Address by Shri. L.P. SINGH Governor of Meghalaya
Meghalaya Legislative Assembly
20th MARCH, 1974
MR. SPEAKER AND HON'BLE MEMBER
It gives me great pleasure to address you this morning at the commencement of this session of the Meghalaya State Legislative Assembly. Apart from being my first address to you as the Governor of Meghalaya, I note with a sense of the passage of history that the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly is holding its first session in these premises where for many years the Assam Legislative Assembly had met. Change and continuity are invariable in human affairs and very soon the Secretariat and Directorates of my Government will move into the buildings vacated by the Assam Government. The offices of the Meghalaya Government have been functioning from a number of buildings scattered all over the town and this has been a handicap. When the Government's officers are shifted to the larger and more centrally-located buildings hitherto used by Assam, there will be greater co-ordination and efficiency in the functioning of all departments.
Law and Public Order
2. We have just entered the third year of Meghalaya as a full-fledged State of the Union and you are aware of the hopes and aspirations that this infant State symbolises. The years preceding and following Meghalaya's birth as a full-fledged State have been abnormal years for the country as a whole, and international events beyond our control have added to the complexity of our predicament. The age of stable prices, cheap food and fuel and peaceful industrial relations has given place, at least temporarily, to a period of growing inflation, costly food and fuels and turbulent industrial relations. Even a traditionally tranquil area like Meghalaya has heard, during the last one year, echoes of the protests and reactions of the people to deteriorating living conditions in the country. For a deficit State of like Meghalaya shortage and high prices of food grains means great hardship, and it is to the credit of my Government that the situation has been handled with tact and discretion. The general law and order situation in the State in the preceding year was satisfactory. Indo-Bangladesh border incidents were handled, as they arose, at the appropriate level.
Fourth Plan in retrospect
3. The current year is the concluding year of the Fourth Five Year Plan, and we will soon be embarking upon implementation of the Fifth Five Year Plan. The outlay of the Fourth Five Year Plan for Meghalaya was determined at Rs.58 crores, by dividing the Hill Areas Plan of the composite State of Assam. Meghalaya did not get any additional outlay on becoming a full-fledged State on 21st January, 1972. In the initial stages, the implementation of the Fourth Plan of the State was hampered by shortage of the adequate manpower and essential materials for various programmes. The Plan also suffered due to the massive influx of refugees from across the border in 1971-72, as the other administrative machinery was engaged in providing relief to the evacuees. In spite of these constraints, I am happy to say that, as against the outlay of Rs.38 crores, the expenditure under the Plan is expected to be Rs.37.44 crores. Achievement of physical targets has also been satisfactory. Foodgrains production is expected to increase from 1.17 Lakh tonnes in 1969-70, to 1.45 lakh tonnes by the end of the Fourth Plan. In the other main sectors of the economy, such as education, construction of roads and extension of water supply to rural areas, the targets envisaged are also expected to be fulfilled. A special feature of the Fourth Plan in the State has been the inclusion of programmes for development of border areas and for control of shifting cultivation. Though the outlays for these programmes were inadequate due to financial constraints, they nevertheless, marked an earnest beginning towards tackling these urgent problems of the State. With a view to ensuring greater participation of the people in the planning process and facilitating multi-level planning, the planning machinery has been strengthened with the setting up the State Planning Board and the Planning Advisory Council at the State level, and similar bodies at the District level.
4. During the brief span of time behind them, my Government have initiated action in many different directions to give a new dynamism and direction to the economy of Meghalaya. Part of the logic of the hill Station is that, as a portion of the composite State of Assam, the hill areas could not get the attention and resources due to them and the hill State was setup, among other reasons, to accelerate the pace of progress, in a neglected area. From the very beginning, my Government have been aware of their role of as the agency for creating favourable conditions for economic development, and of their own function as an investor and promoter. The basic limiting factor in the development context of Meghalaya is the rudimentary state of its economic infrastructure and any my Government have accorded high priority to the creation and extension of economic infrastructure in terms of means of communication, transport, education, power and in other fields, as well as institutional and legal arrangements. Development is a cumulative process and, in the years to come, the beneficial results of this work will be more manifest.
