Meghalaya  Legislative Assembly



Mr. Speaker and Hon'ble Members,

        It gives me great pleasure to extend to you my warm greetings and hearty welcome to the year's first session of the House. About a year has elapsed since I addressed you last. This year, besides being the first year of the full State-hood of Meghalaya is also of great significance being the 25th Anniversary of our Independence. The role of Martyrs and Freedom Fighters in the National struggle for freedom deserves our highest recognition. My Government have honoured the freedom fighters by presenting them Tamra Pattras and by arranging the grant of pensions to them in recognition of their suffering during the National struggle for freedom.

        2. All of you are aware of the role played by our brave young men in the Armed Forces in bringing the last Indo-Pak conflict to a successful culmination leading to the emergence of Bangladesh as a free country. My Government have taken up a scheme to extend various concessions and to give cash grants to the recipients of various awards as a token of recognition of their valour in the battle field.

        3. In accordance with our National Policy, my Government are committed to the objective of economic development and eradication of poverty, illiteracy and disease. The Government have put forth their suggestions for a new strategy and defined their objective of development in their approach to the Fifth Five Year Plan. Apart from aiming at elimination of poverty and fulfillment of a "Minimum Needs Programme", the State's Fifth Plan would aim at greater employment generation and bringing the level of per capita income in the State to the National average. The removal of imbalance betweens the different areas, and greater attention to "more backward" areas of the State will be the other important plan objectives. The actual achievement of these objectives would depend upon the availability of resources and the ultimate size of the Plan.

        4. The preceding year has been one of considerable turmoil in the neighbouring State of Assam following the agitation over the medium of instruction. The situation was fraught with the serious potentiality of occurrence of incidents in Meghalaya and during the period of disturbances, considerable tension prevailed in the State particularly in the Town of Shillong. It is a matter of great satisfaction that nothing un-toward happened in Meghalaya during the entire period. It is regretted that our border with Bangladesh has been the scene of occasional clashes. These have been promptly brought to the notice of the Government of India for necessary action and undertaking of corrective measures. During last November, a hartal was organised in Shillong by certain groups of people to press for absorption of all the tribal employees affected by the shifting of the Capital of Assam Government to Gauhati, in the jobs under Meghalaya Government. The situation was handled well and there was no breach of peace or disorder. The industrial peace in Meghalaya was maintained except for some trouble at Cherrapunjee Cement Factory last year which lead to the declaration of a lock-out in October by the management. However, normal functioning of the Plant was restored within a short period of time. The question relating to the establishment of the proposed Central University at Shillong also lead to unrest among the student community in the State. Apprehensions were expressed regarding the nature and jurisdiction  of the University, its medium of instruction and other aspects of its functioning. The matter was taken up with the Government of India with a view to ensuring that the educational interests of the people of the State will be safeguarded and the proposed University will be established keeping in view its essential character as a University for the Hill areas of North-Eastern India as originally envisaged in the recommendations of the Wadia Committee. It is expected that the Bill providing for the setting up of the Hills' University will be introduced and passed during the current session of Parliament. In this connection my Government deeply appreciate the co-operation extended by the Nagaland Assembly in the adopting the necessary resolution for facilitating the passage of the Bill.

        5. By and large, the conditions on the State's boundary with Assam were peaceful. However, there have been a few incidents at Mawtamur Area and on the Jaintia Hills, Mikir Hills Border. The Khasi and Garo villagers in the Districts of Kamrup and Goalpara in Assam living in the area contiguous to Meghalaya have expressed concern over their educational and cultural interests in the context of the increasing emphasis on the use of Assamese language in the offices and educational institutions in Assam.

        My Government have been making earnest efforts to settle the question relating to the boundary between the Mikir Hills and Jaintia Hills border by mutual consultation with Assam. In accordance with the said policy, two meetings were held at the Minister's level and in the last meeting, it was agreed that the officers of both the Governments would study the population figures of Mikris and non-Mikris, tribe-wise, in the Block I and II of the Mikir Hills District and furnish their findings for discussion between the two Governments. The figures are being collected and it is hoped that the matter will be settled by both the Government by mutual consultation in the interest of the maintenance of good relations and the welfare of the population living on the border of both the States.

