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

Meghalaya Legislative Assembly

9th January, 1979

Mr. SPEAKER AND HON'BLE MEMBERS,

        I am very happy to address you once again after a period of less than a year. The period which has lapsed since I addressed you last has been full of significant events. During this period the democratic ideals and procedures were re-established in the country and the nation took up the challenge of development of economy with a renewed vigour. In Meghalaya a new Government which took over the Administration after the elections have functioned in office for about 10 months and had, during its tenure, made efforts towards the fulfillment of the policy which I had indicated in my last Address to the august House. The Government reiterate their determination to continue vigorously the pursuit of the objective of protecting and preserving the distinct identity of the tribal people of Meghalaya and will make all efforts for the promotion of their economic, social and cultural interests. The Government shall pursue the objective of maintaining a clean and efficient Administration responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people ensuring fair and just treatment to all sections of the population living in the State.

        2. The last year had started with a good buffer stock of food-grains and a surplus foreign exchange position. The widespread natural calamities in several parts of the country and fluctuations in the foreign exchange earnings have given rise to trends which need constant watch and remedial action. The rising trends in the prices of some essential items of consumption would necessitate stronger measures for management of the price level and curbing of further rise in prices. In spite of these trends the economic situation in the country is full of promise. 

        As all of you are aware, several parts of the country have had unfortunate experience of severe natural disasters. The widespread and unprecedented floods in West Bengal and certain areas of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi and the damage from heavy storms in some parts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala have left deep scars on the economy.

        3. The law and order situation in the State has been maintained satisfactorily. The Government are convinced that peaceful conditions are a prerequisite for ensuring development of the State and will take all measures to preserve and promote amity and goodwill among all sections of the people and communities living in the State.

        4. The situation on the border with Bangladesh calls for constant attention. Life of the people in the border areas has been adversely affected by the incursions and infiltrations from across the border and commission of crimes such as cattle-lifting, theft of agricultural and forest produces and dacoities. Necessary steps in this regard are being taken by the State Administration and the Border Security Force. However, considering the nature of the terrain and the lack of proper communications as also in order to ensure participation of the people, the State Government have proposed the raising of a special Homeguard Battalion for Border Areas which could be utilised throughout the year to effectively patrol the area and supplement the efforts of the Border Security Force. The State Government hope that the Government of India will soon sanction the Scheme.

        5. The influx of foreign nationals has posed a very serious problem for the State. The Government are committed to take all possible measures to prevent the influx of foreign nationals into the State with a view to maintaining the basic population structure of the State and to prevent economic exploitation of the tribal communities. The State Police as also the Border Security Force are effectively seized of the problem and the work relating to the detection of infiltrators and their sending across to Bangladesh continues. The enforcement of the measures under the order issued by the Government of India on the 10th July, 1976, to control entry of Nepalese nationals into the restricted areas under the Foreigners' Act, 1946, is dependent on certain clarifications from the Government of India. The State Government are taking necessary steps to expedite clarifications on the procedural details before launching the scheme drawn up for the implementation of the order.

        With the objective of regulating the large-scale influx from outside, the State Government have impressed upon the Government of India to re-consider their earlier decision and expedite the assent of the President to the Residential Permit Bill which was unanimously passed by the State Legislature in 1973. The State Government are also actively considering the enforcement of various measures under the Foreigners (Report to Police) Order, 1971.

        6. The Government are committed to seek the earliest possible solution of the problem on the boundary with the neighbouring State of Assam. With this end in view, a dialogue has been started with the Assam Government and the problem has been discussed informally in a cordial atmosphere paving the way for further negotiations. The Assam Government have already agreed to a demarcation of the boundary on the ground by a joint survey by the officers of the two State Governments in certain portions of the boundary of the Garo Hills Districts of Meghalaya and the Goalpara District of Assam. This is a good augury and the Government hope that this procedure would be made applicable for resolving the differences in all other sectors of the boundary between the States of Assam and Meghalaya.

