MARCH 23, 1998


Mr. Speaker and Hon'ble Members,

        It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the Sixth Meghalaya Legislative Assembly, I congratulate you as representatives who the people have elected to work for their upliftment. It is also a happy co-incidence that elections to Parliament and to the State Assembly took place in the year the country is celebrating the Golden Jubilee of its independence.

        2. As Meghalaya completes the 26th Year of its existence as a State, we find that we are called upon to devote ourselves even more for the  prosperity and welfare of the people. Practical policies, clearer vision, sense of direction and transparency are needed for achieving the objectives. There is no room for compromise on probity in public life. The Government and the state machinery shall be responsive, purposeful and accountable to the people.

        3. Government realise the need to maintain the population structure of the State to take necessary action in that direction. All sections of the people will receive just and fair treatment. Individual and community grievances will be given prompt attention and people should have the opportunity to live and work in a peaceful and secure atmosphere.

        4. To control crime and to tackle law and order problems, the police force is being strengthened and modernised. The Third Armed Police Battalion is in the process of being raised. To combat robberies and extortions on highways, mobile patrol will be intensified. Security will be provided to villagers in the border areas. Vigil will be maintained and check posts set up to prevent any unauthorised entry of foreigners into the State.

        5. The basic minimum services as per Shukla Committee Report are universalisation of primary education, health care, potable water supply, roads, housing facilities, public distribution system and nutrition. Government will take necessary follow up action in order to make the same available to the people.

        6. Purposeful and effective planning depends on data bank and information. With that end in view a detailed profile of the State will be prepared.

        7. The tentative Outlay for the Annual Plan for 1998-99 will be about Rs.400 crores. The priority areas are agriculture and allied services, power, industry, minerals exploration, education and social services. All efforts will be made to achieve the Plan targets.

        8. The State economy cannot achieve sustained growth, particularly in the large private sector, without full co-operation of the nationalised banks and other financial institutions like NABARD, IDBI, SIDBI, NEDFI and others. The unusually low credit deposit ratio of the banks at below 20 per cent as against the national average of over 600 per cent is a matter of serious concern. Government will expect that the nationalised banks, the co-operative banks and the financial institutions play a more dynamic role in supporting the all-round growth of the State by providing technical and financial assistance to a full extent. Government will strive for better working relationship with all banking institutions to ensure greater flow of funds, timely recovery of arrear loans and mobilisation of deposits so that the public and private sectors are further rejuvenated.

        9. Special attention needs to be paid to the problem of unemployment. According to the 1991 census data, the work force in the State is over 7.15 lakhs. The number of job seekers in the live registers of the Employment Exchanges is over 27,000. If projections  from the census figures are made and the decadal growth rate taken into considerations, it is not unreasonable to expect that about 40,000 youths will enter the job market every year. Avenues for gainful and productive employment have to be found for them so that they can make a useful contribution to the State's economy. In addition there is an acute need to look into the problem of manpower planning to provide for skill requirements in the present situation. Government will give due attention to these problems and do its best to provide appropriate job opportunities both in the public and private sectors. Obstacles to employment generation need to be looked at seriously in order to deal with the problem of unemployment in a meaningful manner.

        10. The economy of Meghalaya is basically agrarian and rural based with agriculture playing a prominent role. Foodgrains production for 1997-98 is expected to be 1.77 lakh tonnes while the proposed target for 1998-99 is 1.85 lakh tonnes. For increasing the production the main strategies will be further develop the existing rice fields with irrigation facilities, intensify multiple cropping, extend the cultivation areas, increase the use of fertilizers and application of modern technology. Action will also be taken to provide timely necessary inputs to the cultivators. Horticulture and fruit canning have immense potentials. A separate Directorate of Horticulture has been recently set up. It will be further strengthened and made effective for giving attention to the activities in the field. The agriculture and horticulture sectors will further be diversified and the resources available will be tapped for optimum utilisation. Government will endeavour to create a separate Directorate of Water Resources under the umbilical cord of the Agriculture Department for symbiotic sustenance and development.

        11. Livestock rearing and poultry farming are the other important occupational activities of the rural population. Their activities in the fields will be further modernised and necessary assistance will also continue to be rendered to encourage people to take to dairy farming.

        12. In the fisher sector steps will be continued to intensify and increase the production. Sufficient fingerlings of fast growing species are stocked in the Kyrdemkulai and Nongmahir reservoirs. A proposal to develop the Kupli reservoir under the North Eastern Council during the  Ninth Five Year Plan period has been submitted. Fish farmers are imparted training; seminars are organised regularly to create awareness amongst the people about pisciculture which is a viable and economic occupation. Under the Fish Farmers Development Agency Scheme it is proposed to cover about 287 hectares of water area and about 842 fish farmers. Schemes to intensify fish production in the private sector will be continued.

