MARCH 7, 1997


Mr. Speaker and Hon'ble Members,

        I am glad to have this opportunity once again to address you in this august House. I welcome and wish you a happy and prosperous New Year. This is the last year of the present House before the electorate again elect their representatives in the general elections to be held early next year.

        2. Members will recall that some four years ago, Government made a pledge to maintain communal harmony and peace and to work for an all-round development of the State. Despite constraints, Government believe that no efforts have been spared to achieve the cherished objective.

        3. The overall law and order situation in the State was generally satisfactory. Government reiterate its determination to maintain it and to preserve communal harmony in the State.

        4. We are happy that we achieved Meghalaya in 1972 and fulfilled the political aspiration of the people. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Statehood, a year-long celebration programme commencing on 21st January, 1997 has been chalked out. Under the Programme, implementation of the schemes in selected fields will be undertaken in a time-bound manner.

        5. Government are committed to preserve the distinct traditional and cultural identity of the tribal of the State and to uplift their social and economic conditions so that they come up to the level that of the main-stream. Welfare of other weaker sections of the people will be promoted. All other sections will also equally receive due attention and enjoy their rights. Their contribution in developing the State is welcomed. To maintain  the population structure, vigil will be continued to prevent any infiltration from across the international border.

        6. Government are grateful to the Prime Minister for the economic package he announced during the visit to the State in October, 1996. Government have constituted a committee under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary to monitor the progress of implementation of the selected projects included in that package.

        7. The State's Annual Plan for 1997-98 has been fixed by the Planning Commission at Rs.382 crores. The allocation include provisions for Basic Minimum Services such as village road connectivity, universalisation of primary education, health care, water supply and rural housing. Provisions for the Minimum Needs Programme have also been earmarked for the year. It is expected that additional funds will be available for implementing the special schemes which Government have placed before the High Level Commission constituted by the Government of India for the North Eastern States.

        8. Police force is one of the vital organs of the State. To improve its functioning, the police machinery is being streamlined in a more scientific manner. An amount of rupees one crore was spent for modernising the weaponry, forensic laboratory and training facilities. The High Way Patrolling Scheme will be strengthened to prevent robberies and holdups on the highways. Action is being taken by the State Government for the India Reserve Police Battalion of the State, for raising of which has been sanctioned by Government of India in 1996.

        9. Agriculture is an important sector involving a large section of the people of the State. Keeping in view the given topography and climatic condition, priority will continue to be given to horticulture and food-grains production. To raise the production, paddy fields will be provided with irrigation facilities; cultivators will also be provided with fertilizers and advice on scientific methods of multiple cropping for intensive cultivation of potato, maize, wheat and pulses. The target for production of potato, which is one of the major commercial crops of the State, is 2 lakh metric tonnes for 1997-98 as against 1.76 lakh metric tonnes for 1996-97. Cultivation of other commercial crops like ginger, turmeric, jute, mesta and cotton will be expanded. Stress will be laid on cultivation of tea, arecanut, betel vines and mushroom on a commercial basis. Setting up of viable units for processing tea, rubber and mushroom is under contemplation. For better marketing of the agriculture produce in Garo Hills, the Regulated Market at Garobadha is being established and will be commissioned shortly.

        10. Animal husbandry and dairy farming play an important role in the economic life of the people in rural areas. Therefore, activity in the sector will be encouraged. Cross breeding of cattle will be expanded. The Veterinary Health Centres and the poultry farms at Kyrdemkulai and Tura will be improved to achieve greater production. Goat farming will be encouraged in the State. The Feed Analytical Laboratory at Kyrdemkulai will be provided with modern equipments while similar related laboratory at Tura are proposed to be set up.

        11. The main thrust in the field of fisheries is for higher production of fish and fish seeds and for that purpose training both in theoretical and practical aspects of pisciculture are imparted to fish farmers. Seminars are also held at Shillong and other places. Financial incentives will continue to be extended to individuals and co-operatives societies to promote pisciculture. A Fish Farmers Development Agency will be established in Garo Hills. During 1996-97, about 2000 metric tonnes of fish and 4.60 lakhs of fish seeds have been produced upto the end of September 1996.