        7. The Government of India's decision on the report of the Seventh Finance Commission (1978) have been announced. While conceding to some of the main points submitted by the State Government, the Commission's award has failed to meet the requirements of the State with adequate financial assistance. The gap between the amount recommended by the Commission as grant-in-aid under Article 275 of the Constitution for Meghalaya and for some of the other States of the region with similar or less population and area and a similar degree of backwardness is much wider than under the last Commission's award. This aspect of the Commission's report will lead to the accentuation and perpetuation of inter - regional  and intra-regional imbalances which will not be in the overall interest of the country. The Government hope for sympathetic and equitable treatment from the Government of India in implementing the Finance Commission's award.

        8. With the release of the Finance Commission's Report the work relating to the finalisation of the Sixth Plan is expected to be expedited. The National Development Council had appointed a Sub-Committee to review the Gadgil Formula of which the Chief Minister of Meghalaya is a member.  The State Government have through various forums, stressed on the Government of India the absolute necessity and desirability of continuing the special treatment and concessional pattern of financial assistance which had been in vogue for the backward States like Meghalaya. In the connection the Government have also pointed out the anomaly in the existing procedure under which Meghalaya, a State with predominantly tribal population has so far been deprived of the special assistance given to other States for their Tribal Sub-Plans.

        After taking into consideration the backward nature of economy of Meghalaya in the light of accepted economic indicators and other relevant considerations, the State Government have proposed an allocation of Rs.292 crores for the State Plan for the period 1978 to 1983 and of Rs.59.28 crores for the Annual Plan 1979-80. This is the requirement in financial terms which would ensure reasonable development of the economy of the State and will, to some extent, bring it at par with the rest of the country. Discussions have since been held at the official level with the concerned officers of the Government of India and the Planning Commission on these proposals. But they are still to be discussed with the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission. The Government look forward towards a fair and just treatment and adequate financial allocations from the Government of India in furtherance of the national objective of giving priority to the development of the backward areas of the country.

        9. One of the main impediments standing in the way of the development of the economy of the State is the lack of a properly organised banking system which could reach the interior areas of the State and ensure the requisite expansion of the credit for priority sectors and weaker sections of society. You will be glad to know that as a result of the efforts of the State Government, the Government of India have now taken a decision for the setting up of a Regional Rural Bank for Meghalaya. It is expected that with the establishment of a Regional Rural Bank in Meghalaya there will be expansion of the credit facilities for agriculture, medium, small scale, cottage and house-hold industries at a faster pace.

        10. Agriculture occupies a very high priority in the developmental programme in the State. The Draft Sixth Plan of the State aims to achieve self-sufficiency in production of rice and increase the production of other food-grains in the State by the end of the Sixth Plan. The integrated Rural Development Programme has been launched in seven Blocks in the State and three more Blocks will be taken up for the implementation of the programme during the current financial year. The programme aims at ensuring full employment conditions in the selected Blocks. More Blocks will be covered under the programme during the remaining years of the Sixth Plan. Measures to implement the programme effectively have been undertaken. The schemes for popularisation of improved agricultural practices and effective demonstrations at the field level as also for supplying improved seeds and other inputs will continue on an expanded  basis. The State Government are seized of the problem of shortage of fertilisers all over the country and have taken steps to ensure adequate supplies for the State by arranging movement of the stock of fertilisers by road.

        The State Government are taking steps to activise the functioning of the Block Development agencies by ensuring greater participation of the people in the Block Development Committees. The scheme for channelising of the funds of various development departments through Blocks will continue. The Blocks will also be utilised for implementation of other important programmes of development.

