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

March-April  Session

Meghalaya Legislative Assembly



        It gives me great pleasure to address this august Assembly of the State of Meghalaya in its first session. The past year has been an eventful period for Meghalaya and indeed for the whole country. The Prime Minister and the Government of India had redeemed the pledge to confer Statehood upon Meghalaya, and the North Eastern Areas (Re-organisation) Act, 1971 was passed by the Parliament and received the assent of the President on the 30th December,1971. The State of Meghalaya was inaugurated by the Prime Minister on the 21st January, 1972. This day will go down as a red letter day in the history of Meghalaya, for it marks the culmination of years of arduous struggle of the hill people to ensure that their institutions and their culture and safeguarded and that the people of this region take their rightful place in the life of the nation. The preceding year also witnessed the liberation of Bangladesh from the military occupation of the West Pakistani forces. The freedom fighters of Bangladesh aided by the Indian Armed forces put up a heroic struggle against ruthless Pakistani military machine and liberated their motherland. The emergency of Bangladesh in the comity of nations was hailed from tremendous enthusiasm throughout the country and particularly in adjoining Stats such as Meghalaya. The people of this region look forward to close and friendly relations with the people of Bangladesh in social, cultural and economic fields. Our countrymen cherish with pride the momentous day of 16th December, 1971,when the Pakistani Commanded signed the Instrument of Surrender. The entire population stood as one man behind the Prime Minister in her courageous and righteous stand and the country today has a new sense of purpose and direction. My Government would like to place on record its deep appreciation and abiding gratitude to the Prime Minister for her outstanding qualities of leadership and her profound sympathy for the legitimate aspirations of the people of the North Eastern region of the country.

        2. It is a matter for satisfaction that the General Elections to the Legislative Assembly of the State of Meghalaya could be completed soon after Meghalaya emerged as a new State. The delimitation of the Assembly constituencies in Meghalaya was taken up on a priority basis by the Election Commission and the final delimitation order was issued on the 24th January, 1972. Polling for the first General Elections to the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly was duly held on the 9th March, 1972 and the new Legislative Assembly was constituted on the 16th of this month.

        3. During the year 1971, the economy and administration in Meghalaya had to undergo severe strain owing to the tremendous influx of evacuees from Bangladesh fleeing from the atrocities of the Pakistani military forces. About seven lakhs of persons entered Meghalaya as refugees during the year and most of them were accommodated in camps set up on the border. The presence of such a large number of refugees out-numbering out of all proportion the local population in the border areas created inevitable social and economic tensions, and added to the manifold problems faced by the people of the border whose economy had already been disrupted after partition of the country in 1947. The influx of refugees imposed an enormous strain on this small State and the District administrations had to concentrate their energies upon tackling the refugee influx by arranging for their food and shelter and completing the registration of the evacuees as foreign nationals. This also added to the law and order problems in the State, particularly in the Khasi Hills District. There was a clash between the local population and evacuees in the Mailam area, resulting in the death of a Garo boy by drowning. There were also some cases of burning of refugee camps, which were duly enquired into by the Police. The influx of refugees called for the taking of additional security measures to ensure that Pakistani agents should not be allowed entry in the guise of evacuees. Special steps were taken to guard vital installations and to maintain lines of communication. There were 18 cases of sabotage and attempted sabotage on the border lines of communication in the Garo Hills and one such case in the Muktapur border area. Owing, however, to the vigilance of the police, the village defence parties and Home Guards, no serious damage or destruction of vital installations could be caused by Pakistani saboteurs, although there was some damage to minor bridges.

        During the period that the Pakistan army was attempting to suppress the liberation struggle in Bangladesh, it occasionally intruded and carried out shelling across the border, killing 40 Indians and 5 evacuees and injuring 63 Indians and 8 evacuees.

        After the liberation of Bangladesh, the situation along the border was appreciably improved. The problem of Pakistani army infiltration is over and a number of Mukti Bahini personnel have surrendered arms and ammunition on the appeal of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. However, it is possible that some among them may not have yet done so. Besides, the Razakars and Pakistani army collaborators have not yet fully surrendered and there have been cases where some arms and ammunition were covered by our security forces from people crossing the border. Security measures have accordingly been tightened up along the border to deal with such cases and check-posts and intelligence posts are being set up at appropriate points.

        Apart from incidents on the border before the liberation of Bangladesh, the law and order situation in the State has been well under control. There was one serious incident during the night of 23rd June, 1971, involving a clash between some members of the public and the Central Reserve Police in Shillong town, during which the police had to resort to firing. The situation was however quickly brought under control. A dead body was found next morning and post-mortem revealed that death was caused by gun shot and not by police rifles.

        4. The liberation of Bangladesh holds out the promise of a new era of progress and prosperity for the border areas of Meghalaya through the revival of trade contacts on both sides of the border. The border markets, which were closed after the Pakistani army crack down in Bangladesh have been re-opened and Bangladesh nationals are again attending the border bazars. Steps are also being taken to increase the quantum of trade and to  open new markets on the borders.