5. Agriculture is the mainstay of the people of Meghalaya. A substantial production of the State's population is dependent on jhumming. A programme for the control of jhumming and the introduction of terrace cultivation are at the core of our strategy for a break-through in agriculture. My Government decided on a programme for grouping of villages in the Garo Hills and have set up a Committee to chalk out a detailed action programme. During the Fifth Five Year Plan, it is expected that these programmes will be duly implemented. In the Khasi Hills District, potato cultivation has been a thriving activity for several decades. You are aware of the controversy over the price of potato and certain other aspects of the potato trade. Our potato cultivators, like those of ginger and cotton and other agricultural produce, and as in the case of farmers in many other parts of the country, lack staying power and they tend to sell their produce soon after the harvest at low prices. Such cultivators can be saved from this situation by enhancing the role of the cooperative marketing agencies in Meghalaya. My Government are fully aware of this and steps are being taken to strengthen the cooperatives so that the cultivator can be assured of a remunerative price for his produce. The Hon'ble Members are aware the financial assistance received by the cultivators through the Small Farmers' Development Agency and the Marginal Farmers' Development Agency. My Government will continue to arrange supply of fertilizers and other inputs and adequate credit to support the cultivators and thereby help increase the yield of their crops.
6. Animal Husbandry and Horticulture will play an increasingly important role in the economy of the State. Several programmes are therefore being taken up by my Government in this sector. The Hon'ble Members are aware of the Indo-Danish Project for improving the breed of cattle in Meghalaya. A scheme for processing meat with Danish Collaboration is also being progressed. In the field of research and development in agriculture and animal science, Meghalaya has been able to enlist the assistance of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. The Hon'ble Members will recall the seminar on this subject held at Shillong last year. A regional Research Station is being set up by the ICAR at Shillong, with the assistance of my Government and work in this regard has already made considerable headway.
Land Reform Commission
7. Agriculture production is not merely a matter of inputs; the human element plays a vital role in it. The farmer should have the incentive to work, save and invest. When it comes to agriculture, the relation between the farmer and the farm becomes a decisive factor. To strengthen the incentive to improve and develop land, the farmer must have an assured interest in the land. By custom and tradition, the land tenure system in Meghalaya evolved in a different way from the tenure systems in the rest of the country. My Government have great respect of the customs and traditions of the people. At the same time, my Government are equally concerned with the importance and urgency of improving agriculture and feel that certain minimum institutional adjustments may by necessary for this purpose within the frame work of the existing social structure. My processor had indicated last year that, with a view to studying the land problem and making necessary recommendations for Khasi Hills District, including survey and building up of land records, a Commission would be set up. This Commission has since been set up and is functioning. I am glad to inform the House that action for making such institutional adjustments has already taken in the Garo Hills over along period.
8. In the sphere of the industries the Hon'ble Members will recognise that no worthwhile investment had taken place either in the public or the private sector before Meghalaya State. The only major industrial unit Meghalaya has inherited is the cement factory at Cherrapunjee. Further steps to expand the capacity of this industrial unit are being taken since the coming into being of the new State and its capacity will touch about 900 tonnes per day within the Fifth Five Year Plan. The expansion of this cement factory is essential to meet the needs of the entire North Eastern Region.
Meghalaya Industrial Development Corporation
9. Industrial development in our times depends largely on the organizational arrangements for the promotion of industries. The Government set up the Meghalaya Industrial Development Corporation in 1972, and today MIDC is participating in many industrial undertakings including the Komorrah Limestone Company and Meghalaya Essential Oils and Chemicals. The Corporation's activities will expand in the coming year and the MIDC is expected to play a catalytic role in the industrialisation of Meghalaya.
New Industrial Projects, Industrial Estate, etc
10. The State Government have commissioned feasibility studies on a number of projects and these have indicated the economic and social viability of several projects. A Clinker-Cum-Cement Factory and a Thermal Power Station in Garo Hills are among them. A Timber Treatment Plan is coming up at Daruguri in Garo Hills. Meghalaya Potteries is being revived at Mendipathar. A private party is putting up a steel structural unit in Mendipathar. Letters of intent for a jute mile and tubes and tyres plant in Garo Hills are pending with the Central Government. A Jute Twine Factory has been sanctioned at Byrnihat which is fast developing a "growth Point" in Meghalaya. A ply-wood factory in the private sector is coming up at Byrnihat. A private sector factory for production of beverages at Byrnihat is nearing completion and is expected to go into production very soon. My Government propose to acquire sufficient land at Byrnihat to create an industrial area there. With the extension of the broad-gauge railway line to Gauhati, the locational advantages of Byrnihat will increase and more industrial units are expected to spring up in that area. Steps have also been taken for the creation of Industrial Estates in Shillong and Mendipathar. Negotiations with entrepreneurs are in progress for the establishment of chemical industries based on limestone in the Jaintia Hills. My Government are also offering a wide variety of concessions to investors and this package of incentives is also expected to induce new investment.