        11. The co-operative movement plays an important role in ensuring agricultural development and arousing the spirit of co-operative endeavour in the rural areas. The schemes for re-organisation of the co-operative structure in the State which was taken up in consultation with the Reserve Bank of India is likely to be completed soon. With the re-organisation of the co-operative structure, the co-operative societies will play a more active role in disbursing agricultural credit as also in arranging distribution of essential commodities. The activities of the State Co-operative Marketing Federation are expanding and its turn-over is increasing. The Federation will be involved progressively in serving the needs of marketing in border areas and in arranging the supply of essential commodities. The functioning of the Co-operative Apex Bank has also been satisfactorily.

        12. The price situation in the State needs constant watch and remedial action. The State being deficit in production of food grains, it has to depend on outside supplies in regard to rice, wheat, pulses, edible oils, etc. While with the abolition of the levy system, price of sugar has shown a declining trend, the price of pulses and edible oils has not shown encouraging trends. The State Government are keeping a constant watch on the situation and are taking necessary measures with a view to preventing wide fluctuations in the price situation.

        The sharp decline in the prices of cash crops such as jute, mesta, potato and ginger has caused concern and the State Government are considering measures to ensure remunerative prices to the growers.

        13. In view of the difficult terrain and the absence of others means of communications, road transport is the most important means of communication in the  State. The programme for building up of the roads in the State is being continued on the basis of utmost priority. The Sixth Plan of the State proposes a reasonably high allocation and physical targets in this sector. The State Government have also urged upon the Government of India the importance and urgency of taking up the construction of missing links of the border roads system so as to ensure its effective use for strategic purposes as also for economic activities such as transport of agricultural produces, goods and essential commodities.

        The State Government are taking necessary measures to improve and expand the working of the Meghalaya Transport Corporation. With a view to enabling the Corporation to expand its fleet and to take up new routes, higher financial assistance to the Corporation has been envisaged during the Sixth Plan.

        14. With a view to accelerating the development of small industries, the Industrial Development Corporation of the State has embarked upon a more ambitious programme of financing of the small entrepreneurs. The setting up of the district industries centres is expected to result in accelerating industrial activities in the State. The State Government are also proposing the setting up of such interests which would lead to economic utilisation of the resources of the State and increase the employment potential for the local people.

        15. The extension of medical facilities is an important aspect of the policy of the Government in the social services sector. The functioning of the hospitals, primary health centres and dispensaries, is being activised with provision of adequate medicines so that they could serve as effective centres for extending medical facilities specially in the rural areas.

        The State Government have also impressed upon the Government of India the desirability of establishing a medical college at Shillong with Central assistance outside the State Plan Ceiling to meet the growing needs of medical personnel in Meghalaya and in the entire north-eastern region and are looking forward to a sympathetic and affirmative response from the Government of India.

        16. The State Government will take the necessary steps towards consolidation and expansion of education at all levels in the light of the report of the State Education Commission which had since been received. The State Government will make all possible efforts to implement the national adult education programme in the State. The Government will also continue to take necessary measures for development of sports and cultural activities in the State.

        17. The recent floods in the country have once again highlighted the necessity for much more intensive efforts and financial support for the development of forestry without which the ecological balance and climatological stability cannot be maintained. The programme for forest development includes the scheme for development of the forest plantations and social forestry as also extension of assistance to the District Councils for the development of their forest resources. The development of animal husbandry and veterinary and poultry through various schemes will continue and due attention will be paid to the promotion of dairying. The programme undertaken by the Soil Conservation Department for the control of jhunm and grouping of villages will be given a new orientation by providing for the development of horticultural and cash crops on the reclaimed terraces as also by the provision of irrigation facilities wherever possible so as to make the programme more attractive and beneficial.

        18. The Kyrdemkulai Project is likely to be completed soon resulting in increased production of 60 megawatts of power in the State. The Schemes for Rural Electrification and the building up of special transmission line to construct a single grid for the entire State is progressing satisfactorily. During my last Address I had referred to the Garo Hills Thermal Project, which is an approved Scheme of the North-Eastern Council. The approval of the Government of India to the Project is still to come. During the Sixth Plan period the State Government propose to take up a few new projects for generation of power in the State through the State Electricity Board. In view of the shortage of power in the entire region, the State Government look forward to early clearance of the State Government's proposals by the Government of India.

