Address by Shri. L.P. SINGH Governor  of  Meghalaya

Meghalaya Legislative Assembly

21st March, 1977

Mr. Speaker and Hon'ble Members,

        I have great pleasures in addressing you once again at the commencement of the Session of this august House. Many important events have taken place during the period which has elapsed since I address you last. The sad demise of our beloved President Shri Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, came as a shock to the nation. In his death, the country has lost a great statesman whose steadfast devotion and unflinching loyalty to the ideals of democracy and secularism will be an example forever. The sense of our grief is all the more poignant as he launched his career and spent a considerable part of his life in the capital of Shillong.

        2. The last year has been a year of positive gains and significant achievements for our country. Inflation has been kept under control to some extent. Today we have a comfortable foreign exchange position unprecedented for so many years. The national economy is improving. Production in the industrial sector has been satisfactory. The public sector industries have shown excellent improvement in their functioning. There is a sizeable stock of food-grains, the largest every maintained in the country. There has been growth of discipline in all walks of national life. Improvement has occurred in the machinery of administration. All these augur well and the country is firmly set on the path towards its march to greater fulfillment of its objectives and ushering in of an era of prosperity and growth.

Election

        3. The holding of elections which have been completed recently is an event of great significance. It is matter of satisfaction that the elections were conducted peacefully in our State. This is a re-affirmation of the will of the people to adhere to the ideals of democracy. The holding of elections ahead of the period of  expiry of the term of Parliament has also dispelled the misunderstanding and confusion created by the propaganda of vested interests in the country and abroad that India was departing from democratic traditions. 

The New Economic Programme

        4. The launching of the new economic programme generated widespread public enthusiasm in the State and created a sense of urgency towards advance on the economic front. The State Government, apart from strengthening the administrative machinery for the affective implementation of the programme, have taken steps to set up co-ordination committees at the State and district levels which are functioning with a view to ensuring people's participation in the programme.

        5. The Government have taken the necessary legislative measures to support the implementation of the programme. A legislation to provide a moratorium on recovery of debts from landless labourers' small farmers and artisans has been passed. The Meghalaya Credit Operation and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1976, when enforced, is expected to increase  the flow of credit for agricultural production and other priority sectors, such as the small scale industries, cottage industries and handloom sectors. An order prescribing the minimum wages for agricultural labourers has also been issued. The Programme places adequate emphasis on enlarging employment opportunities by apprenticeship schemes, helping the artisans and poor weavers by supplying cost-free and subsidised yarn and extending benefits to students by making available essential commodities at hostels and recognised lodges at reasonable prices.

Housing for the Poor

        6. With a view to providing housing facilities to the weaker sections, 10 Housing Co-operatives have been organised and a State level apex body for financing housing co-operatives has been set up. The Government propose to confer full ownership rights to homestead dwellers and homestead tenants in some parts of the plain areas of the State where records of rights are available. The Government have also adopted the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulations) Act, 1976.

Other items of the New Economic Programme

        7. The Government have taken necessary steps to implement the other items of the programme. A programme for plantation of trees on both sides of the main roads has been taken up. While appreciating the need for limiting the size of families and providing for the welfare of children and women, the Government are not in favour of the exercise of any coercive measures and believe in the voluntary participation of people in the programme. Schemes for development of primary education, adult literacy and non-formal education are some of the steps taken to remove illiteracy.

Law and Order

        8. The overall law and order situation in the State has been satisfactory during the year. Except for a few stray cases, no incident took place leading to major law and order problems or any political or communal issue. The measures taken by the Government under the Emergency had to a great extent restored normalcy and brought stable conditions. The Government have also released all political detenus except the members of the banned organisations and these detained in connection with economic offences. The Government have kept continuous watch on the situation along the State's border with Bangladesh. There had been a few incidents of trespass cattle lifting and kidnapping along the border. The Government have taken adequate measures and it is expected that the situation will remain peaceful all along the border. The Government of India have also conveyed their sanction to raise one Border Wing Home Guards Battalion in the State and recruitment for the purpose has already commenced.

Improvement of Administrative efficiency

        9. The Government propose to continue the measures for toning up for the administrative machinery by weeding out inefficient and corrupt Government employees. In accordance with the recommendations of the Conference of the Chief Secretaries convened in May last on the initiative of the Prime Minister, steps have been taken to improve the performance of the official machinery at the 'cutting edge' level. District Grievances Committees have been set up presided over by the Commissioner and with Deputy Commissioners as conveners to look into the redress the grievances of the citizens. Two Task Forces have been set up for proposing delegation of administrative and financial powers, and orders have been issued in the light of their recommendations delegating the necessary powers to facilitate smooth functioning of the administration at all levels. The procedures for performance appraisals have been revised with a view to ensuring better assessment of employees' abilities and levels of efficiency. 