        6. As Members are aware, on the attainment of Statehood and the full transfer of the territory of Shillong Municipality and Cantonment to Meghalaya on 21st January, 1972, the responsibilities of the State Government have increased considerably. My Government have initiated various measures for strengthening the administration with a view to equipping the administrative machinery better for discharging the increased responsibilities consequent upon the attainment of full State-hood under the North-Eastern Areas (Re-organisation) Act, 1971. Two new Sub-divisions have been created one at Simsanggiri in the Garo Hills District and the other at Nongstoin in the Khasi Hills District. A new  Administrative Unit is being set up at Nongpoh and an officer is being posted soon who will be in charge of the Administrative Unit. With a view to enabling better contact with the people and extending the administration to interior areas and in view of sparseness of population and difficulties of terrain, my Government propose the creation of 4 new Sub-divisions, few more administrative units, and 2 more Districts in the State during the next five years' period and the VI Finance Commission is being requested, inter-alia, to keep the requirement in this regard in consideration while making its recommendations. With a view to strengthen the Judicial machinery, my Government have constituted the courts of the District and Sessions Judge and of the Assistant District and Session Judge at Shillong. The Honourable Gauhati High Court has been pleased to spare the services of two Judicial Offices for appointment as Presiding Officers of the above Courts.

        With a view to increasing the yield from Excise revenue and rationalising the system of excise administration in the State, certain measures are under contemplation of the Government. It is proposed to grant licences to the out-stills in the areas of various Syiems and other Chiefs in the State and to invest them with powers regarding detection of excise offences in consultation with the District Councils.

        The work relating to separation of various services from Assam and setting up of our own services has also been started.

        7. My Government are seized of the problem relating to the absorption of the tribal employees from Meghalaya at present  serving under Government of Assam who would be affected by the shifting of the Capital from Shillong. With a view to providing adequate employment opportunities to such employees and to the educated unemployed in the State, the Government have adopted a recruitment policy under which certain proportion of the vacancies at the level of Lower Division Assistants and similar posts in the Secretariat and Offices of the Heads of Departments have been kept reserved for direct recruitment while the rest are being filled up by absorption of the tribal employees at present working under the Assam Government. Taking into consideration the requirements for expansion of administrative machinery, the Government propose to create a number of additional posts at various levels which will, inter alia, help in solving this problem to some extend. The State Government have also requested the Government of India that while filling up vacancies in Central Offices in Shillong, the case of tribal employees hailing from Meghalaya should be sympathetically considered. State Government have also been pursuing with the Government of India the question of setting up of new offices of the Central Government at Shillong with a view of coping with the situation created by the shifting of the Assam capital. The matter relating to the taking up of a scheme for imparting training in Accounts to the tribal employees at present working in Assam Government with a view to facilitating their absorption in the proposed Defence Accounts Office to be set up at Shillong  is being pursued with the Government of India. A Special Cell has been set up in the Personnel Department to take follow-up measures regarding absorption of the tribal employees. A Crash Programme for increasing employment opportunities in the State both for the educated unemployed persons and for the tribal employees at present working under the Assam Government, has been sent to Government of India for sanction and making available financial assistance for the implementation of the schemes.

        The State Government are aware of the situation and the temporary set-back to the economy which may result due to the shifting of the Assam Government capital from Shillong and propose to take measures in this connection.

        8. The problem of increasing unemployment particularly among the educated youth has been causing serious anxiety to my Government. Apart from continuing the special schemes for employment programme in rural areas, a crash employment scheme for educated unemployed persons has been sent to the Government of India of which I have made a mention earlier. It is proposed to utilise the programme relating to the fulfillment of "minimum needs" for the purpose of creation of more employment opportunities as advance for the Fifth Five Year Plan. My Government propose to set up a suitable machinery under a State-man-power officer for exploring further avenues of employment, arranging for proper training and for ensuring follow-up action in  regard to the schemes for employment generation. The existing machinery of employment directorate will continue to function with such strengthening as may be felt necessary.