        12. Co-operative movement is steadily gaining more momentum. Efforts are made to revitalise the co-operative societies through implementation of related programmes and schemes. The future plan is to secure sustainable groups of societies capable to meeting the need of the people. Fifty-two new co-operative societies of various types, including 28 formed by women, have been registered during 1996-97. The Meghalaya Co-operative Apex Bank has been able to expand its banking activities during the year. Four new branches have been opened for taking banking services nearer to the people. The mobile banking unit has started covering more new places. The recovery performance has also improved significantly. The Garo Hills Co-operative Cotton Ginning and Oil Mills Ltd. has set up a cashewnut processing unit as part of the programme to diversify its business activities. The society has also entered into a deal with the North Eastern Regional Agricultural Marketing Corporation for marketing its finished products on mutually beneficial terms.

        13. Distribution of essential commodities under the Revamped Public Distribution System is being continued to ensure regular availability of essential commodities. The commodities are distributed to the consumers through a net work of 603 Fair Price Shops in urban areas and 3225 in rural areas. There are 12 mobile shop vans for distribution of the commodities in the interior and far-flung areas. Government also monitor regularly the procurement of essential commodities in the open market to prevent shortage. The special scheme for supply of subsidised rice and wheat to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe institutions is being implemented. At present 208 such institutions have been brought under the scheme. There is a marked growth of awareness amongst the consumer population about their rights judging by the number of cases filed in the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and the District Fora. Seminars and conference are from time to time held at the district and sub-divisional levels with the active involvement of NGOs to intensify the awareness in the State as a whole.

        14. Government are making all efforts to achieve the goal of "Health for All" as enjoyed in the National Health Policy. During 1996-97, concerted efforts have been made to complete the on-going and spill-over programmes connected with the establishment of 3 Community Health Centres and 18 Primary Health Centres. Construction of 25 new Primary Health Centres in rural areas which have not yet been covered by any PHC has been sanctioned under the Basic Minimum Services Programmes. These new PHC's are expected to be commissioned within the next 18 months. Efforts will be to equip adequately all the health centres and to upgrade rural health-care network. In view of the resurgence of malaria, particularly the "Pf" strain in the North East Region, steps have been taken to strengthen programmes as per the new dimensions of the revised guidelines under the National Malaria Eradication Programme. District Leprosy Societies have been established in each district on the lines of the District Blindness Control Societies. The societies are funded by the Central Government. Programmes for fighting AIDS and for preventing communicable diseases are also taken up and implemented. The necessary infrastructure for setting up the interim facilities for specialised Cardiological and Gastro-Enterological Services in the North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences has been established and the facilities are expected to be commissioned shortly. Phase II and III of the Institute are also likely to be established during the Ninth Plan period.

        15. The necessity of check environmental degradation is of a national concern. Government will take necessary steps for scientific and judicious use of the forests, soil and other natural resources for improvement of the environment. Government appeal to all concerned to co-operate for the healthy survival of mankind. As Members are aware, the Hon'ble Supreme Court has recently passed some interim orders regarding exploitation of forests. Government have placed before the Hon'ble Apex Court the position with regard to forests in the State. The Rangan Dutta Committee has submitted its report on matters relating to some forests in the State and the same is under consideration by Government.

        16. Soil conservation programmes are directed towards controlling jhum cultivation, a traditional occupation of the tribals, and also towards managing watershed as measures to prevent soil erosion and environmental degradation. Government are taking steps to wean away jhumias to alternative methods of settled cultivation. The scheme of watershed management is being implemented in all the seven districts of the State with financial assistance from the Central Government.