Re-organisation of Administrative set-up

        10. The process of setting up two more Districts, four Subdivisions and six Administrative Units to which a reference was made in my last Address has been completed and the new-organised set up has already started functioning. Steps are being taken to implement the programme for construction of residential and office buildings in the headquarters of the new districts, subdivisions and administrative units and to taken other necessary measures to ensure effective functioning of the new administrative centres under the reorganised set up.

Policy for Planned Development

        11. The Fifth Plan has been finalised at the national level during the meeting of the National Development Council held in September last year. The finalisation of the Fifth Plan symbolizes the will of the nation to march forward on the path of planned progress, with redoubled energy and effort. The finalised National Plan re-affirms the objective of self-reliance and removal of poverty and aims at curbing inflationary trends and ensures the fulfillment of the nation's objective of implementing the New Economic Programme.

        The final size of the Fifth Plan for Meghalaya has been fixed at Rs. 89.53 crores  as against the tentative outlay earlier fixed at Rs. 84.21 crores. The State Government have pointed out of the Planning Commission and the Government of India that the earlier outlay did not include any requirement on power generation schemes, as the on-going Kyrdem Kulai Hydro electric project was included in the Assam Plan and was being executed and financed by the Assam State Electricity Board. The State Government have also drawn the attention of the Government of India and the Planning Commission to the inadequacy of the revised Plan ceiling for the State, particularly in the context of additional requirement for the execution of Kyrdem-Kulai project. The Government hope for sympathetic consideration of the request for additional plan fund which would be necessary for maintaining the tempo of development activities in the State in the main sectors.

        The allocation for the Plan for 1977-78, including the outlay for the Kyrdem-Kulai project has been fixed at Rs. 24.46 crores showing almost a three-fold increase from the level of expenditure on Plan schemes for the year 1972-73. While keeping in view the national priorities, the State Plan as drawn up by the Government, places emphasis on the special needs of Meghalaya.   

Agricultural Development

        12. The development of agricultural and allied sectors forms the core of the development programme in the State, as more than 85 per cent of the population of the State, lives in rural areas where agriculture and allied occupations are the main sources of livelihood. The food-grains production in the State has shown as gradual improvement. During 1976-77 the target of 1.40 lakh tons is likely to be fully achieved. The target for 1977-78 has been fixed at 1.47 lakh  tons. The target for production of jute and mesta for the year 1977-78 is 70,000 bales and for potato 85,000 toms. Emphasis has been placed on extension of the area under high yielding varieties, popularisation of the use of fertilizers and pesticides and adoption of improved agricultural practices. The Government of India have selected the Garo Hills District for implementation of the integrated rural development project. To ensure supply of water for cultivation, two flow, and five lift irrigation projects will be started which will be completed in the next two years. The programme also includes the sinking of more shallow tube wells be laid on horticultural schemes, and the activities of Small Farmers Development Agencies and Marginal farmers development Agencies will continue. 

Animal husbandry, poultry and fisheries

        13. Animal husbandry and cattle improvement form an integral part of rural development and the Government have taken up various schemes for improvement in this sector. The period of operation of the Indo Danish Project is proposed to be extended further for another two years. The main emphasis of the programme is on meeting the requirements of breed-stock in the State. The programme is being operated in co-ordination with the Intensive Cattle Development Programme and the scheme for Key village centres. The programmes undertaken for development of poultry, fisheries and piggery are also being continued.

Control of Jhum-Shifting Cultivation

        14. The programme for control of jhum and grouping of villages has been undertaken as a special programme in the State to meet the needs of about 42 per cent of the tribal population which is dependent on shifting cultivation. The programme aims at weaning away shifting cultivators from jhum to settled type of cultivation. The programme includes, apart from land development and terracing, distribution of seeds, manure and fertilisers, improving of irrigation facilities, afforestation, supply of drinking water and construction of link roads and dwelling houses.

Co-operative and Community Development

        15. The programme of revitalisation and re-organisation of the primary level societies which was undertaken under the Master Plan prepared in consultation with the Reserve Bank of India will be completed within the next financial year. The starting of a project for Intensive Development of credit by the Reserve Bank and the Government of India will also considerably assist the co-operative structure and equip it better for taking up its task of expansion of credit for agriculture and other priority sectors. The State Cooperative and Consumers Marketing Federation will extent its activities further in the consumer sector and take up, on an expanded basis, the marketing of border produce. The scheme undertaken earlier for channelising the earmarked funds of various development departments through the block development of agencies will continue. The programme for development of backward areas is also being implemented through the block development agencies. Appointment of non-official Chairman of the block development committees has resulted in ensuring greater participation of the people in the Community Development movement.