        9. The State has a very large area on the border with Bangladesh. The population in these areas had traditional association with the economy of Bangladesh. As Members are aware the requirement for the development of the areas has not been met adequate so far. The economic condition in the border areas showed serious deterioration with the suspension of the border trade. The Government took up test relief measures in the border areas and also initiated schemes for marketing of border produces on an emergency basis. The Scheme for transport subsidy in the border areas is being continued. My Government have also taken up this matter with the Government of India and it is hoped that the border trade will be resumed and the border Hats will be reopened soon. It is proposed to make adequate provision for development in the border areas in the Fifth Plan of the State. The Government of India's sanction to the integrated project for the development of border areas will facilitate the rehabilitation of the economy of these areas.

        10. My Government have initiated measures for improving the machinery for Planning and Development in the State. A State Planning Board has been set up under the Chairmanship of Chief Minister. District Planning Boards are being set up and District Planning Officers are being appointed in each district with a view to facilitating the formulation of need-based district plans and ensuring better supervision over implementation of Plan Schemes. The question of reorganising Block Development Committee is also under consideration of the Government. With a view to enabling greater participation of the District Councils in the developmental activity, it is proposed to entrust specified plan schemes in various sectors of development to the District Council. An assessment of the Administrative machinery of the District Councils and other relevant factors is being made with a view to implementing the decision at the earliest.

        11. The Plan Outlay likely to be spent during 1972-73 is assessed at Rs.8.08 crores. The size of the Annual Plan for 1973-74 has been fixed at Rs.12 crores. The question of making available to the State Government increased finances for additional requirement consequent upon the attaining of full State-hood by Meghalaya and for share in the State Level Schemes of the composite State of Assam is being pursued with the Government of India.

        12. The State Government have forwarded to the Government of India, Special Development Programmes outside the Plan. The implementation of the Programme relating to grouping of villages in Garo Hills, has been accepted in principle and it has been agreed to take up to a Pilot Project for the purpose during the next year. The integrated scheme for rehabilitation of the economy of the border areas in the State is still under consideration of the Government of India. With a view to preparing master plans for development of Shillong, Tura and Jowai towns, initial steps have been taken and officials from the Government of India visited the State several times with a view to advising the State Government in the matter. A Town Planner has been appointed along with necessary complement of the staff to undertake the programme of Urban Development in the State. It is proposed to take up implementation of the Greater Shillong Water Supply Scheme with a L.I.C. loan.

        13. Measures undertaken by my Government for improving agricultural production have shown results. The Government will continue to give priority to the development of Agriculture in the State. The programme in the agricultural sector relating to promotional efforts popularising improved agricultural practices and ensuring adequate and timely supplies of agricultural inputs, is being continued. The programme relating to demonstration in cultivators' field, land reclamation, is also being continued. Adequate emphasis is being laid on the programme relating to land reclamation, minor irrigation, provision of research facilities, etc. My Government also continue to place emphasis on the Horticultural Development by strengthening the machinery for implementation, establishment of progeny orchards and other similar Schemes.

        14. The programmes undertaken through the Block agencies are proposed to be continued. Apart from the usual schemes, the programme relating to improving the nutrition of the vulnerable sections of the population in the State is being continued. The Crash Scheme for increasing rural employment opportunities taken up under a Central Programme will also continue.

        The co-operative movement provides the main support for agricultural development by extension of credit facilities and taking up the task of organisation of the cultivators into societies expected to discharge the function of distribution of credit as well as marketing. The co-operative movement in the State is progressing steadily. The total loaning of the Co-operative Apex Bank during 1972-73 for agricultural operations is expected to reach the level of Rs.75 lakhs. My Government are paying due attention to the functioning of the Consumers' movement and other aspects of co-operative development in the State. It is proposed to set up a State Ware-housing Corporation with a view to ensuring adequate facilities for scientific storage of food-stuffs.

