MARCH 11, 2005



Shri M. M. JACOB



Mr. Speaker and Hon'ble Members,

  1. It is indeed a great pleasure for me to once again address this august house. I welcome all the Hon'ble Members, particularly the three newly elected Members, to the first Session of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly this year. We meet today against the backdrop of the tragic helicopter crash, which occurred at Nongkhla in Ri-Bhoi district on the 22nd September, 2004 resulting in the loss of life of eight precious Citizens of our State and two Crew members, including three Hon'ble Members of this August house, namely the late Shri Cyprian R. Sangma, the late Shri Ardhendu Chaudhuri and the late Shri Heltone N. Marak. We deeply mourn the loss of so many valuable lives and place on record their immense contribution to the development and progress of the State. We also recall with great anguish, the unprecedented Tsunami tragedy which occurred on 26th December, 2004, causing colossal damage and unprecedented loss of human lives, including those of three Citizens of our State. In mourning the sad loss, the State expressed its' solidarity with the affected families  by contributing Rupees Twenty-five lakhs to the Prime Ministers Relief Fund for Tsunami victims. I would like you to join me in expressing our deep sorrow and heartfelt sympathies to the families of all those who loss their lives in the helicopter crash at Nongkhla and the recent Tsunami tragedy.

  2. During the year 2004 and till date, the State has remained, by and large, peaceful and free from communal and other law and order problems. All religious festivals celebrated during this year passed off peacefully. Celebrations of National days also went very smoothly inspite of the boycott call by members of some militants outfits. In fact, we saw noteworthy public response, not only in the State capital, but also in other district headquarters. This indeed is a very welcome sign of people successfully overcoming their fear and anxiety. The problem of militancy in the State is still continuing. However, I believe that the intensity of criminal activities perpetrated by the militant outfits of the State has largely been brought under control. Through ceasefire efforts made by the State Police and the Central Para Military forces in the State, not only have insurgency related crimes reduced substantially, but the strength of the banned militant outfits has diminished significantly. During the year 2004, as many as 81 HNLC cadre members left the Organisation and rejoined the mainstream of society. As the House is aware, a tripartite meeting between the Government of India, the State Government and the ANVC was held on 23rd July, 2004 at New Delhi, wherein the agreed grounds rules were signed by all three parties. It was also agreed to set up a Joint Monitoring Group comprising representatives of the parties to oversee the implementation of the ground rules. It is imperative that the agreement be honored in letter and spirit by all the signatories. The Government reiterates its commitment to keeping its doors open for dialogue and discussion with any militant outfit.

  3. The Government views with concern the continuing infiltration of foreign nationals from across international border. With view to preventing such infiltration of foreign nationals, the Government has decided that an Identity Cards (MNIC) Scheme which is to be funded by the Central Government, will be implemented in the State as soon as the Scheme is sanctioned.

  4. Peace and  tranquility are prerequisite for progress and development of the State. The role of the State Police in maintaining Law and Order deserves appreciation. The Government will continue to implement the Schemes for modernization of the State Police and will take necessary steps to further improve the infrastructural facilities with a view to enable the State Police Force to discharge its functions even more effectively.

  5. Central Government has Legislated the Freedom of Information Act, 2002. This Act is applicable and in force throughout India, except the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The Government is committed to implement the provisions of the Act in Meghalaya, as soon as the Rules are framed there under by the Central Government and notified in the Official Gazette.

  6. A Plan outlay of Rs. 800.00 Crores has been fixed for the Annual Plan 2005-06 which reflects an increase of 11.68 per cent over and above the approved outlay of Rs.716.34 Crores for the Annual Plan 2004-2005. During the year, special thrust is being given for development of agriculture and allied activities, health, water supply, social welfare, etc., and for infrastructure development in respect of power, roads and industries.