        19. A new site for the construction of the reservoir and treatment plant of the Greater Shillong Water Supply has been decided for which the people of the area have given a written agreement. The revised project report for the scheme is likely to be sanctioned soon and the work on the scheme will commence within the current financial year. During the Sixth Plan the State Government have proposed an expanded programme for providing drinking water to the interior villages of the State.

        20. As all of you are aware, the area falling adjacent to Meghalaya's border with Bangladesh runs into 4,960 square kilometres and roughly forms about 20 percent of the State's total area containing 23 per cent of the total population in the State. The development of this area is one of the most important aspects of the policy of the State Government. During the Sixth Plan, it is proposed to continue the integrated programme for rehabilitation of the economy of these areas with greater financial outlays. The State Government also propose to make necessary changes in the administration of Border Areas Development Programme so as to make its implementation more effective and result-oriented.

        21. During its tenure the State Government have taken necessary steps to restore the democratic functioning of the District Councils by holding elections. For the Garo Hills District Council elections were held in May, 1978 and a new Executive Committee took over the administration. The elections of the Jaintia Hills District Council were also completed in June, 1978 and an Executive Committee has since been functioning. The elections to the Khasi Hills District Council were held on the 19th December, 1978 and completed in all the constituencies except one. The State Government are committed to extending their full support and financial assistance to the District Councils which continue to be the most important bodies for local democracy in the State. The Asoka Mehta Committee known as the Committee on Panchayati Raj Institutions has also recommended the continuation of the existing organisations (such as District Councils) in the tribal areas.

        22. The programme of the Government for development of tourism facilities in the State will continue. Higher allocation and physical targets are being proposed in this regard in the Sixth Plan.

        23. In consonance with the national objective of progressive introduction of Prohibition in the State, the number of 'dry days' has been increased to 76 and all the Sundays are now 'dry days'. Giving of new Bar Licenses has been completely stopped.

        24. With a view to meeting the requirements of the situation, the State Government have enlarged the scope of the scheme for extension of benefits  under the natural calamities and help will now be available for widespread failure of Jhum crops, damages to crops by hail-storm, and depredation by wild elephants.

        25. The problem of growing unemployment in the State is being tackled by the creation of greater employment opportunities through the programmes undertaken by the various development departments. As all of you are aware the objective of bringing of full employment conditions within ten-year period has been adopted as a national objective and the newly launched scheme for integrated rural development aims at increasing the employment potential to the maximum. The implementation of these programmes together with the expansion of the administrative machinery as also growth in primary, secondary and tertiary sectors of economy is, by and large, expected to meet the requirements of creation of employment opportunities in the State to cope with the unemployment problem.

        26. During my last address I had referred to the decision of the Government for the setting up of a Pay Commission. The Pay Commission for the State has been set up and has started functioning. The State Government expect that its recommendations will go a long way towards meeting the reasonable demands of the employees. The State Government are also considering, in consultation with the Pay Commission, the possibility of granting interim relief to the employees pending submission of the final report by the Commission.

        27. The business of the current Session of the House will include the introduction of the following measures :-

    (1)    The Contingency Fund of Meghalaya (Amendment) Bill, 1979.

    (2)    The Meghalaya Appropriation (No.1) Bill, 1979.

        28. In my address I have briefly indicated the programmes undertaken by the Government in pursuance of its policy since it assumed office last March. A good beginning has been made. However, more time will be required to fully implement the programmes for the development of the State. To achieve this, the Government expect from all of you and the people whom you represent active co-operation and assistance in their endeavour to build up the State. I am sure that the deliberations in the House will further the fulfillment of the accepted objectives and enable Meghalaya to take its rightful place in the country and contribute its best to the development of the national economy.

        I wish you all success in your deliberations.

JAI   HIND