11. The State of transport and communications is an unmistakable index of economic development. Meghalaya had a total road length of 2787 Kms. or a mere 13 kms. of roads per 100 sq. kms. in 1970. The Public Works Department of my Government has added to the mileage of roads in the State and at the end of the Fourth Plan the total road length in Meghalaya is reckoned at 3750 kms. Strategic and border roads are receiving special priority. The State Government have also been operating bus services departmentally between the main towns in Meghalaya. My Government have taken steps to set up its own Road Transport Corporation. Meghalaya has vast coal, limestone and other mineral and forest resources. Since the State has no rail link, these resources have hardly been tapped and my Government have taken up this matter with the Central Government. A delegation of Chief Minister of State and heads of Union Territory Administrations in the north eastern region, under the leadership of the Chairman, North Eastern Council, met the Prime Minister in September, 1973 and the Prime Minister and her cabinet colleagues very sympathetic to the need of State like Meghalaya for railway links. It is fervently hoped that the Centre will take speedy action to implement the decision to provide a railway line from Jogighopa to a point in Garo Hills. It is also hoped that action will be taken to extend the railway line from Gauhati to Byrnihat during the Fifth Plan period. In view of the hilly terrain of the State, it has been thought desirable to build ropeways connecting important industrial centres with places in the plains. The North Eastern Council has sanctioned funds to my Government for preparation of a project report for a ropeway connecting Bholaganj, Cherrapunjee, Shillong and Gauhati and for feasibility studies on ropeways connecting Baghmara and Dudnai and Lumshnong and Badarpur. Work at the Umroi air field is proceeding fast and it is expected that Meghalaya will find its place on the civil aviation map of the country soon.
12. Meghalaya's potential for power generation has been estimated to be very high. The Assam State Electricity Board is at present looking after the generation and development of power in Meghalaya also. My Government are taking steps to set up their own Electricity Board to step up power generation. My Government are anxious to expedite the electrification of villages and rural electrification occupies high priority in our development plans. The number of villages electrified upto November, 1973 came to 107 and the programme is to be expanded during the forthcoming Five Year Plan.
Shifting of Assam's Capital
13. The State Government are keeping a close watch over the economic consequences of the transfer of Assam's capital from Shillong. A quick survey has been completed to identify the sections of population affected by the shifting and all possible efforts will be made to meet the situation. Hon'ble Members will be glad to know that various Central Government agencies have already decided to open their offices in Shillong and my Government are offering all necessary assistance and facilities to them. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry, the Geological Survey of India and some other Central Government agencies are expanding their offices in Shillong. Apart from this efforts have been made to increase the tourist attraction of our capital. It is hoped that these measures will go a long way to meet the needs of the situation.
Primary and Secondary Education
14. The Government are committed to the improvement of standard in education and to the expansion of educational facilities. Since Meghalaya came into existence, about 700 schools at the Primary, Middle and High School levels have been established. As a direct result of this, it has been possible to enroll about 30,000 more students. Indiscriminate expansion of educational facilities, however, may cause deterioration of standards. To give education a proper direction and to allow for its growth along proper lines, a Board of School Education has been established. The Board will be conducting the High School and Higher Secondary School - Leaving Examinations from 1974. The extension of primary education to cover all children of the 6 - 11 age-group is a national objective and we have been trying to reach this goal. Three residential schools are being set up shortly.
University and Institute of English
15. My Government took great pains for establishment of the North-Eastern Hill University, which has started functioning with its headquarters at Shillong. All possible assistance to the new University will continue to be extended by my Government. A unit of the Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages has also been opened at Shillong, at the initiative of my Government.
16. Considerable efforts have been directed towards the expansion of technical education in the State. The All-India Council of Technical Education has given the Shillong Polytechnic clearance for starting Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Courses.
State Library and Institute of Culture
17. The State Central Library has been handed over by the Assam Government and efforts are under way to improve the facilities provided there. A composite Institute of Culture is also proposed to be established.
