MARCH  15, 1996


Mr. Speaker and Hon'ble Members,

        I deem it a privilege to welcome you today to the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly particularly so when it is the first occasion for me to meet and address you in this august House. I extend to each one of you and, through you, to the people of the State, my warm greetings and good wishes.

        2. As one of the States of the Union, Meghalaya values discipline and integrity in public life and respect for the rule of  law. It will, within its confines, endeavour to uphold these ideals. Maintenance of law and order is one of the foremost considerations and Government are determined to deal firmly with any attempt to disrupt the even tenor of the society. Sporadic incidents of crime which took place were promptly dealt with and checked. Promotion of peace and harmony amongst the different sections of the people of the State is of prime importance and it is hoped that the Community Relations Council will continue to play a useful role in this respect.

        The police force is being modernised and made more professional. The Central Government have recently sanctioned the raising of a third police battalion on the pattern of the India Reserve Battalions.

        3. Government will spare no pains in their efforts to promote the welfare of the people. The constitutional safeguards for members of the Scheduled Tribes, the Scheduled Castes and other Weaker Sections of the Society will continue to be extended to them so that in course of time they come up to the level of the other sections of the citizens

        4. Government are alive to the need to maintain the population structure of the State. Steps to prevent infiltration from across the border will be continued. During 1995, 3075 foreign nationals were detected in the State and a majority of them were pushed back while the rest are being prosecuted. The system of Restricted Area Permit has been done away with to help tourism in the State. However, measures are under consideration for ensuring that no illegal entry of foreigners takes place.

        5. To bring the administration nearer to the people the Western Ri-Bhoi Administrative Unit has been set up with Patharkhmah as headquarters. In February 1996, the Mawshynrut Administrative Unit has also been set up for the Lyngngam areas.

        6. The size of the Annual Plan for 1996-97 has tentatively been fixed at Rs.306.52 crores. It is subject to final settlement  in discussions with the Central Government after the ensuing Parliamentary elections. The Plan emphasises on strengthening the rural economy with priority on agriculture and its allied sectors, education, health care, roads and communication.

        7. Serious efforts will be made to create necessary infrastructure and provide necessary facilities for proper delivery of health care especially in rural areas. By the end of 1995-96, 2 more Community Health Centres, 7 Primary Health Centres and 12 Health Sub-centres will be set up. The construction of the Out Patient Department Complex in Shillong Civil Hospital is under progress which on completion will provide better facilities to the patients. The National AIDS Control Programme is also continued. The District Project on National Cancer Control Programme, a new scheme funded by the Government of India, will be launched during 1996-97. The National Programme of Polio Immunization has been successfully implemented recently. The National Malaria Eradication Programme will be implemented more vigorously. The first phase of the North East Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences is nearing completion. All efforts will be  made to achieve the goal of "Health for All by 2000 A.D."

        8. Thrust will continue to be given to all the areas of education : elementary, secondary and higher. In the field of elementary education emphasis will be on attainment of a minimum level of learning. About 1600 more primary school teachers have been appointed in 1995 under the Operation Blackboard Scheme. Textbooks and furniture have also been provided to 2575 primary schools. Training programme will be further streamlined for primary education. The midday meal scheme for primary school children will be made more effective cover more areas. Nutritional support and financial grants are also being extended and about 2.50 lakhs of students have benefited from it during 1995-96. In secondary education and higher education, the approach is on consolidation and improvement of the existing facilities. Programmes of adult education and vocational education are being given due importance. Government have finalised the policy guidelines for educational development in the State and the document containing the programme of action for the next five years was placed in the House in 1995 during its Winter Session. The NEHU campus at Tura was inaugurated by Hon'ble Prime Minister on 23rd February, 1996.

        9. Government have drawn up schemes to preserve the rich culture of the ethnic tribes of the State. Cultural programmes are organised and cultural troupes sent to other States to project the cultural heritage of our people. The Wangala troupe consisting of more than 200 Garo artistes represented the State at the inauguration of the SAF games of SAARC countries at Madras in December, 1995. Voluntary organisations are encouraged and financially assisted to organise cultural festivals from time to time.

        10. Government are concerned for the welfare of the women, the children, the old, the infirm and the handicapped. Social services to the extent possible will continue to be extended to them. Efforts to tackle social evils will also continue to be pursued. To find out the extent of social problems in the State, Government have undertaken a survey in collaboration with the North Eastern Hills University so that programmes can be formulated to meet them. An SOS Children's village will soon be set up in the State by an All India Organisation and land has been allotted at Umiam for the purpose. A Voluntary Action Unit has been set up to extend assistance to NGO's engaged in social welfare services.