Industries and Mineral Resources

        16. The objective of the industrial policy of the State Government is to encourage the growth of industrial based on mineral and agro-forest resources of the State with a view to increasing employment opportunities for the people ands to diversify and prevent lopsided growth of the economy. With this end in view, measures will be taken for extending a package of more liberal incentives and arranging consultancy units in the State. The Mawmluh-Cherra Cements Ltd. is implementing its expansion project more or less on schedule. Negotiations have been taken up for setting up a captive assembly unit for watches of the Hindustan Machine Tools Ltd. Steps are being taken for the setting up of a pulp and paper Mill, and a Company for setting up a Jute Mill in the joint sector at Mendipathar in East Garo Hills district has also been formed. The Meghalaya Industrial Development Corporation is playing the role of a promotional agency and is implementing the scheme for capital subsidy as also arranging training of local candidates to meet the man-power requirement in the industrial sector. The Government will encourage and promote the establishment of small-scale industries and cottage industries as also encourage handicrafts and handloom production. A Sales Emporium has been started in Shillong under the Handicrafts Boards Scheme. The implementation of the schemes for the development of sericulture and handloom industries has made satisfactory progress. The Government will taken up a new scheme for the centres for silk weaving, where training facilities will be provided for the benefit of the promising local weavers. In the mining sector, apart from continuing the work on existing schemes, providing of limestone deposits at Siju will also be taken up.

Power Development

        17. One of the units of the Nangalbibra coal based thermal station with the total installed capacity of 2x2.5 MW has been commissioned recently. The first unit of the Kyrdem-Kulai Hydro Electric Project of 30 MW capacity is expected to be commissioned by June, 1978, and the second unit of a similar capacity three or four months thereafter. The Rural Electrification Programme including the construction of the transmission line to connect Umian-Umtru system with Nangalbibra is progressing satisfactorily.

Transport and Communications

        18. Development of communications is necessary from the point of view of creation of infrastructure for marketing of agricultural produces, growth of industries and for ensuring movement of essential commodities to the interior areas. Hon'ble Members will be glad to know that the Planning Commission and the Government of India have accepted the priority of development of communications in the State and have agreed to an increased outlay in this sector during the next year.

        The project report and feasibility study for the Inchamati- Shillong- Byrnihat ropeway will be finalised soon. The State Government have taken up with the Civil Aviation Ministry the proposal for starting scheduled air services to and from the Airfield at Umroi. The Meghalaya State Road Transport Corporation has been appointed to report on the improvement in the working system of the Corporation. The Corporation will consolidated and take up new schemes depending upon the availability of finances from various sources.

Education, Art and Culture and Promotion of Sports

        19. The Government continue to give priority to the development of education. Apart from consolidation and qualitative improvement of educational facilities already built up, extension in primary education forms the main objective in the expansion sector. The recommendations of the University Grants Commission for improvement of pay scale of teachers have been accepted and the revised pay scales are being implemented. Revised pay scales for the teachers of all deficit schools including primary schools under the District Councils have been sanctioned. The State Institute of Art and Culture has been started. Due emphasis is being placed on the promotion of sports and games.

Health and Water supply

        20. The expansion of medical facilities in the rural areas is being carried out through the Minimum Needs Programme. It is expected that all the Blocks will be covered by Primary Health Centres by the end of the Fifth Plan. The expansion of the Ganesh Das Hospital is expected to be completed by the next year. The bed strength of the Civil Hospital, Shillong, and the Ganesh Das Hospital has been increased. Construction of building for Tura Civil Hospital is also expected to be taken up during the year 1977-78. The Maternity and Paediatric Wing of the Civil Hospital, Jowai, is expected to start functioning by the early part of 1977-78.

        In the sphere of rural water supply programme, emphasis is being placed on the completing of the continuing schemes so that the benefit of drinking water can be made available to the people in the rural areas at the earliest. Work on the new Jowai Water Supply Scheme is continuing. The work on the Greater Shillong Water Supply Scheme has commenced and negotiations for loans from the L.I.C. for the execution of the project are in progress. A few small schemes to improve water supply in Shillong have also been undertaken.

Tourism

        21. As a result of the organisation of Tourist festivals and execution of other schemes, the flow of tourists into Meghalaya has increased appreciably. With a view to accelerating the development in this sector, the Government have set up the Meghalaya Tourism Development Corporation.

Other Sectors

        22. I would like to mention briefly some of the programmes in other sectors of development. A separate Wildlife Wing in the Forest Department has been set up for proper management of wildlife resources of the State. The Forest Development Corporation is continuing its activities and recently the Agriculture Refinance and Development Corporation has agrees to finance a project for development of forests through the Corporation with assistance of Rs. 49 lakhs. The schemes of environmental forestry and social forestry are also continuing.

District Councils

        23. In accordance with the policy of the Government to attach due importance to the functioning of the District Councils, assistance is being extended to the Councils for enabling them to discharge their functions. The normal tenure of the existing District Councils of Garo Hills and Khasi Hills is to expire shortly. Considering that the creation of new Districts will result in delay in delimitation of constituencies, the terms of the District Councils have been extended by one year.