        15. The Government are seized of the problem of the rising prices and the necessity for making available the foodstuffs and the articles of daily necessity at reasonable rates. With a view to keeping check on rise in prices, the Government have promulgated the Meghalaya Food-stuffs (Prohibition of withholding from sale) Control Order, 1972. The allotment of rice, wheat and sugar to the State is being done by the Government of India. The State Government have also accepted the schemes for the distribution of cheaper varieties the scheme for the distribution of cheaper varieties of cloth through the Co-operative Societies. At the instance of the State Government, the Food Corporation of India has agreed to open godowns at various places in the State.

        16. Communications play an important role in the development on infra-structure for improving the economy of the State. The programme of road development undertaken by my Government has the object of achieving a coordinated roads net-work with a view to sub-serving the needs of marketing of agricultural produces, industrial development and other requirements for improving the economy of the State apart from providing transport facilities to the various areas of the State.

        Adequate attention is being paid towards the improvement of the transport system in the State. Apart from continuing the nationalised routes which are at present being operated through the Assam Meghalaya State Road Transport Corporation, the State Government have commenced services departmentally on six  routes. The Government have decided to take over the functions at present being performed by the Corporation on Gauhati-Shillong route, in a phased manner and an officer is being appointed to work out the details.

        17. In spite of the various handicaps, there has been some progress in the field of industries. The Meghalaya Industrial Development Corporation which has been set up recently has started functioning. The Corporation has participated in a joint venture for the Supply of Lime Stone to Bangladesh through Komorrah Lime Stone Mining Company Ltd. It is also proposed to set up another joint venture under the name of Meghalaya Essential Oils and Chemicals Company Ltd. Considerable progress has been achieved in regard to the setting up of the project. A feasibility report on integrated Clinker and Cement Project in Garo Hills is under preparation. On the basis of a preliminary study, an application for the Industrial Licence for the Project has already been made to the Government of India by the Meghalaya Industrial Development Corporation. At the request of the State Government, the Industrial Development Bank of India is undertaking preparation of project reports in respect of manufacture of Calcium Carbide, Calcium Carbonate and Hydrated Lime. The Scheme for re-starting of the Meter Factory has been received and is being examined. The main Schemes proposed in this Sector are the setting up of Industrial Estates and continuation of the Package of incentives for the entrepreneurs. The Government attach due importance to the development of the small-scale industries and propose to encourage sericulture, weaving and other cottage industries.

        18. My Government propose to continue the various schemes relating to improvement of medical facilities in the State. It is proposed to set up a pharmacists training school. The programme proposed for the next year includes the setting up of more primary health centres and provision of necessary equipments, etc. in the various hospitals. With the measures initiated earlier, the position relating to the availability of Doctors has shown improvement.

        In the field of education, emphasis is being laid on the qualitative improvement and expansion at all levels. It is proposed to set up a Board of School Education for the State. The Government have accepted the national objective to introduce universal education in the age group of 6 to 11 by 1975-76 and in the age group 11 to 14 by 1980-81. However, in view of the peculiar conditions in Meghalaya namely sparseness of population and shortage of teaching personnel, the achievement of the aforesaid objective with the stipulated time may be difficult in spite of the best efforts of the Government. Considering the factors and conditions in Meghalaya, the State Government also propose to start residential schools.

        19. I would like to refer in brief to some of the salient features of the development programmes in the other sectors. The development of forests is being given due attention by maintenance and expansion of the State Reserved Forests as well as by undertaking the necessary measures for plantation, re-forestation, etc. through the District Councils. The schemes relating to improvement in the Animal Husbandry, Veterinary and Poultry sectors are being continued. The Indo-Danish Project for cattle development is making satisfactory progress. The programme of the Soil Conservation Department relating to the reclamation of land by terracing on slopes and by introduction of cash crops is being continued.

        The programme for Rural Electrification and development of power generation is being implemented through the State Electricity Board which is common for both Assam and Meghalaya. The State Government have appointed two consultants to advise the Government on the proper set-up for power development in Meghalaya. A beginning has been made towards taking up the programme of flood control in the State by setting up a Flood Control Board and taking up of several schemes in this sector.