Pre-Examination Training Centre
18. My Government have been concerned about the poor intake of tribal boys and girls of Meghalaya in the All-India Services, armed forces and public sector undertakings. In order to improve the competitive ability of tribal youth in national level competitive examinations and to give them adequate coaching for this purpose, the Government of India have agreed, at the initiative of my Government, to establish a Pre-examination Training Centre at Shillong for the benefit of the candidates of the North Eastern Region. It is expected that the centre will start functioning very soon.
19. As the rural areas are less adequately covered by health and medical care facilities than the urban areas, my Government have taken action to improve these facilities in villages. Establishment of new Primary Health Centres in the interior areas of the State and upgrading of some of the existing centres to 30-bedded hospitals are important programmes of my Government during the Fifth Five year Plan. For the present, inspite of a slight improvement in the availability of doctors due to measures already taken, the paucity of qualified medical personnel continues to be a stumbling block and it is, therefore, proposed to reach the people through increasing the number of mobile dispensaries. A major improvement in the scope of medical facilities in the State is expected with the implementation of the schemes included in the Fifth Five Year Plan.
20. Shortage of drinking water is a chronic problem in nearly all hill areas and the Hon'ble Members are familiar with the extent and severity of water scarcity in Meghalaya. There is an irreducible time lag between the initiation of work on a water supply scheme and the arrival of water in the households through pipes. Most of the materials required are in short supply and even when finances are available, the pace of implementation tends to be slow. In the rural sector, the Public Health Engineering Department took up 84 Rural Water Supply Schemes to cover a population of approximately 1.1 lakh during the Fourth Plan and 25 schemes have so far been completed and the rest are under implementation. In the Fifth Plan, approximately 600 new villages are proposed to be covered by rural water supply schemes. In the urban sector, the Shillong Sewerage and Drainage Scheme and the Jowai Water Supply Scheme are proposed to be implemented during the Fifth Plan. The Greater Shillong Water Supply Scheme occupies an important position in our plans to provide water to the urban community and arrangements for financing the scheme have been finalised, and this will be completed in the Fifth Plan.
21. The Hon'ble Members will share my Government's concern at the economic condition of the border people. My Government have set up a separate Department exclusively to deal with the problems of the border areas. This is a measure of my Government's anxiety to step up the tempo of developmental activities in the border areas. We have at the moment 14 Border Areas Development Officers and it is intended to appoint senior officers at the district level to co-ordinate the work. These officers will be stationed at important points in the border areas. "Border Areas" have been clearly defined and adequate funds are being provided for their development. From a plan outlay of Rs.5 lakhs in 1972-73 for Border Areas Programme, the outlay arose to Rs.18 lakhs in 1973-74, and the proposed outlay for 1974-75 is Rs.50 lakhs. All development departments are now involved in an integrated strategy for boosting up the border economy. Since the economy of the border areas has been gradually deteriorating over many years, the Hon'ble Members will recognise that this trend could be reversed and the border economy re-established on a sound footing only through patient efforts over a period of time.
22. My Government have been deeply concerned with the problem of unemployment in the State and measures have been adopted to provide opportunities of employment to the young men and women of Meghalaya. Under the Half a Million Jobs Programme, employment is being provided both through self-employment schemes and through training for new jobs. My Government have adopted a novel measure to enlist unemployed persons in the form of a Civil Task Force and the legislation for this purpose has been enacted. Administrative action is now being taken to recruit persons for the Meghalaya Civil Task Force and my Government expect that this Force will not only provide employment to those in need of it but also expedite the execution of development projects by ensuring an assured supply of disciplined manpower. Experts from the Institute of Applied Manpower Research are being associated with the assessment of the manpower potentials and needs of Meghalaya. Besides, a State Manpower Officers has been appointed recently. The Schemes under the Fifth Plan will generate more opportunities for employment.
23. It is the continuing policy of my Government to render necessary assistance to the District Councils. The Councils continue to receive financial assistance for running their administration, for primary education and for the development programmes drawn up by them. The Government wish to have greater participation of the District Councils in development efforts and it is proposed to entrust them with the functions relating to selected Schemes. The District Councils have been requested to signify their agreement to the proposed arrangements. The State Government also intend to take steps to help improve the capacity of the District Councils to implement the developmental programmes by making available to them necessary personnel. The terms and conditions for placing the services of Sub-Inspectors of Schools at the disposal of the District Councils have been finalised. Action has been initiated to increase the number of Additional Deputy Inspectors of Schools so as to make available their services to the District Councils for supervising the work of Sub-Inspectors, and for other functions.