        11. Government are much concerned with the growing restlessness amongst the youths. A Programme called the "Chief Minister's Youth Development Programme" has recently been launched to channelise the energy and talent of the youths in proper direction. Boys and girls are encouraged to take part in sports competitions in and outside the State. In the Marathon Meet in November, 1995 at Sikkim, Kumari Marbakordor Kharpuri won the gold medal. Master Bashalang Kharumnuid also represented the country in the Asian Karate Meet held at Manila in September, 1995. The National Sports Talent Contest for children below 12 years of age was also held at Shillong in 1995. A number of National and Zonal Sports events in football, arm-wrestling and martial arts were hosted by the State during 1995. There are at present 32 projects for construction of outdoor and indoor stadium in the seven districts of the State.

        Efforts will be made to reduce the incidence of unemployment amongst the youths by encouraging them to take advantage of the available schemes for self-employment. Government are also considering strengthening of coaching courses for the All India and other Central Services examinations to enable local youths to complete successfully.

        12. The whole State is covered under revamped Public Distribution System. For regular flow and distribution of essential commodities in interior areas, the Mobile Shops Scheme which has helped prevent black-marketing and also reduced the consumer prices of the commodities will be strengthened. Kerosene oil will continue to be distributed in the localities by sub-dealers also. In order to ensure adequate storage of essential commodities, with the assistance of the Central Government, a 500-metric tonne capacity godown has been constructed at Pynursla and another of 2000-metric tonne is being constructed at Khanapara. A new scheme for supplying rice and wheat at subsidised rates to educational institutions and hostels accommodating students of the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes has been started in June 1995 and this will be continued. The Consumer Protection Council, the State Consumer Commission and the District Consumer Fora will continue to function to deal with grievances of the consumers.

        13. Agriculture receives its due importance in the Annual Plans. To increase production of food-grains and horticultural produce diversified methods like multiple cropping and use of high yielding variety seeds will be further intensified. Attempts to bring more areas under cultivation will be made and improved technology of cultivation adopted. The topography and agro-climatic conditions of the State are ideal for growth of horticulture and its allied industries. For 1996-97, a target production of 3.29 lakh tonnes of horticultural crops has been fixed as against 3.10 lakhs tonnes for 1995-96. In view of its importance, a separate Directorate of Horticulture has been set up.

        14. With a view to conserve the natural resources various schemes under jhum control and watershed management programmes and soil conservation works have been taken up. Other programmes like soil survey and testing will continue to be taken during 1996-97. A Central sector scheme for watershed development is also expected to be taken up. A statutory Board for development of the cultivation of tea, rubber, coffee, ginger, broomstick and other commercial crops is being set up to give special thrust to improve rural economy.

        15. Environmental degradation is a national and a worldwide concern. Government  for its part will continue to take measures to preserve and regenerate forests and wildlife. Efforts will also be made to expand forest cover on degraded lands in consultation with the local authorities and the District Councils. In 1995-96 a mass awareness campaign has been launched. Forest and environmental laws will be enforced strictly. Providing legal cover to some of the social forestry programme is under active consideration.

        16. Efforts to strengthen the co-operative movement will be continued. A Development Action Plan in terms of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government and the Meghalaya Co-operative Apex Bank and the National  Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development is ready for implementation. It is expected that it will bring about the desired improvement in the level of credit flow to the farmers. MECOFED, during 1995-96 has been able to improve its business performance and bring down trade deficit. Sustained efforts are being made for proper spread of co-operative consciousness through public meetings, group discussions, seminars, and local campaigns. The District Level Co-operation Exhibition was successfully organised in June, 1995 at Shillong, and the All India Co-operative Week, 1995 was also celebrated in the State. As a result of sustained efforts co-operative activities in other important areas have also started showing signs of improvement.

        17. Animal husbandry and dairying will continue to be encouraged to play an important role for the economic development of rural population. The Plan Outlay for 1996-97 has been fixed for Rs.676 lakhs for this sector. In recent years people are getting more and more inclined towards piggery, poultry and cattle rearing. Government will render them assistance. The new central sector scheme for integrated dairy development has been implemented from 1995-96 in East Khasi Hills and Ri-Bhoi districts and will be extended to other parts of the State as well. Government have also decided to get a Poultry Base Farm set up in collaboration with NEC, a local entrepreneur and expertise of a reputed private sector firm to give boost to production of high quality poultry and developing appropriate feed.

        18. Various schemes have been taken up in the fishery sector with a view to increase fish production and help fish farmers. During the first half of 1995-96, pisciculture production touched the mark of about 1700 metric tonnes of fish and 16 lakhs of fish seeds. The Fish Farmers Development Agency will be strengthened.