        13. In pursuance of the policy of health facilities for all by 2000 A.D., State Government has accorded high priority to the upgradation, expansion and consolidation of infrastructure for ensuring full coverage of all segments of the population by the Primary Health care network. Eight Community Health Centres, 22 Primary Health Centres and 10 Health Sub-Centres will be commissioned soon. With this, there will be 21 CHCs, 103 PHCs and 436 HSCs in the State. Two CHCs and 19 PHCs will set up within 1998-99. A Centrally Sponsored Reproductive and Child Health Project has been sanctioned for the State under a World Bank funded programme with an Outlay of Rs.32.70 crores. The National AIDS Control Programme is being implemented with accelerated vigour. A State Blood Transfusion Council has been set up for undertaking blood safety programmes. During the current year the State is sanctioning the establishment of the Meghalaya Institute for Mental Health and Neurological Sciences at Shillong to replace the erstwhile Mental Jail. Interim facilities of the North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences are expected to be made operational shortly.

        14. Education is vital for the development of human resources, Government is committed to make education more need based and job oriented. With this end in view, efforts will be made to set up more schools, colleges and technical institutions. Better service  conditions for the teachers will also be considered to the extent possible.

        15. Priority will be given to broad-basing of sports. The inherent talent of the youth in this field will be identified and nurtured. The facilities already created will be utilised and the sports infrastructure in urban and rural areas will be expanded. Competitions will be organised at village and other levels to encourage and promote activities in various disciplines. The second phase of the Jawaharlal Nehru Sports Complex at Shillong is expected to be completed shortly. The Chief Minister's Youth Development Scheme will be continued.

        16. The preservation of forest wealth including its flora and fauna is of utmost importance not only from the economic view point but also in the interests of preservation of the bio-diversity and the environment. More sustained efforts towards their scientific management will be made. The association of District Councils will be sought as  a large proportion of forests in the State as under their control.

        17. Measures will continue to be taken to combat the depletion of soil cover and vegetation. Existing development programmes, especially for commercial cash crops, will be intensified. Shifting of jhum cultivation will be discouraged and efforts to wean away the people from this destructive practice will be continued. The Meghalaya Commercial Crops Development Board will be operationalised to provide a purposeful thrust to these activities.

        18. In the Industrial sector, the priority of the Government is to create adequate and necessary infrastructure for the promotion of industries with a focus on khadi and village industries. Stress will also be on accelerated development of small scale industries. Government will ensure that the Export Promotion Industrial Park at Byrnihat is made operational within the current year with a total outlay of Rs.17 crores. Further effective steps will be initiated by the Government to expedite the implementation of the Growth Centre at Mendipathar. Government will also welcome investment with local involvement. With a view to catalyse industrial development, the corpus of funds will be augmented for financial operations and for assistance of sectors in khadi and village industries including sericulture and weaving. Government will also appoint a committee to look into the problems of sick industries.

        19. With its scenic beauty, salubrious climate and unique cultural attractions, the State offers many favourable factors for developing tourism. Government will create conditions conducive to development of tourism as a vibrant sector. To this end, both long and short range programmes will be put in motion and completion of ongoing projects will be accorded due priority.

        20. The State has immense hydel power potential which has not been adequately exploited. Effective steps will be taken to harness these resources. With this end in view, generational capacity of MeSEB will be enhanced with the setting up of the 54 MW Leshka Hydel Project with external funding as also the 135 MV Nangalbibra Thermal Project. Emphasis will also be given to the renovation and modernisation of Umiam Stage I and Stage II projects as also the Umtrue power station. With a view to improve and stabilise power transmission to Garo Hills, construction of the 132 KV line from Shillong to Nangalbibra will be expedited. Electrification of 80 villages will be taken up in 1998-99 and 750 villages will be covered during the Ninth Plan. Government will ensure that the Regional Institute of Rural Energy and Planning is made operational shortly and the Galawag/Rongpo mini-hydel projects are also completed.

        21. There is scope for the co-operative movement to pick up the desired momentum. Promotional initiatives and regulatory functions of the Government will, therefore, be continued to remove the hindrance that may stand in the way. The Meghalaya Co-operative Apex Bank Ltd is the principal credit institution with a comparative C.D. ratio of 34.87 per cent. The position is likely to improve in the coming years. Co-operative workers will continue to be given training and promotional impetus.

