 percent of the State's total area and 23 percent of the population and show that the border problem is a very important one for the State. As a result, the economy of the region has suffered and income and investment have declined. There has been large scale neglect of horticultural and other crops in these border areas and in the absence of remunerative returns hardly any attempt has been made in maintaining cultivation and fighting plant diseases. To revive the border trade to some extent, Government have been making energetic efforts to open up trade by permitting Pakistani traders to come to certain specified markets on the Indian side of the border. At present 14 such border markets are permitted on specified days and the Government of India have been moved for opening up twelve more such markets in other places on the border. As an experimental measure, Pakistani traders have been allowed temporarily to come to Shella market in boats 4 days in a week for the purpose of collecting shingles, boulders and limestone. Besides, on bazar days which are twice a week, Pakistani traders are allowed to come in boats to collect authorised commodities. It is proposed to extend this scheme to some other border markets also if it is found a success in Shella. In addition to this, a coordinated development programme for the border areas is being taken up which will cover the various sectors of development taking into account the need for developing the agro-industrial potential. Attempts will also be made to find alternative markets for the traditional produce of the border areas and alternative occupations and means of livelihood for the people.

        8. The Assam Re-organisation (Meghalaya) Act contains a number of special provisions governing the distribution of powers between the two States and the performance of agency functions by the Government of Meghalaya. There is, for example a provision for delegation to the Meghalaya Government of the powers and functions of the Central Government but for this prior consultation with the Assam Government is necessary. My Government have approached the Central Government for this purpose but unfortunately action has been very slow as the process of consultation with the Assam Government has taken too much time.

        9. The Act also envisages the constitution of a committee for the development of Shillong Town. The Government of India, after consultation with the Governments of Assam and Meghalaya have constituted such a committee consisting of the Chief Minister and one Minister each of Assam and Meghalaya Governments. This committee will advise the two Governments on matters of common interest in respect of Shillong in the field of education and water supply in particular and in respect of its development and administration in general.

        10. In accordance with the provisions of sub-section (1) of Section 55 of the Assam Re-organisation (Meghalaya) Act, 1969, the Government of India have recently issued the Assam Taxation Laws (Meghalaya) Modification Order, 1970. The provisions of this Order will have the effect of adapting the Assam Laws with some modifications with regard to their applicability in the autonomous State of Meghalaya. The Government of Meghalaya are setting up district offices at Shillong and Tura for effective administration of the tax laws in the State.

        11. Agriculture is and will continue to remain the backbone of the State's economy and in this sector the emphasis is on adoption of of improved agricultural practices, a coordinated programme for reclamation of land which can be made fit for cultivation together with development of a network of irrigation, introduction of high-yielding varieties and measures to take up dry farming in areas where irrigation is not possible. The people have to be weaned away from the destructive exploitation of available resources, such as the practice of jhumming which destroys our forest wealth. It is also necessary to take up a scheme for regrouping of villages in Garo Hills in order to introduce viable farming units and generally to promote progressive use of land resources. It is also necessary to pay attention to the credit needs of the farmers, particularly , through co-operatives. The Meghalaya Co-operative Apex Bank Ltd., has been set up during the year to meet the credit requirements particularly in the agricultural sector.

        In addition to the regular Plan schemes, at the instance of this Government, the Government of India have since allocated two projects of composite type of benefit small farmers, marginal farmers and landless agricultural labourers. The outlay, for each of these Projects is Rs.100 lakhs for the remaining period of the Fourth Plan. One of these Projects will be in United Khasi-Jaintia Hills and the other in the Garo Hills.

        12. In order to conserve the forest wealth of the State, it is proposed to take up schemes of afforestation and forest reservation in co-operation with the District Councils. The method of farm forestry is also being introduced in order to ensure proper land use.

        13. In the social services sector attention is being given to expansion and improvement of educational institutions. In the current academic session Honours classes have been introduced in Tura Government College. Steps are being taken to introduce Pre-University Science classes in the next session in the college. My Government has moved the Government of India to take expeditious action to set up a Hill University in Meghalaya. It was decided some time ago to set up an inter-ministerial working group along with a representative of the Planning Commission to prepare the places for the University and a draft Bill. The Working Group was to submit its report by October 1970. Unfortunately there has been delay in the implementation of this decision. My Government is very keen that early action is taken on this decision and a Bill framed and introduced for the setting up of the University.

        As primary education in the State is under the control of the District Councils, the services of the Sub-Inspectors of Schools are being placed at the disposal of the District Councils to ensure better co-ordination and more effective inspection of the schools. Steps are being taken to constitute an Experts' Committee to examine the various aspects relating to education. 