  7. Meghalaya is basically an agrarian State. Though the agriculture growth rate is yet to touch the national level, it is steadily progressing in spite of the numerous constraints and limiting factors such as undulating topography, transport bottlenecks, natural calamities, inadequate credit and unorganized marketing system. The Government is fully aware of the importance of this sector and has made focused investment therein. Under the Technology Mission for the Integrated Development of Horticulture, the State has specially undertaken projects for triggering commercial cultivation of Low Volume High-Value short duration crops, namely, Strawberry and Roses in Ri Bhoi District and Anthurium in East Garo Hills District. The main objective of these projects are to demonstrate the technologies, to train the farmers and to encourage them to take up large scale cultivation of these crops on a cluster basis. Recently, the State Government organized a Strawberry Festivals at Shillong, which received good response. The Government is also concerned about low productivity of fields crops in the State and has identified low levels of Agricultural Mechanization as one of the main reasons. It has therefore been decided to launch a massive initiative to provide about 1500 power tillers in the State over a three-year period. This loan-cum-subsidy scheme will be launched during 2005-06. Another reason for the low levels of productivity is the lack of irrigation facilities during dry season. Assured irrigation is thus necessary for increased productivity. The Government will implement 14 new irrigation projects under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme, while simultaneously focusing on micro-irrigation, to optimized the use of water at the farmers' level. I am happy to inform that the Central Government has agreed to establish the College of Post Graduate Studies in Agriculture at Umiam, under the Central Agricultural University, Imphal. The College of Home Science has also commenced functioning at Tura, under the same University.

  8. The expansion and consolidation of Rural and Urban Health infrastructure will continue to be a priority area. The objective of the Government is to upgrade all CHC's at District Headquarters to District Hospitals. The Shillong Civil Hospital is under up gradation to a State General Hospital. The Civil hospital at Jowai and Tura and the CHC's at Williamnagar and Baghmara are being upgraded. The Maternity & Child Hospital at Tura will be made functional during 2005-06. Extensive programmes will be conducted for generating awareness about diseases and ailments like Malaria, TB and AIDS. The functioning of medical institutions will be toned up so as to ensure availability of better medical facilities, especially in the rural areas of the State.

  9. The Schemes for improving the environment and generation of employment in urban slums will continue to be implemented. The Central Government has been approached for funding the New Shillong Satellite Township project. The schemes for improving urban and civic amenities, under the Central and the State programmes, will be intensified. The Electric Crematorium at Shillong, a long felt need of the people, has been sanctioned by the Central Government and will be completed at the earliest.

  10.  Steady augmentation of industrial infrastructure is essential for promoting industrialization in the State. The Export Promotion Industrial Park (EPIP) at Byrnihat, which has been successful in attracting a large number of industries, will be expanded. Additional infrastructure near the existing EPIP will also be created at Byrnihat. The Government will continue the emphasis on promotion of entrepreneurship. Mawmluh Cherra Cement factory at Cherrapunjee is one of the oldest cement plants in this part of the country and is being upgraded with the 'state-of-the-art' equipment. Steps are being taken to expedite the establishment of the Industrial Growth Center at Mendipathar.

  11.  A number of programmes are being implemented, both in Central sector and State sector, for development of the rural areas of the State. These programmes aim to upgrade the rural infrastructure, create community assets, introduce new economic activities, provide rural employment and foster community spirit through Self-Help Groups. Rural housing, in particular, is sought to be improved through construction and upgradation of houses and provision of roofing material. The Central Government has selected South Garo Hills District under the National Food for Work Programme, which seeks to generate wage employment and food security along with assets creation in 150 most backward district of the country. The pace of implementation of  all these programmes will continue to be accelerated during 2005-06. In addition, the social security net will continue to be available through old age pension, family benefit and maternity benefit Schemes.

  12. As part of the Constitutional obligations of the Government, Universalization of Elementary Education is being ensured through the flagship scheme of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). To over come the high drop out rate at all levels, steps are being taken to improve the school environment through various interventions, particularly under SSA. Recently, a number of new Sub-Inspectors of Schools have been appointed to ensure better teacher attendance in the Schools and improved academic standards, through intensified inspections. The  National Programme for Nutritional   Support to Primary education, popularly known as Mid Day Meal Scheme, is being implemented more vigorously. In the Higher Education sector, in addition to grants in-aid being extended for payment of salaries of teachers efforts will be made to consolidate initiatives in schools through Teacher Education and introduction of computer aided Education. The two new Polytechnics in Jowai and Tura have started  functioning from their new buildings constructed under the World Bank Project. As part of the effort to clear the backlog of untrained teachers, three new District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs) have been made functional. Also, 1245 teachers are being enrolled in the 6 - month Certificate Course for Primary Education, conducted by Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU).