Finance Commission Award
24. The Hon'ble Members are aware of the recommendations of the Sixth Finance Commission which have been accepted by the Central Government. The Commission's recommendations, though short of our requirements, will largely improve the budgetary position of the State.
Assam - Meghalaya Border
25. The border between Assam and Meghalaya in certain sectors has been a subject of controversy and the Hon'ble Members are already familiar with the implications of this issue. Border incidents have tended to occur with a distressing pattern, and tribal people inhabiting the border villages have complained of harassment and intimidation by the police and other agencies of the Assam Government. The border in the Jaintia-Mikir Hills Sector has been a scene of continual tension over the years and a settlement regarding Block I and II of the Mikir Hills District is still to be arrived at. The Government have appointed an Honorary Adviser on inter-State boundary and progress towards a settlement is expected. Meanwhile, following the recent incident at Goalpara involving a large number of tribal people, refugees have started entering the Garo Hills District from Goalpara and arrangements have been made to offer relief to them. While my Government wish to maintain cordial and good neighbourly relations with the Government and people of Assam, my Government view with regret all unilateral action and reaffirm their faith in a peaceful and negotiated settlement of all outstanding issues, keeping in view the linguistic, cultural and educational rights of the minorities and the right of every citizen to live and work under conditions of peace.
26. As indicated by my predecessor last year, I am glad to inform you that a scheme has been evolved, in consultation with the Khasi Hills District Council, for utilising the services of the Heads of elakas under the District Council for Excise Administration.
27. Apart from Finance bills, my Government propose to introduce the following legislation in the current session of this Assembly :-
(i) The Legislative Assembly of Meghalaya (Members' Salaries and Allowances) (Amendment) Bill, 1974.
(ii) The Meghalaya Finance (Sales Tax) (Amendment) Bill, 1974.
Fifth plan and prospects
28. Having surveyed the major areas of Governmental activity, let me now share with you some thoughts about the future. We are already on the threshold of the Fifth Five Year Plan. This truly is Meghalaya's first plan because this is the first time that the areas constituting Meghalaya have been treated as a single unit for developmental planning. It is not possible to specify the exact size of the State's Fifth Plan but the indications are that the Fifth Plan will be more than twice the amount of our share in the Hill Areas Plan of the composite State of Assam in the Fourth Plan. On this reckoning , we can expect an investment on the Plan side over the next five years to the tune of over Rs.800 per capita for every man, woman and child in Meghalaya. It is hoped that the Planning Commission will further increase allocation to the State for the Fifth Plan, taking into account our special requirements and just needs. The Annual Plan outlay for 1974-75 is Rs.13.63 crores. This is over 23 per cent more than the current year's outlay and excludes additional allocation expected for power. As usual, the Plan outlay will further be supplemented by centrally sponsored schemes operated through the State Government. The country is facing a serious economic crisis and mobilisation of real resources to make possible a level of investment commensurate with the projected growth rate is going to be a hard task. However, my Government expect that the kind of investment envisaged in the State's Fifth Plan will make an appreciable difference in the standards of living of the people. This will, inter-alia, call for stability in the administration, continuity of policies and involvement by the people in the development programme.
29. Hon'ble Members, our country has been passing through a trying period of severe strains, and stresses and our State has had its share of these. The worst may be said to be over but we must be prepared to face further difficulties in the future. There is in human affairs, however, no problem that is insoluble, no crisis that lasts forever nor adversities that cannot be overcome. As you all no doubt realise, these difficulties call for unfaltering adherence to long term perspectives and goals, a sense of fortitude, patience, courage, determination and perseverance, and above all, faith in our own abilities and future and dedication and unrelenting hard work to keep the wheels of production and distribution moving efficiently. It is my Government's firm belief that with wisdom, guidance and co-operation from all sections of this august House and from leaders of public opinion outside and full participation from people of all walks of life the thick fog of the present difficulties will soon be swept away and our State will sail speedily and smoothly towards the cherished goal of economic progress and welfare of our people. In the year before us, let us all address ourselves to the tasks ahead.