        17. In the Industrial sector, the main thrust is to develop infrastructure for the growth of small and medium industries. Creation of new industrial areas and completion of the existing Export Promotion Industrial Park and Growth Centres are the priority areas at hand. Government of India have released Rs.2.34 crores for the EPIP at Byrnihat and work has started in 1996-97. Land for the Growth Centre at Mendipathar has been identified and the entire proposal estimating about Rs.18 crores has been recast and sent to the Government of India for final approval. A new industrial area for Jaintia Hills has also been proposed. A Scheme for rehabilitation of sick units where investment had already been made in contemplated in order to help out the projects and make them productive. In the sector of small scale industries, development programmes will be continued apart from assisting the trainees who have passed out to set up their own small scale units. The Meghalaya Industrial Development Corporation will continue to render financial assistance to local entrepreneurs and also to support man-power training while the Khadi and Village industries Board and the Handloom and Handicraft Corporation will be made to function more effectively. The Meghalaya Economic Development Council which has been constituted to assist Government in matters of industrialisation has submitted an interim report and the same is being examined.

        18. For generation and distribution of power and for transmission and modification works as per the Distribution Master Plan, an approved outlay for 1996-97 is Rs.35.65 crores. During the Ninth Plan period it is proposed to expand the renovation and modernisation of the existing generating units. Construction of the 132 KV line from Umiam-Umtru to the border with Gauhati which is under construction by the MeSEB under a Centrally Sponsored Scheme is expected to be completed in 1998. Subject to final approval and resource availability, Government propose to augment the generational capacity of setting up the 3 x 18 MV hydel project at Leishka during the Ninth Plan period. With OEBC funding, Umiam Stage - I and Stage - II will be renovated; the work for Stage - I will start in 1997-98. Government will also endeavour to take up new rural electrification works during the same year. Decentralised Energy Planning Programme has been evolved to correct poor availability of energy sources in rural areas. Use of solar and biogas energy will be encouraged as means to augment conventional energy sources.

        19. As cottage industries, sericulture and handloom weaving play a vital role in up-lifting the rural economy of the State. The development strategy in the sector during the Ninth Plan period will be to intensify production by mobilising the existing resources and creating modern additional operational infrastructure. The muga and mulberry seeds farms will be modernised for production of high quality silkworm seeds. To promote weaving, introduction of modern looms and accessories at Government and private level production centres is contemplated.

        20. Considerable achievement has been made in road construction. Up to the end of the fourth year of the Eighth Plan, a total road length 6572 Kms with road density of 29.30 Kms per 100 Square Kms has been constructed. Widening, strengthening, metalling and black-topping of existing roads and constructing and re-constructing of bridges and culverts will continue to be undertaken. Under the improvement programmes and an amount of Rs.537.37 crores has been proposed for the Ninth Plan. It is gratifying that the Prime Minister during his October, 1996 visit to the State has agreed to provide necessary assistance for construction of the Shillong Bye-pass and for widening the NH-51 in Garo Hills. Construction of the Jowai Bye-Pass is also under active consideration of the Government of India. The 6-decade old Dawki bridge will be reconstructed at an estimated cost of Rs.15 crores.

        21. Water supply schemes will continue to be undertaken and implemented to meet the increasing demand for potable drinking water. Works to impound and draw more water and to expand the treatment plant of the Greater Shillong Water Supply Scheme are in progress. Augmentation schemes have been taken up for Tura, Jowai and Williamnagar. In rural areas 274 main habitations and 256 others are expected to be provided with drinking water by the end of 1996-97. To ensure quality drinking water, two treatment plants in West Garo Hills and one in Jaintia Hills have been taken up under the Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission.

        22. Exploration for minerals in the State will be continued. Field programmes for 1997-98 will be placed before the State Geological Programming Board. During 1996-97, revenue from minerals amounting to Rs.25.35 crores has been collected up to December 1996; the target for 1997-98 is Rs.30.23 crores. Under the present NEC schemes. Government propose to take up two mineral investigations in Jaintia Hills and a detailed geological mapping of South Khasi Batholith in the West Khasi Hills.

        23. Education, including technical education, rates high in the agenda of priorities and utmost importance is given for its development. Government are also concerned with the need to keep pace with the growing standard at all levels so that students do not lag behind when they venture out for further education or for work. Upgrading the facilities in educational institutions and in the Shillong polytechnic is given close attention. Setting up a polytechnic at Tura also is proposed. Vocational education will be given emphasis at the pre and post-secondary level. Optimum utilisation of facilities existing in the institutions and delinking the "plus 2" stage from colleges will continue to be pursued. All possible steps will be taken to provide free and compulsory education to children up to the age of 14 years. Total Literacy Campaign has been launched in three districts and the rest will be covered during the Ninth Plan period.