        5. With a view to accelerating progress in the fields of administration and development, the Jowai Sub-division  of the United Khasi and Jaintia Hills District has been formed into a separate District known as the Jaintia Hills District with headquarters at Jowai and this new District was inaugurated by the Chief Minister on the 22nd February, 1972.

        6. There has been a move in the Blocks I and II in Mikir Hills District adjoining the Jaintia Hills to have the areas merged with the Jaintia Hills District. These areas are predominantly inhabited by Pnars, and were included in the Mikir Hills District in 1951. Representations had been received since then regarding such inclusion and the matter had been under examination by the Assam Government. This Government took up the question of the retransfer of Blocks I and II from Mikir Hills District to Jaintia Hills District with the Government of Assam. Two meetings at the Ministerial level have been held, and in the last meeting, it was resolved that the officers of both the Governments would study the population figures of Mikirs and Non-Mikirs, tribe-wise, in the said two Blocks and furnish their findings for discussion between the two Governments. Recently, some Pnars left Mikir Hills and took shelter in Jaintia Hills and relief had had to be given to them by the Jaintia Hills District authorities. It is hoped that this matter will be amicably settled soon.

        7. I would like to refer in brief to some of the salient features of the development programme in the State. The outlay for Meghalaya's Fourth Five Year Plan was fixed at Rs.38 crores by carving out a share of the Assam Hill Plan outlay when Meghalaya was created as an Autonomous State. With the attainment of Statehood, Meghalaya has a claim to a share also in respect of State-level schemes out of the outlay of the general plan of Assam. This question has been taken up with the Planning Commission and the schemes that would have to be transferred to Meghalaya and the outlays to be shared and adjusted between the two States are under process of identification. It is expected that the size of the Fourth Five Year Plan of Meghalaya may be raised to some extent, making it possible for implementation of large programmes during the remaining part of the Fourth Five Year Plan.

        The provision for the current year had been fixed at Rs.7.96 crores. For the next year, the size of the annual plan is likely to be fixed at Rs.8.25 crores.

        Apart from the provisions under the Fourth Five Year Plan, the State Government have drawn up some special  development programmes outside the plan and submitted them to the Government of India. These special programmes relate to re-grouping of villages in Garo Hills, road projects of strategic and economic importance, Shillong Water Supply scheme, development of Shillong, Tura and Jowai towns, and rehabilitation of the economy in the border areas. The State Government has set up a working group to prepare details of a pilot project for re-grouping of villages in Garo Hills. An integrated scheme for rehabilitation of the economy in the border is being drawn up as suggested by the Government of India. The project report for Shillong Water Supply has already been prepared and submitted to the Government of India for technical scrutiny and arranging of funds. Preparation of a project report for construction of  a central market in Shillong is also being taken up. The  scheme for socio-economic survey of Garo Hills has been taken over from Assam and the survey report is expected to be completed shortly. Steps have also been initiated to take over the socio-economic survey of Khasi and Jaintia Hills from the Assam Government and to have the work completed by our statistical programmes.

        8. Agriculture forms the backbone of the economy of Meghalaya, but owing to primitive practices, agricultural production has as yet  lagged behind. The wasteful method of jhumming, combined with low inputs, has resulted in poor agricultural yield. The production of foodgrains has shown a marginal increase in 1970-71 compared to 1969-70. According to available data, production of foodgrains during 1971-72 is not likely to have increased substantially, partly because the area under jhumming could not be increased on account of early rainfall and partly also due to attack by pests. However, the production of jute and mesta is expected to have increased in 1917-72. Potato cultivation is shown an encouraging trend with more area coming under the crop. To achieve a break through in the agricultural field, it is necessary to ensure that the people adopt improved agricultural practices and also to take up a coordinated programme for reclamation of land and development of a net-work of irrigation. It is also necessary to make available adequate credit to farmers. Action to evolve a system by which ownership of land can be identified so that the credit requirements of the agriculturists can be met more easily by the financial institutions and banks is being processed by the District Councils and the Government. In the agricultural sector, in addition to the regular Fourth Plan schemes, two projects of composite nature to benefit small and marginal farmers and agricultural labour have been sanctioned by the Government of India. The co-ordination and implementation of these projects will be secured through Development agencies already registered under the law. Besides an area development project to be taken by up with Norwegian collaboration is under the consideration of the Government of India. Sanction from the Government of India is awaited for taking up the "Freedom from Hunger Campaign" aiming at training the farmers in various fields of agriculture and to be financed through Japanese assistance.

        Forests constitute an important natural resource of the State  and it is essential to ensure their proper management. At present, the bulk of the forest area is not under systematic management and ways and means for proper control of all forests will be worked out in coordinating with the District Councils.

        Development of communications is also being accorded special importance. A proposal for construction of 130 kms., of border roads has been submitted to the Government of India for approval and execution during 1972-73. The State P.W.D has since taken over the National High Way Route No.40 connecting Jorabat -Shillong- Tamabil. The Tura-Dalu road has since been declared as a road of strategic importance and the entire expenditure will be borne by the Government of India as grant-in-aid. The Tura-Shillong road will also be developed during 1972-73 and it will be open to public vehicles soon.