        22. The State has large deposits of coal and limestone and other minerals which are in great demand in national and international markets. Apart from streamlining the mechanism  for their export, the possibility of value addition ventures will be explored. Some studies have shown the possibility of hydrocarbon deposits which, if exploited, will enhance the State's revenue besides providing more jobs opportunities. At the same time, precautions against environmental degradation will be taken.

        23. Poverty alleviation and employment generation will be the priority areas of the Government. Towards this end, it will be ensured that programmes like IRDP and JRY and  EAS are implemented vigorously to create self employment and community assets. This is especially important in view of the limited scope for employment in government and public sector units.

        24. To ensure planned growth and proper development of urban areas, Master Plans for Shillong, Tura, Jowai and Williamnagar have been prepared. For Nongstoin, the same is under preparation. Scheme for providing the desired level of civic amenities and infrastructure like parking lots, approach roads, footpaths, drains and shopping centres are being implemented in the municipal and town committee areas. To ease congestion and meet traffic expansion more parking lots, wherever land is available, will be constructed. The new scheme called Swarana Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojana of the Government of India will be implemented during the current year. The endeavour will be to provide the basic infrastructure in the urban areas for better living conditions and also to create new avenues to accommodate the future growth of economic development and urban centres. The New Shillong project has been posed to the Overseas Economic Co-operation Fund from Japan. A final decision on the sanction of the project is expected soon.

        25. Roads remain to be the principal means of communication in the State and will continue to be so. The Shillong By-Pass and National and State Highways are the arterial links which need to be improved. This will be pursued vigorously under the State Plan alongside the inter-connectivity of villages under the Basic Minimum Services Programmes.

        26. Road transport is practically the only means of communication in the State and the network has to be expanded. Grant of licenses and permits have liberalised to promote transport operation. The functioning of the Meghalaya Transport Corporation will be improved through suitable restructuring. Strict observance of the road safety measures is important as also checking of overloading of vehicles by enforcement of the provisions of the law. Efforts will also be made to upgrade the Umroi Airport and make it operations. A helicopter service connecting Shillong and Tura with Gauhati is also proposed to be introduced.

        27. Emphasis will be laid on providing adequate potable water both in urban and rural areas. Government proposed to provide all rural areas with potable water by 2000 A.D. for which action plan is being finalised. Efforts will be made to provide water connection to houses in urban and semi urban areas by augmenting water sources and expanding the distribution system wherever necessary.

        28. Government will continue with the implementation of various programmes for the welfare of women and children, the juvenile delinquents, the aged and the infirm. Vocational training is imparted to the physically handicapped voluntary, organisations in different trades. The trainees who pass out are given financial assistance to enable them to pursue their vocational activities. It is proposed to establish and strengthen the Children Homes.

        29. Procurement and distribution of essential commodities under the Public Distribution System will be streamlined. Specially subsidised foodgrains are distributed to the consumers below the poverty line through a network of about 500 fair price shops in urban areas and about 3200 in rural areas. Mobile shops also operate in the interior and far-flung areas. To create awareness amongst the consumers about their rights , suitable programmes will be devised. Consumers courts will continue to play their role for the protection of the consumers from exploitation.

        30. With a view to ameliorate the suffering of the people in the border areas and to up-lift their economic condition, the various schemes and development programmes which have been taken up will be given more thrust. Schemes to help generate employment for the unemployed youth of border areas will be introduced. To improve the infrastructure, schemes to set up micro-hydel power projects will be implemented.

        31. The efforts of the Autonomous District Councils to undertake grass root level development programmes will be assisted with suitable grants-in-aid.

        32. Government will also expedite the matter regarding demarcation of boundaries and neighbouring States.

        33. Home-guards and Civil Defence personnel have been rendering useful services to the community and assisting the police force in maintaining law and order. They are also engaged in security duties and guarding of vital installations.

        34. Providing shelter for the homeless is one of the basic minimum services. During 1998-99, it is proposed to cover 3000 families under the Rural Housing Scheme. The Indira Awas Yojana under the centrally sponsored scheme will be continued.

        35. Government will further improve dissemination of information of plans and programmes of the various departments to promote transparency in governmental activities. It will endeavour to promote indigenous traditional arts and culture and will participate in fairs and exhibitions to expose its identity.

        36. In this session, the Budget for 1998-99 and the Vote-on-Account for part of the year will be presented. Appropriation Bills will also be placed.

        37. I have given a brief outline of the main policies and programmes of the Government which the hon'ble Members may like to discuss. It is gratifying to recall the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly is known for its high level of decorum, dignity and debate. Let this noble tradition continue.

        I wish your deliberations success.