        19. With a view to uplift the economic conditions of the people in the border areas attention is paid and stress is laid on various schemes, State and Central, as per advice of the Working Group of the Planning Commission. The Border Areas Marketing Scheme will be continued by providing transport facilities to enable the people to market their produce more profitably. A technical wing has been set in the Directorate of the Border Areas Development Department to expedite planning and execution of construction programmes.

        20. Government are taking steps to further develop road transport, this being the only means of communication in the State. Meghalaya Transport Corporation at present operates on 53 routes covering a distance of 7518 kms. To facilitate railway travelers from the State, and the region as well, a computerised railway reservation counter will be opened shortly at Shillong; the arrangements with the Railways authorities are being worked out for this. Preliminary works for the Baljek Airport in West Garo Hills is continuing. Estimates have been prepared by the National Airport Authority of India and adequate funds have been placed at its disposal in connection with the project. Government will continue to pursue bringing rail heads in Meghalaya and for upgradation of Umroi Airport.

        21. Road net work being vital for the economic development of the State, construction of roads and bridges will continue to receive priority consideration. The proposed outlay for 1996-97 is Rs.6,900.00 lakhs. The case for necessary clearance for construction of the important Shillong By-pass to connect NH 40 with NH 44 is being pursued vigorously with the Ministry of Environment and Forests of Government of India. In the meantime the link roads from Barapani to Mawrynkneng via Bhoilymbong and from Nongpoh to Nartiang are under construction. Considering its importance for promoting trade with Bangladesh,  Jowai-Amlarem-Dawki road is being widened and improved on priority basis to make it double-lane. During 1995-96, a sum of Rs.10 crores has been sanctioned and the work is continuing. Dudnoi-Nangalbibra road has been handed over to the Border Roads Organisation for renovation. Government will also take steps to improve the roads linking Barsora and Gasuapara with PWD roads as they are important trade routes.

        22. Implementation and maintenance of water supply schemes for providing safe drinking water in rural areas are covered under the Minimum Needs Programme, the Centrally Sponsored Accelerated Rural Water Programme and the Technology Mission. So far, 5088 main and 1405 other habitations are provided with safe drinking water. During the current year, 262 main and 264 other habitations are expected to be covered. The Greater Shillong Water Supply Scheme at Mawphlang has been improved with the installation of the third stage booster pumps augmenting the supply of water to about 340 lakh litres per day. Preliminary works for construction of an RCC dam over the river Umiew at Mawphlang has also been started. The dam, when completed, will impound more water to meet the projected requirement of about 510 lakhs litres per day.

        23. The pace of urbanisation in the State has increased considerably and has assumed great importance. The high growth of various urban centres and the problems associated with them have affected the civic amenities and the urban environment. To ensure proper development Master Plans have been drawn up for Shillong, Jowai and Tura. Action is being taken to implement the same so that development of the area takes place in a planned way. During 1995, Municipal Boards have been established for Williamnagar, Jowai and Baghmara towns. Setting up of Municipal Boards in Sub-divisional headquarters for providing better civic amenities is under contemplation. The scheme of low cost sanitation which provides for conversion of dry latrines into sanitary ones will be continued.

        24. The geographical realities prohibiting major industrial development notwithstanding, and without causing detriment to the environment and the ecology of the State, the policy of the Government  is to promote medium and small scale industries by inviting and helping private entrepreneurs. With a view to increasing employment opportunities for the youths and export of value-added items, the possibilities of getting foreign investment in joint sector projects will be explored. In the Barapani Industrial Area at Umiam a number of industrial units have come up. The Byrnihat Industrial Area is developing fast and construction of roads, buildings and necessary physical infrastructure is in progress. Meghalaya Industrial Development Corporation is playing a vital role in helping entrepreneurs with financial and other assistance. Apart from the Mawmluh-Cherra Cements Limited, the two other mini cements plants at Sutnga in Jaintia Hills and at Damas in East Garo Hills have commenced production. The Prime Minister Rozgar Yojna Scheme is also being implemented. The State has also set up a Single Window Agency to assist and encourage entrepreneurs for promoting investments in the State. Sericulture and Handloom Weaving and other cottage industries will continue to be given required assistance in the coming year also. Pursuant to the resolution adopted by this House in September 1995 the Meghalaya Economic Development Council has been set up to examine and find out ways and means for accelerating the process of economic and industrial development of the State.

        25.  Activities on mineral exploration will be continued. A new proposal under the NEC scheme has been worked out for detailed investigation of high grade limestone at Nongkhlieh Ridge, Jaintia Hills. Apart from mineral investigation programmes, ground water investigation is also undertaken. The Plan Outlay for mining and geology for 1996-97 is Rs.174 lakhs. Revenue from minerals to the tune of Rs.19.12 crores upto December, 1995 has been collected. Steps are being taken to increase the collection and to plug any leakage. The coal depot now under construction at Jorabat is expected to be completed soon.