  13.  Government will continue to implement programmes for training of sericulture farmers spinners and reelers and to implement the Catalytic Development programme of the Central Silk Board for faster development of Mulberry Muga Silk Industry. Besides the on-going Central Schemes under Handloom, Government will also implement the Integrated Handloom Training Programme and Bunkar Bima Yojana (Weavers Insurance Scheme)

  14.  The Government has given due priority for the development of the road infrastructure to improve the communication system and to connect more villages to the existing road network. The Government is laying stress on the upgradation of the existing assets by converting gravelled roads to blacktopped ones, by widening and improving the highways and by converting semi-permanent timber bridges to concrete ones. The improvement of the road from Shillong to Tura via Nongstoin, including reconstruction of bridges is in progress. While the Shillong-Nongstoin sector of this road has been submitted to the Central Government for notification of the remaining portion of Nongstoin- Tura sector as National Highway. The land for the Shillong Bye-Pass has been acquired and handed over to P.W.D. Construction work has been entrusted to the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highway. The work on the Bye-Pass is expected to start shortly. The Government is pursuing the widening of the Jorabat-Umiam sector of N.H. -40 to four - lanes, with the Central Government.

  15. Animal Husbandry and Dairy farming plays an important role in the economic development of the people of the State, especially in rural areas. In view of the potential of this sector, the Government will endeavour to promote the production and improve the productivity of livestock and poultry through improved breeding management and animal health care facilities. Government will focus upon generation of employment among farmers and educated unemployment youth through activities in those sector. The centrally sponsored scheme for Integrated Dairy Development Project in Jaintia Hills and West Garo Hills is being implemented, and the construction components of the Project are expected to be completed shortly.  When operationalised, it is expected that dairy farming activities within the concerned District will receive a boost.

  16. The Fishery Sector has immense potential for generating rural employment. It has been decided to launch a scheme entitled ' Thousand Ponds Scheme' during 2005-06 with  an aim to construct 1000 fish ponds.

  17. Efforts are being made by the Government to protect and preserve the flora and fauna of the State and to enriched and improve the existing forests. Implementation of the Joint Forest Management (JFM) and the Forest Development Agencies (FDA) for effective afforestation programmes is being taken up in the State. Steps are also being taken to promote cultivation and utilization of bamboo and development  of bamboo based handicrafts and building products.

  18. Implementation of programmes for soil and water conservation will continue on arable and non-arable of the State, through major schemes for Jhum Control, Watershed Management and Soil Conservation. Micro-irrigation techniques to preserve water resources will be encouraged.

  19. Tourism potential of Meghalaya has been rated as exceptional because of its unique scenery, limestone caves, flora and fauna; as also its vibrant tribal society. Cherrapunjee has global recognition as the wettest place on earth. Efforts will continue to realised this potential by creation of tourist infrastructure, disseminating information world wide, identifying new tourist spots, Participation in specialized fairs and facilitating tourist=- friendly atmosphere.

  20. Under the Power Sector, the State has a deficit with regards to the industrial demand, which has gone up to 480 Mega Watts (MW) against MeSEB's installed capacity of 185 MW. Due to transmission constraint, the State is not able to draw adequate power from the North Eastern Grid. Construction of Transmission Lines from Sarusajai in Assam to Byrnihat in Meghalaya and from MeSEB Sub Station to Power Grid Sub Station at Khliehriat, are expected to be completed by September, 2005. With these new transmission  lines, the state will be able to draw around 100MW of additional power. The Transmission Line from Agia in Assam to Nangalbibra in Meghalaya will be implemented as soon as required environmental clearance is received. The Transmission Line proposed from Misa in Assam to Byrnihat in Meghalaya  awaits sanction from the Central Government. An Additional 165MW of Power can  drawn by the State, from the North Eastern Grid on completion of these Transmission Lines. Work on the 84 MW Myntdu-Leshka Hydro Power Project has progresses satisfactorily, and is expected to be completed on Schedule, during 2007. Survey and investigation of three Hydro Power Projects, at Umtru, Umngot and Umngi, with a combined capacity of 200MWs are under progress, and expected to be completed within the 10th Plan period. Renovation and modernization of the 18MW Umiam Stage II Power House will commence soon, with funding from Japan Bank of International Cooperation. Regarding rural electrification, the number of villages electrified,  upto March 2004 was 3301, as against the total of 5782 villages, as per 2001 census. During 2004-05, another 622 villages are expected to be electrified. The target for rural electrification during 2005-06 is 829 villages.