        24. Pursuant to the National Sports Policy priority is directed towards universalisation of sports. To achieve this end, educational institutions and various sports and youth groups are also involved. Government have interest in harnessing the immense talent that  is found amongst to the youth in rural areas. During the Eighth Plan, 16 sports projects at an estimated cost of Rs.5.27 crores have been completed. Other on-going projects which are at various stages of construction are expected to be completed by 1997-98. Boys and girls of the State are encouraged to take part in tournaments and competitions outside the State also. In the North East Sports Festival which was held in 1996 at Itanagar the performance of the competitors from the State was encouraging. The National School Games in Archery will be held at Shillong this month. Under the Chief Minister's Youth Development Programme which was started in 1995-96, opportunities are created for the youth to broaden their outlook and infuse in them the spirit of nation - building and service to the society at large.

        25. In view of the high growth rate of the urban centres, Master plans for Shillong, Jowai and Tura are being implemented to ensure orderly growth and proper development of the areas. Parking lots at Shillong and Tura have been constructed; also, the Laban market at Shillong and the shopping complex at Williamnagar, while those at Sohra and Baghmara are likely to be completed soon. The Tura Super Market Complex is being constructed at a total cost of Rs.6.07 crores and 90 per cent of the work has already been completed. With a view to accommodate future growth and to ease the pressure on the capital city, a new township will be set up near Shillong. The Resubelpara Town Committee has recently been upgraded into a Municipality for providing better civic amenities.

        26. For providing economical transport facilities, particularly for carrying goods, laying of a railway line to Byrnihat is under consideration. The survey report is under examination by the railway authorities. For upgradation of the Shillong Airport, the matter will be further pursued with the airport authorities of India.

        27. Efforts will be continued to promote tourism in the State. One of the strategies is to organise tourist activities and market opportunities in the shape of holiday packages. The process will hopefully lead to a form of organised tourism activity and inter-alia, generate jobs to absorb a fair proportion of the local youth in the State. Infrastructural settings will be created and strengthened and active involvement of private sector will be sought for in this respect. Government are keen to encourage the areas of buildings hostels, hotels and lodges.

        28. Government give importance to programme for the welfare of women and children and the physically handicapped, the aged and infirm. Stipends are given to those physically handicapped who undergo vocational training in different voluntary organisations, and financial assistance also when they pass out, to help them in their vocational pursuits. Government have decided to institute awards to meritorious  handicapped students. Every year the "World Disabled Day" is observed on the third Sunday of March to focus the problems of handicapped persons. To combat the drug menace, Government will continue to conduct awareness campaigns. Voluntary organisations are involved and given assistance for taking up anti-drug programmes. For implementation of the Indira Mahila Yojana Scheme, Mylliem Community Development Block has been selected and 42 Indira Mahila Kendras have so far been registered. Wide publicity of the Mahila Samridhi Yojana scheme is given through the media and also by distribution of literature translated into local languages.

        29. Government will continue to implement several State Plan Schemes and Centrally Sponsored Schemes such as the IRDP, the JRY, the EAS, the NSAP and others with a view to uplift the poor and to improve the standard of their living. A new scheme for resource development of the youth in the fields of sports, music, etc, has been taken up during 1996-97.

        30. To ameliorate the difficulty and to rejuvenate the economic condition of the people living in the border areas, various assistance schemes are being implemented by Government in those area. Government have been making efforts to promote trade with neighbouring countries on terms beneficial to the exporters of the State.

        31. Stress is laid on the preservation of the rich traditional culture of the ethnic tribes of the State. Organisations engaged in such activities will continue to be assisted financially. Important archaeological sites will be protected and the one at Bhaitbari has been declared a protected monument. Construction of District Museum-cum-Cultural Complex at Dakopgre in Tura is expected to commence during 1997-98. Plans for new district museums and libraries in all district headquarters are being drawn up. The new State Museum Building is expected to be completed soon while construction of the new Cultural Complex in Shillong is expected to be completed during the Ninth Plan period.