        26. During 1995-96, an outlay of Rs.1750 lakhs has been earmarked for the on-going State Plan Schemes for generation, modernisation and distribution of power in the State. Due to poor financial position. Meghalaya State Electricity Board has not been able to mobilise resources from the market to fully implement the much needed schemes in power generation and distribution. The proposal for comprehensive power reforms which was initiated last year is being actively pursued. To augment power resources in rural areas, development of non-conventional energy is being given importance.

        27. The natural scenic beauty of the State provides ample scope for development of tourism. The lifting of the requirement for Restricted Area Permit has made visits by foreign tourists easier. Government are gearing up themselves to cater to the flow of tourists in the coming years and will develop the necessary infrastructure for that purpose. Preparation of a Master Plan for tourism is under active consideration. State Government will request the Central Government to help them in preparing the Master Plan and to include Meghalaya in the International tourist map. Declaring tourism as an  industry by the coming year is being seriously considered.

        28. In the housing sector special thrust is given towards providing shelter for the economically weaker sections and the low income groups of houseless people and especially those who are in the rural areas. Government are also implementing a loan-cum-subsidy scheme under which 10872 families have been covered so far. The grants-in-aid under the Rural Housing Scheme are also extended and about 4900 families have benefited there from. The new "10 lakh Housing scheme" of the Government of India will also be implemented in the State.

        29. Science and Technology activities in the State received a new thrust with the creation of the State Council of Science and Technology and Environment headed by the Chief Minister. A Plan Outlay of Rs.70 lakhs is being proposed for this sector for the year 1996-97, for implementation of various Science and Technology schemes and programmes in the field. A separate Secretariat for the State Council is expected to be set up during the next financial year.

        30. Poverty alleviation programmes such as the Integrated Rural Development Programme, the Jawaharlal Rozgar Yojana, the Employment Assurance Scheme and other such programmes are implemented and will be continued in the next year also. Outlays on the Special Rural Works Programme and the Rural Roads Programme are being increased. The National Social Assistance Programme which is a new scheme will be implemented from 1996-97. According to the scheme old age pension will be paid by Government with 75 per cent being borne by the Government of India. Training in rural development is imparted to District and Block Officers and also to village workers.

        31. To project the image of the State, Government are taking part in fairs and festivals held outside the State. A tableaux was presented in the Republic Day Celebration, 1996 at New Delhi. Doordarshan has recently opened Metro Channels at Shillong and Tura. The stations at Baghmara and Williamnagar have also been upgraded. The All India Radio Station at Jowai has been made operative in 1995. Facilities to the media are extended. Conducted tours for local editors are also arranged.

        32. The existing security system in jails will be overhauled, upgraded and reinforced in a phased manner. Training of security personnel is being imparted. Construction of new District Jails at Nongstoin, Nongpoh and Baghmara will be taken up in a phased manner.

        33. The Permanent Bench of the Gauhati High Court at Shillong has started functioning. Steps to establish a High Court Complex is being pursued.

        34. The State Government will continue to follow its policy of working jointly with the District Councils. Financial support will continue to be extended to them to strengthen their administration.

        35. As per the direction of the Election Commission of India the scheme for issue of Photo Identity Cards to electors has been undertaken. Till the end of 1995, about 7.80 lakhs voters have been photographed out of the total of about 10.86 lakhs.

        36. Discussions on the boundary issues between the Governments of Assam and Meghalaya are continuing at different levels. An Advisory Committee has also been constituted recently to study and finalise the basis for demarcation of boundaries between the two States.

        37. Government are anxious that its machinery functions effectively to deliver the goods. For the benefit of the employees the Third Pay Commission has been set up and it is expected that its report will benefit the employees as well as the pensioners. In the mean time interim relief has been extended to all categories of employees. Government are also contributing to the welfare of the Ex-Servicemen and their dependants. Constants liaison with the Postal and Telecom authorities is being maintained in order to expand and improve postal and telephone services in the State. Government Press is being equipped with modern printing machineries. Adequate office infrastructure in the State capital as well as in the districts is being provided from time to time. The Directorate of Agriculture has started functioning from its new administrative complex. Collection of taxes by the revenue earning departments has been stepped up, yielding good results.

        38. During the current session, the Budget for 1996-97 will be placed before the House. The legislative business will include passing of Appropriation and other Bills.

        39. I have attempted to give a brief outline of the main policies and programmes of the Government and I have no doubt that the Hon'ble Members will have an opportunity to fruitfully discuss the various related issues.

        40. I wish you all the best in your deliberations.