  21. Providing safe drinking water and upgrading sanitation facilities, in both urban and rural areas continue to receive appropriate priority. The Central and State sector programmes being implemented, seek to provide water to Uncovered and Partially Covered habilitation as also to augment and upgrade water supply to the Covered habitation. Rural schools are also to be provided water supply and sanitation arrangements. Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board will continue to discharge its regulatory and advisory role, mandated by various legislations under its purview.

  22. The Scheme of targeted Public Distribution System for the eligible identity BPL families at subsidized prices through a network of fair Price Shops, both in the rural and urban areas, will continue to be implemented. Antodya Anna Yojana Scheme will be expanded further to cover more beneficiaries. Annapurna Scheme  for the Old and Aged destitute, ands supply of rice to the inmates of Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste Hostels will  continue. Steps are being taken to strengthen the Consumer Courts at all levels. Consumer Awareness Programmes to educate the consumers and to generate awareness about their rights and duties have been launched in the State. Activities like surprise inspections, seizures and raids to eliminate the use of non-standard weight and measures by the traders will also continue to be undertaken.

  23. Government is taken all possible steps for early utilization of Baljek Airport in West Garo Hills and operation of flights. Upgradation of Umroi Airport has also been taken up with the Central Government. Meghalaya Transport Corporation plays a vital role in connecting remote and backward areas of the State. While its financial burden has been reduced through implementation of a Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) during 2004-05, MTC will be further strengthened with capital grants for procurement of vehicles.

  24. The Government continues to give special importance to the welfare of women, children, physically handicapped, juvenile delinquents, the aged and the infirm, by implementing various schemes and programmes. In order to improve the health and nutritional status of women and children, food and supplements are provided to children below six years of age, pregnant and nursing mothers and adolescent girls. For the welfare of the physically challenged Government is continuing with the scheme for giving financial assistance to the disabled. The Meghalaya State Commission for Women has been setup.

  25. The State is endowed with rich mineral resources which have to be utilized scientifically and with long term perspective to minimize environmental impact. With the adoption of new technologies, it is now possible to significantly reduce the environmental damage  associated with mining operations and to foster overall development. Government has been conducting training programme for local miners, too help them practice systematic mining.

  26. The Government will continue to work together with the Autonomous District Councils in order to enable them to function effectively in safeguarding the rights and interest of the indigenous people of the State.

  27. Meghalaya House at Vellore, named 'Spring of Hope Apartments', has recently been made functional. the land at Vasant Vihar, New Delhi will be developed and utilized soon and the flats at Dwarka, New Delhi will be taken over shortly. Construction of the Meghalaya House at  Vashi in New Mumbai will commence soon. Pending completion of State Government acquisition proceedings for the Mayurbhanj Campus, NEHU has agreed to hand over possession of this Campus, measuring a little less than ten acres, to Government for utilization. Government will take over this Campus, shortly,, for official use. The Government also propose to develop and utilize the land at Hengrabari Guwahati, allotted by Government of Assam. Construction of the State Convention Centre within the premises of Hotel Pine Wood, will commence soon.

  28. The construction of the new building for the Shillong Bench of the Guwahati High Court at Shillong, is progressing satisfactorily.

  29.  The reconstruction of the premises of the State Legislature has been sanction. The location of the premises is being decided by the High Power Committee of the State Legislature.

  30. The Government will continue to implement scheme for preserving the rich cultural heritage of the State. Captain Williamson Sangma Museum has been modernized and develop with financial assistance received from the Victoria Memorial Hall Trust and the Indian Museum, Kolkatta. The Scheme for computerization of Museum Art Objects has been completed.

  31. The Government is committed to meet the special needs of the people living in the areas bordering Bangladesh. In order to promote a balanced development of these areas, Government has undertaken the special Area Development Programme with Central assistance. Schemes which meet the special needs of the border people and bridge the critical gaps in the social and physical infrastructure of the border areas will continue to be implemented.

  32.  Government has taken up several schemes for creation of basic infrastructure for promotion of sports and games for youth. Financial assistance is also given to sports Associations Clubs for conducting Tournaments, and participation in Regional and National events. Youth Festivals and Youth Camps are organized besides coaching camps for the youths. These programmes will be continued. Government has also sanctioned of a new building for the Meghalaya Bharat Scouts & Guides headquarter complex at Shillong. Construction of the new building will commence soon.