        In the field of industries, a techno-economic survey to assess industrial potential of the State was conducted last year through the National Industrial Development Corporation. Negotiations are being conducted with consultancy firms in the country for preparation of feasibility studies for possible industries in the State based on the report of the Corporation. The Meghalaya Industrial Development Corporation has decided to establish a cinnamon oil distillation plant. After creation of the State of Meghalaya, steps were initiated to takeover the Assam Cement Co. Limited located at Cherra. Steps are being taken to have a management survey carried out by a consultancy firm in order to improve the functioning of this Company. A number of mineral occurrences in the State have already been located and important minerals investigations have been undertaken in different parts of the State. With the liberation of Bangladesh, the prospects of mineral development in Meghalaya have increased considerably. The rural electrification programme in Meghalaya is also being speeded up.

        In the field of education, the Government of India have agreed to the establishing of a Central Hill University and the Indira Gandhi Hill University will start functioning from a site to be selected in the environment of Shillong in the near future. It is hoped that the setting up of this University will act as an impetus to the intellectual growth and development of our youth.

        To improve the medical facilities in the State, it is proposed to start construction of a new Hospital at Tura with a hundred beds and to expand the Jowai Civil Hospital. It is also proposed to establish a Health Education Bureau. To relieve the problem of shortage of doctors, a scheme of incentives has been sanctioned for attracting doctors to serve in the rural areas.

        9. As in the rest of the country, the problem of unemployment has assumed serious proportions in Meghalaya. Employment opportunities have not kept pace with the increasing number of educated and semi-educated persons. It is expected that employment potential will be increased through development programmes such as soil conservation, road construction, small scale industries, rural works, health and educational programmes. In addition, a crash programme for relieving unemployment in rural areas has been taken up.

        The personnel policies of the Government have been so formulated as to reserve a number of vacancies at the lower levels to be filled up by direct recruitment. In order to rationalise the system of recruitment to different posts under the Government and with a view to ensuring uniformity in standards, a Selection Board has been set up to make recommendations in respect of direct recruitment to posts in the Secretariat and the Directorates where consultation with the Public Service Commission is not necessary. Similarly, District Selection Boards have been set up to make recommendations to fill up vacancies of such posts in district offices. Steps are also being taken to constitute various  services in the State and to gear up the administrative machinery.

        10. The position of civil supplies in the State during the year has not been entirely satisfactory. The large scale influx of refugees into Meghalaya imposed considerable strains on the supply and transport system of the State resulting in periodic increase in prices. It is however, expected that the position will become stabilised during the next financial year. The Government have also taken up a Transport Subsidy Scheme financed by the Government of India to enable the people in the border areas to purchase essential foodstuffs at prices prevailing in the district headquarter.

        11. During the year, the Meghalaya Transfer of Land (Regulation) Act, 1971 to regulate the transfer of land by a tribal to a non-tribal or by a non-tribal to another non-tribal was enacted to replace the corresponding Acts of the District Councils, as the Supreme Court had ruled that the District Councils did not have powers to make laws  on transfer of land.

       Apart from financial bills, the following Legislative measures will be placed before the Assembly during this Session:-

  1.    The Legislative Assembly of Meghalaya (Speaker and Deputy  Speaker Salaries and Allowances) Bill, 1972.
  2.    The Meghalaya (Ministers' Salaries and Allowances) Bill, 1972.
  3.    The Legislative Assembly of Meghalaya (Members' Salaries and Allowances) Bill, 1972.
  4.    The Prevention of Disqualification (Members of the Legislative Assembly of Meghalaya) Bill, 1972.
  5.    The Meghalaya Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 1972.
  6.    The Meghalaya Interpretation and General Clauses Bill, 1972.

        12. I have outlined some of the salient features of the last year's achievements. As for the future, my Government is fully aware that the attainment of Statehood is but the first step towards the accelerated development of Meghalaya and the goal of social growth with justice. My Government pledges itself to ensure that effective steps are taken to build up a prosperous Meghalaya. In particular, steps will be taken to achieve self-sufficiency in food by modernising agriculture and assisting the farmers by building up a net work of irrigation schemes, reclamation of land, and supply of seeds and fertilisers in time. The natural and mineral resources of the State will also be exploited in a judicious manner. In the field o social services, efforts will be made to ensure to the people a better life by improved educational and medical facilities and by promoting employment opportunities. My Government will also take energetic steps to implement effectively special such as the border areas rehabilitation programme, regrouping of villages in Garo Hills, urban development schemes and development of important roads. My Government will further ensure that, in carrying out its programme, the legitimate interests of all non-tribals residents in the new State will be fully safeguarded.

        For implementing the programme outlined above effectively, my Government hopes to secure the active participation of the people by harnessing their enthusiasm. My Government is confident that in shouldering the heavy responsibility of promoting the welfare of the people, it will have the willing co-operation of all political parties and all shades of public opinion so that every citizen is actively involved in the task of raising Meghalaya to the level of the more advanced sister States in the country.