Development of Border Areas

        24. The emphasis in the programme for the development of border areas will be on introduction of new suitable crops in the border areas and setting up of nursery farms for the purpose of production of seeds and plants. The setting up of industries in the border areas for utilisation of the resources of the area will also be given priority. The development of handicrafts and small and cottage industries will also be encouraged. Irrigation facilities will be developed to extend the cultivated area. Grants-in-aid will be given to the educational institutions located in the border areas for construction of hostels and improvement and expansion of existing hostels and buildings.

Land Reforms

        25. In the light of recommendation of the Land Reforms Commission, a scheme for taking up cadastral survey in the East and West Garo Hills districts has been prepared. The process of acquisition of jotedari rights and abolition of annuity rights of zamindari estates in the plains of West Garo Hills district will be completed soon. The training facilities at the Survey School at Tura are being improved.

Employment schemes and Task Force

        26. The increasing of employment opportunities forms an important part of the policy of the Government and the schemes already undertaken for the purpose will continue. The Task Force which has been set up to meet the requirement of labour for departmental projects has been organised and has taken up departmental work in a few areas in the State. The Industrial Training Institute which was previously located at Gauhati has been shifted and has started functioning at Shillong. The generation of employment directly and indirectly through the execution of plan schemes will help in increasing employment opportunities for the people of the State. 

Price Situation and supply of essential commodities

        27. The position relating to supply of essential commodities has been, by and large satisfactory in spite of occasional rise in the prices of a few commodities. The prices of edible oil and sugar have shown increase. The Government are seized of the problem and have initiated necessary measures in this regard.   

Restriction on the sale and consumption of liquor

        28. The Government have taken steps for placing restriction on the sale and consumption of liquor. The Meghalaya Intoxicating Liquor (Prohibition of Publication of Advertisements) Act, 1976, has been enacted. Drinking in hotels, restaurants and clubs has been restricted to a room earmarked for the purpose. Liquor shops on the national high-ways are in the process of being shifted and temperance committees are being constituted. The first day of every month has been declared as "dry day". No new licenses for liquor shops had been issued during 1976. Sale of liquor to persons below 18 years has been banned. The Civil Services Conduct Rule have been suitably amended prohibiting consumption of liquor by Government servants and employees of Government undertaking in public places.

Benefits to the employees

        29. In accordance with the policy of the Government to extend benefits to the employees, dearness allowances at enhanced rates has been sanctioned for Government employees with effect from 1st September, 1976. The benefit of the revised rates of declares allowance has been extended to the teachers of deficit colleges and schools and also to the teachers under the schools managed by District Councils. The process of absorption in Meghalaya of the tribal employees of Meghalaya origin serving under the Assam Government has almost been completed.

Natural calamities

        30. The State was free from any major natural calamity during 1976-77. However, certain areas were affected by failure of crops due to excessive or scanty rainfall, depredation of wild animals and fire incidents. The Government have extended necessary relief measures by sanction of gratuitous relief, test relief and agricultural loans to alleviate the hardship of the affected people.

Assam-Meghalaya Border

        31. In accordance with the decisions taken in the meeting of the Chief Ministers of Assam and Meghalaya held on 29th February, 1976, of which a mention was made in my last address, meetings were held between the officers of the two Governments. During these meetings, the areas of differences have been identified. The Meghalaya Government have requested the Governments of Assam to have a meeting at appropriate level to discuss the method of resolving the differences in various areas on the boundary between the two State. The Government will continue to follow the policy of conciliation and amity and will seek to work for finding a peaceful solution of the differences by discussions with the Government of Assam and by utilising the good offices of the Government of India, if necessary. The Government expect that peaceful conditions will prevail on both sides of the border of the two States.

Seventh  Finance Commission

        32. The next Finance Commission is likely to be set up very soon. It is expected that the Commission will give a sympathetic and just consideration to the needs of Meghalaya in view of its backwardness and special problems.

Programme for the Session        

        In this session, the Government will place the Budget Estimates and seek a Vote-on-Account pending final consideration and passing of the budget by this august House. Besides, the Legislative Assembly of Meghalaya (Members' Salaries and Allowance) (Amendment) Bill, 1977 will be introduced during the current session of the Assembly.

        I have briefly indicated the main aspects of the programme and policies of the Government. The coming year holds great promise and it is in your hands to ensure that the gains already achieved are consolidates and the nation's onward march, to its proclaims ideals is continued with renewed vigour and effort. The challenges of fulfillment of the ideal of economic prosperity and achievement of the objective of well-being of the common man are enormous and call for co-operative efforts and continuous endeavour. I am confident that all of you rise to the occasion. 

        I wish you all success in you deliberations. 

JAI HIND