        32. Government are making efforts to provide necessary administrative infrastructure for office and residential accommodation in districts and sub-divisions and also in administrative headquarters. The second phase of the third Secretariat Building is under construction and is likely to be completed soon. Few more residential quarters will also be ready shortly. The Meghalaya House at Guwahati has started functioning while the second Meghalaya House at Calcutta and another at Bombay are like to be taken up during the current year. The Circuit House at Williamnagar is being extended and the one at Mairang is nearing completion. Plans are afoot to start an integrated office complex at Baghmara.

        33. To assist the civil administration in the event of natural and other calamities, volunteers of rural and urban areas are trained to meet such emergencies and to render relief to the victims. Government of India have since upgraded the Shillong Civil Defence Town from category II to category I and as a result the number of professional services has correspondingly been increased.

        34. Jail reform is receiving attention of Government. Construction of a new Jail complex at Shillong is expected to be completed in 1997-98. Acquisition of land for construction of jails at Nongstoin, Nongpoh and Baghmara is under consideration.

        35. Discussions with the Government of Assam with regard to the vexed boundary problems between Meghalaya and Assam, including the matter regarding retransfer of Block I and Block II, is going on and will be continued for finding an amicable settlement. An advisory committee has been constituted to study and examine the basis for demarcation of inter-State boundary between the two States.

        36. District Councils are functioning in co-operation with the Government for bringing an integrated development of the tribal areas. For implementation of various development programmes under their jurisdiction grants-in-aid are sanctioned from time to time.

        37. The scheme for issue of Photo Identity Cards to the voters is still continuing. So far, 72.26 per cent of the total electorate has been photographed and issued with photo identity cards.

        38. Government have constituted a committee, with officials and non-officials as members, to go into the practice of contract labour and to identify employments in respect of which the system should be abolished. The Meghalaya Regular Casual Workers Scheme for conferring service benefits on muster-roll labourers and other casual workers under the Government has been adopted in October, 1996. About 6,400 of such labourers and workers will be benefited by the Scheme.

        39. The State participated in exhibitions and fairs at national and other levels and thus projected its image. It took part in the India International Trade Fair held at Delhi in November, 1996. It won first prizes in the India Industrial Trade Fair held at Calcutta in December 1996 for its pavilion and in the IV-National Level Gauhati Trade Fair 1997 for its best depiction. The tableau displayed in the Republic Day Celebration at Delhi on 26th January, 1997 also won a prize. Holding of seminars and publicity campaigns in different places of the State are normal continuing programmes for disseminating information amongst the people.

        40. To build up revenue for the State, collection of taxes and excise duties is intensified and steps to prevent evasion taken. The present State lottery scheme which has been in operation from May, 1995 has fetched revenue of about Rs.13 crores upto the end of December, 1996. State lottery will be continued and a fresh scheme for the period from on 1st April 1997 is under examination.

        41. The programmes and activities of the Government in various fields are for the people's welfare. The policy to provide better shelter to the poor families in the rural areas will be continued. For Ex-servicemen and their dependents, the special rehabilitation fund has been augmented. To facilitate quicker disposal of passport applications, setting up of a passport collection cell in the State itself is contemplated. In order that consumers are not exploited, regulations relating to prices of packaged commodities, weights and measures and quality will be enforced vigorously. Implementation of plan schemes and programmes are monitored through the computerized data collection system. For enhancing quality printing in the Government presses, modern machinery have been procured during the year.

        42. Government are determined to see that the administrative set-up functions effectively and accountably and that sense of improved work culture in all Government offices is cultivated. The Third Meghalaya Pay Commission has submitted its report and the same is under examination.

        43. In this session, the budget for 1997-98 will be placed before the House. A vote-on-Account will also be presented for part of the year. The legislative business will include passing of the Motor Vehicles Taxation (Amendment) Bill, the Court Fees (Meghalaya Amendment) Bill apart from the Appropriation Bills.

        44. Above is the brief outline of the main policies and programmes of the Government which the Hon'ble Members may like to discuss upon.

        I wish your deliberations a success.