        A scheme for giving incentives to doctors serving in the rural areas has been formulated so that hospitals and dispensaries in the interior are manned by qualified doctors and staff. A number of water supply schemes in urban and rural areas are under execution out of which a particular mention may be made of those of Mawlai, Rymbai, Pynursla, Muktapur and Baghmara. A State Social Welfare Board for Meghalaya  is also being set up.

        14. In the field of communications, priority is being given to construction and improvement of roads which will open up the mineral areas of the State and also roads along the Indo-Pak border. The Shillong-Nongstoin-Tura Road which will serve as a trunk road connecting Shillong with Tura running from east to west through the central part of the State is also being developed. During the year under review, construction of a number of bridges has been completed. Special mention may be made of the Dudhnoi and Mahadeo bridges which were opened to traffic recently. The development of Damra-Darugiri-Nangalbibra-Siju-Baghmara Road passing through the mineral belt of Garo Hills and touching the Indo-Pak border is being taken up by the Border Roads Organisation.

        15. As regards industrial development, the emphasis is on the effective exploitation of the industrial potential of the State. Establishment of new industrial units in medium and small scale sectors is being encouraged and the Meghalaya Industrial Development Corporation is being set up. The question of setting up industrial township and industrial estates in the State is receiving active consideration of the Government. The question of taking over the Meter Factory has been taken up with the Assam Government. The Geological Survey of India and the Directorate of Geology and Mining, Assam are carrying out surveys in a number of places in the State. A coordinated programme of power development keeping in view the requirements of industries and agriculture is being drawn up.

        16. In my last address, I had referred to the proposal to entrust some of the functions in respect of agriculture, animal husbandry, community development, co-operation, village planning and social welfare to the District Councils on mutually agreed terms. The details in this regard are being worked out and the matter has been discussed with the executives of the District Councils. At present, many of the development schemes undertaken by the District Councils are being financed by the Government.

        17. The personnel policies of the Government have been so formulated as to reserve a number of vacancies at the lower levels under the Government for direct recruitment. Apart from this, the various programmes of educational, industrial and agricultural development being taken up by the new State will result in increased employment opportunities for the  people. The demand will be more and more for persons with special skills. Avenues for imparting training in various fields and for encouraging higher education among the youths are being explored and developed. My Government also proposes to explore the possibilities of assisting graduates from Meghalaya for receiving training in specialised institutions in order to enable them to participate more effectively in the All India Service competitions. A programme for development of youth services seeking to impart occupational training is also being taken up by the Government.

        18. The position of essential supplies in the State during the year was fairly satisfactory. The procurement and distribution of essential commodities in Meghalaya has been done so far by the Government of Assam out of their own procurement and from allotment from the Government of India. During the last year, however, the Government of Assam could not meet the entire requirements of Meghalaya. Steps are being taken to secure direct allotment of rice from the Food Corporation of India. The monthly requirement of rice for the State is of the order of 30,000 quintals. A sum of Rs.2.00 lakhs has been sanctioned during the current financial year by the Government as rice transport subsidy in order to make rice available at reasonable price to the people in the border areas where transport and communication facilities are inadequate.

        19. The system of land tenure in Meghalaya differs from place to place and the entire area has not also been cadastrally surveyed. District Councils are being financially assisted to evolve a system by which ownership of land can be identified so that the credit requirements of the agriculturists can be more easily met by the different financial institutions.

        Some areas of the State were affected by heavy floods during 1970 causing immense hardship to a large number of people particularly on the western side of Garo Hills. Prompt relief measures were rendered to the people affected by floods and scarcity.

        20. During the past year, some progress has been made towards solving the problems which the new State of Meghalaya had to face. The basic frame-work of the administrative machinery has been evolved and my Government has every hope of harnessing the enthusiasm of the people for development of the State. The solution of the problems and implementation of the tasks of development will be secured with the association of the people through their traditional representative institutions. My Government hopes to secure increasing participation of the people and groups of different shades of opinion in the common tasks before us. A Government is a trustee of the good and welfare of its people and in that capacity it bears a heavy load of responsibility. This load will increase as soon as Meghalaya assumes its rightful place among Sister States in the Country. In shouldering this burden, my Government has the assurance and confidence in the will and determination of the people and all political parties to assist in the task of development and the betterment of their lot.

        I am sure that with goodwill and sustained hard-work, we shall be able to face the challenge that lies ahead so that we develop our State along the right lines and the people of the State become meaningful partners in the task of building up a prosperous Meghalaya.