  33. The introduction of the Integrated Cooperative Development Programme (ICDP) in Jaintia Hills and West Garo Hills District has yielded encouraging results. It has helped provide impetus to the co-operative movement and encourage societies to become self sustaining. The Government proposes to extent the coverage of ICDP to Ri Bhoi and South Garo Hills Districts.

  34. The matter relating to the Inter-State boundary with  Assam has been taken up with the Government of Assam as well as the Central Government. The Government shall continue to strive to resolve the boundary issue, to the satisfaction of all.

  35. The Government has announced the State Information Technology Policy and committed to promoting Meghalaya as a destination for IT entrepreneurship. In furtherance of this objective, the setting up of a Software Technology Park in the State has been initiated in collaboration with the Software Technology Parks of India (STPI). the site for locating the STPI has been made available. In Collaboration with the North East Space Applications Centre, a Natural Resources Inventory System project has been taken up based on GIS and Remote Sensing technologies. This project will help in generating spatial and non-spatial data which are essential for effective planning and programme implementation. In order to provide a strong base for the large scale introduction of e-governance in the State, a programme to impart basic computing skills to State Government employees is being introduced during 2005-06.

  36. Three new District Jails at Nongpoh, Baghmara and Nongstoin are being constructed to ease the congestion being faced in the existing District Jails. Prison modernization, including infrastructural improvement and security measures are also being taken up.

  37. The Government Printing Press will be further modernized with the procurement of seven Desk Top Printing (DTP) Units.

  38.  The Meghalaya Value Added Tax Bill, 2003 has recently received Presidential Assent and the Act has been duly notified. The Value Added Tax (VAT) is a multi point system of taxation with provision for full set-off for the input tax and the tax on previous purchases. Government is committed to implement VAT from 1st April, 2005 along with other State in the country, to make the Tax structure simpler and more transparent. Tax compliance is also likely to improve. The Government of India has agreed to compensate the State to the extent of 100 percent of its revenue losses, if any, during the first year of implementation of VAT, 75 percent during the second year and 50 percent during the third year; followed by a comprehensive review. The Government has taken required steps for computerization and putting in place adequate manpower to facilitate the transition to the new VAT regime. This landmark tax reform process deserves due support and cooperation from all sections of this August House. It may be added that the Meghalaya Sales Tax Act, the Meghalaya Finance (Sales Tax) Act and the Meghalaya Purchase Tax Act have been subsumed under the new VAT Act.

  39.  The State has been under a Fiscal Reforms Programme since 2000-2001. A Memorandum of Understanding to this effect, between the State Government and the Government of India was signed during January, 2004. The measures broadly include increase revenue generation with simultaneous expenditure compression to achieve the fiscals targets. The Government has adhered to these reforms measures through the implementation of the Voluntary Retirement Scheme, the scheme for closure of Civil Deposit and the Debt- swap Scheme for retiring high cost loan, as enumerated in the Medium Term Fiscal Reforms Programme. These measures have enable the State to regularly obtain specified benefits under the Central Incentives Fund Scheme, over the period in question.

  40. To bridge the information gap between the Government and the public, particularly at the grassroots level, relevant information of various schemes, projects and initiatives undertaken for all round development of the State has been regularly disseminated. A new initiative called the Special Interactive Programmes (SIP), to enable the people to interact with the district Heads has been launched. In its endeavor to project, promote and publicize the potentials of the State, the Government has been participating in Trade Fairs at regional, national and international level. In the International Trade Fairs, 2004 held at New Delhi, Meghalaya was conferred with the Silver Award for overall performance in the North Eastern States category. The Tableau presented during the Republic Day celebration 2004 also bagged the second prize.

  41. The Government will continue to implement the Scheme for sending students for studies in different technical fields in various Industrial Training Institute of the Country. The Government will also continue to provide coaching facilities to Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe candidates to appear in various competitive recruitment examinations. The Employees State Insurance Scheme is also being implemented as a Labour Welfare measure in the State.

  42. I have given an outline of the main policies and programmes of the Government, which the Hon'ble Members may like to discuss. It is worthwhile to recall that the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly is known for its high level of decorum, dignity and debate. I am confident that this noble tradition and convention of the Hon'ble House will continue to be upheld, and that your deliberations would result in constructive decisions for benefit of the State and its people.