        The improvement of water supply in rural areas is an essential part of the development programme towards fulfillment of the "minimum needs" of the people. Apart from the schemes included in the State Plan, the Public Health Engineering Department has also been executing a Central Sector Programme for accelerated water supply in rural areas. My Government are keen to ensure supply of clean drinking water in each village but the difficulty of terrain, sparseness of population and shortage of technical personnel and materials are standing in the way of speedy achievement of this objective. The Government propose to take all possible steps with a view to removing these impediments and accelerating of the programme.

        20. My Government attach due importance to the functioning of the District Councils. Elections to the Jaintia Hills District Council have recently been completed and the new District Council has started functioning. The District Councils are being assisted for discharging their functions in regard to the primary education as well as for undertaking developmental schemes of their own. The Government has decided to place the services of Sub-Inspectors of Schools at the disposal of the District Councils. A post of Additional Deputy Inspector will be created in each District and the incumbents of these posts will be on deputation to District Councils for supervising the work of Sub-Inspectors and for attending to the work of disbursement and utilisation of Government grants and for discharging other similar functions. The Government will bear the expenditure in connection with the salaries and allowances of these posts.

        The Shillong Municipal Board is being assisted by the Government for taking up various schemes and improving its functioning. Elections of the Board will be held as soon as delimitation of the Wards and other formalities are completed.

        With the emergence of Bangladesh the evacuees have gone back but the work of the Relief and Rehabilitation Department will continue for finalising accounts, settling pending matters and completing the rehabilitation of pre-1971 refugees. It is proposed to organise a directorate of labour, employment and craftsman training as well as to set up inspectorates of boilers and factories with a view to enabling the discharge of necessary functions of the State relating to these spheres.

        21. During 1972-73, the State had its share of natural calamities. These was an unprecedented flood in several parts of the State causing loss of lives and damage to properties and standing crops. In order to alleviate the hardship of the people, the relief measures in the shape of gratuitous relief and test relief schemes were taken up in the flood-affected areas of the State. There was also an acute scarcity of food in certain areas due to failure of crops in 1971-72. Some test relief schemes were sanctioned.

        22. One of the items of the programme for celebration of the 25th Jayanti of Independence as decided upon at the national level relates to the subject of land reforms and the date allotted for this item was 11th September 1972. On the said date the Chief Minister convened a meeting of all the Members of Legislative Assembly and the Members of District Council of Khasi Hills in Shillong to discuss this subject and other allied mattes relating to the land system in Khasi Hills. As Members are aware most of the land in the State is not cadastrally surveyed and undertaking of survey operations and proper building up of a system of land records is necessary for ensuring flow of agricultural credit and increasing agricultural production. In accordance with the consensus in the meeting the Government propose to set up a Commission with a view to studying the land problem and making necessary recommendations for Khasi Hills District. As far as Garo Hills District is concerned, the District Council has already taken up a programme of land reform measures.

        23. The North Eastern Council was formally inaugurated by the Prime Minister on the 7th November 1972, with the Governor as the Chairman of the Council. It is hoped that the Government of Meghalaya will get its due share of assistance from the Council towards the taking up of the schemes which have a bearing on the development  of the region as a whole.

        As you are aware the Sixth Finance Commission has started functioning. This will be the first occasion when the financial needs of the State will be comprehensively assessed. It is expected that Meghalaya will get a sympathetic and just consideration from the Commission in view of its backwardness and special problems.

        24. Apart from financial bills, following measures will be placed before the Assembly during the session :-

  1.    The Meghalaya Board of School Education Bill, 1973, and
  2.    The Meghalaya Repealing Bill, 1973.

        25. I have briefly referred to the important developmental activities and the steps which my Government have taken or propose to take in order to bring about accelerated economic development. My Government are committed to the objective of elimination of poverty and ensuring growth of the State towards prosperity, well-being and all-round development of Meghalaya. I am confident that with the active co-operation of all of you, we shall be able to discharge our responsibilities and face boldly the challenge that lies ahead.

        I wish all of you and the people you represent all happiness and prosperity and hope that your deliberations in the House will fruitfully contribute towards achievement of our declared goals.

J A I   H I N D