Proceeding of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly assembled at 9,00 A.M on Friday, the 26th November, 1971 in the Assembly Chamber, Shillong with the Deputy Speaker in the Chair.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : - Let us begin with item No. I
Grant of Licences for Foreign Liquors.
Shri Gilfred Singh Giri asked :
|*1||Will the Minister - in - charge, Excise be pleased to state -|
|(a)||Whether it is a fact that the Government has called application for the grant of licences for foreign liquors and bunded warehouses ?|
|(b)||If so, what action has been taken on the application ?|
Shri Brington Buhai Lyngdoh (Minister, Excise, etc) replied :
|No decision has yet been taken.|
Shri Gilfred Singh Giri :- May I know from the Minister in charge, Mr. Speaker, Sir, the places where these shops are to be located ?
Shri Brington Buhai Lyngdoh (Minister, Excise, etc) :- That question has also not been decided.
Shri Gilfred Singh Giri :- May I know from the Minister in charge Sir, the number of licenses to be given to the applicants ?
Shri Brington Buhai Lyngdoh (Minister, Excise, etc) :- That has not yet been decided.
Control of National Highway.
Shri Gilfred Singh Giri asked :
*2. Will the Minister in charge of P.W.D be pleased to state -
|(a)||Whether it is a fact that the control of N.H 40 has been taken over by the Government of Meghalaya ?|
|(b)||If so, when ?|
Shri Edwingson Bareh (Minister, In charge, P.W.D., etc) replied :
|-Does not arise.|
Dr. S.C. Deb :- Sir, we cannot follow from the list of Questions as to what is N.H 40 ?
Shri Edwingson Bareh (P.W.D Minister) :- N.H. 40 means the road from Jorabat to Shillong and then to Tamabil.
Mr. Deputy Speaker :- Item No. 2 Mr. Khonglah.
*Shri Ohiwot Khonglah :- Under Rule 131 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of the Assembly, I beg to move that this Assembly and do now discuss the rise of prices of all essential commodities in the State.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, in moving this Motion I fell that one of the most difficult problems that is confronting our people in the state is the rise of prices of all essential commodities. There is a complaint, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, from all corners of our State regarding the rise of prices of all essential commodities. I hope the hon. members of this House also are quite aware of the fact. I think everyone of us must be facing with the difficulty in their own families. The housewives always by the middle of the month will come and complain about the financial position in the family. Everywhere the people are facing with the difficulty. Even those rich people from whom we do not expect any complaints, yet when they go to the market to buy their essential commodities they always do so with a sigh. This has affected the low paid employees and low income groups to a very great extent in all a corners of the State and we hear complaint after complaint. People in the villages are actually getting money to run their family affairs only for at least two weeks and for the rest of the month they have got nothing else. Many people in the villages and in the interior of the State are complaining that most of the time of the month they have to live on wild herbs and jungle fruits and things like that. They do not not have the purchasing capacity ; they do not have the money to buy the essential commodities with whatever income they get for the month which is enough only to support themselves for a week or two. Besides Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, while the prices of all essential commodities have risen, we find that the prices of agricultural produce of the people are going down. If you compare between profit and loss Mr. Speaker, Sir we find that the lost account is beyond control. Take for example, Mr. Speaker, Sir, potato which is a local agricultural produce of the local people. The price of potatoes has gone down and the people with whatever they get from the sale produced of their own produce will with whatever they get from the sale proceeds of their own produce will not be enough to meet the requirements for their day to day life. It is surprising Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, perhaps to tell you here that in certain parts of the State take the case of the border people, they are also we see that most of them depend on this Pan Leaf cultivation but the price of pan lead has gone down to a very great extent. Only last two or three weeks Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, many of the border people at least in the Jaintia Hills have come to Jowai market and other markets. They brought with them hundreds of tons of Pan - leaf to be sold in the market but then the price of pan - leaf in the market is only 10 paise or 4 annas per bundle. It will not cover even the cost of transport from where they have come. With the sale proceed of their own producers it is very clear Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, that the people cannot meet their day to day requirements. The prices of essential commodities have risen to uncontrolled able extent. It is a wonder Mr. Speaker, Sir, not only that prices of commodities have gone up but certain commodities certain essential commodities cannot be found in the markets, cannot be obtained in the markets. Take for example Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, the Food-baby I mean baby food (laughter), Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I may point out that every family that has got a baby is facing a great difficulty in feeding the baby. The conscientious parents are feeling guilty of themselves by having a baby especially in towns and cities where the people have developed the habit of feeding their babies with this artificial food. Now they are facing a very great difficulty. We always find mothers going from shop to shop, trying to get baby good and with great difficulties, somewhere in the trying to get baby food and with great difficulties somewhere in the cower they will be ble to get one or two tins of Amul or Glaxo and that also Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, at a very high price. One tin of Glaxo or Amul which used to cost the parents Rs. 6.50 or Rs. 7 now costs them Rs. 20 or Rs 30 per tin. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, Sir, for those who have got babies in their families now it has become a misery to them, instead of being a source of joy. It has become a misery a problem. It is not a matter of joke Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, to see that we have got nothing to feed the baby. It is really surprising Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, while the Government is complying with and carrying on the programme of the Government of India, they are not only supplying the essential commodities to all the refugees relief camps that are existing in the state. The essential commodities that are supplied to the relief camps are coming every day. But regarding the essential commodities for the use of the local people, whenever we approach the authority concerned the reply we get is that there is no supply because of transport difficulties. The commodities that are to come from outside the State are not coming because of the transport problem. I do not understand, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, how this problem cropped in, if the essential commodities that are supplied to the relief camps can come Why other essential commodities for the people cannot, come ? Why the transport problem is there ? Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, it is indeed a great problem to our people. I am confident that our hon. Members here in the House are quite aware of the fact that, everywhere we go, we are facing with the question of who is really controlling the situation. Whether the situation is still under control or whether the situation has got out of control is the question that we use to get from all sections of the people. It is indeed surprising to see Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, even now if you go to markets there are certain things that we have to examine, for example, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, this question as to who is really controlling the situation, is a very very big question to the people. It is a big question because of the fact, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, that the price of rice has gone down to a lesser extent than it was a week or two before. The price of rice in the market now is about Rs. 110 per quintal whereas the price of rice from the wholesalers shops from where the fair price shops dealers are lifting their commodities is about Rs. 123,62 paise per quintal. Therefore, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, if the fair price shop dealers go to the whole sellers shops their is plenty of rice offered for sale to the dealers concerned. Whereas if you go to the markets the price of rice is about Rs. 140 per quintal and the price of rice in the wholesalers shops is about Rs. 123.62 paise per quintal. There is rice in the wholesalers shops licensed to issue rice to the fair price shop dealers., But when the fair price shops dealers went to the wholesalers shops to lift the commodity, the reply they would get is that there is shortage of supply. So if 20 quintals of rice are to be issued to the fair price shop dealers they will be able to lift only 4 or 5 as quintal as they is shortage of rice in the wholesalers shops. Whereas when the price of rice in the market has gone down to Rs. 110 when the price of rice at controlled rate is Rs. 123 per quintal, there is plenty of rice in the wholesalers shops. So Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I feel there is something behind this.
This is a matter of which we have to examine. The price of sugar now in the open market, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, is Rs. 216.00 per quintal, Government sugar from the while salers shop can be jade at Rs. 223.62 per quintal. If you go to the whole salers shop Sir, you will get plenty of sugar. But a few weeks ago when the price of sugar in the market was Rs. 300,00 per quintal, there was no sugar in the whole salers shop. Only a few days ago before we came here to attend the Assembly, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I had to the occasions to meet one fair shop dealer. He actually come to me, Sir, with a letter from the S.D.O (Civil), Supply Branch, asking him to lift three bags of sugar issued to him from the whole salers shop, and that unless he lifts it, his license for dealership will be cancelled. That being the case, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, he explained the position why he could not lift the sugar from the whole saler's shop, because he found that it would not be possible for him to sell it. The price of sugar at the controlled rate is Rs. 2,48 per kg whereas the price of sugar in the local market is Rs. 2.30 or Rs. 2.35 per kg. The people are running to the local market and not to the fair price dealer if the fair price dealers lift the sugar from the whole saler's shop, it will be a loss to him. Then what happened, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, the whole salers was in trouble, because nobody lifted if from his shop. Therefore, he wrote a petition to the S.D.O (Civil) Jowai, informing him that the fair price shop dealers did not lift sugar that was issued to them from this shop. On the partition of the whole - saler the S.D.O wrote a letter to the fair price shop dealers that they should lift the sugar otherwise their licenses would be cancelled. Who is controlling this situation Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir. It seems as if the hold salers are controlling the situation. There is something here Sir, which I feel that this House should discuss and I feel that the Government should take drastic steps to see where the defect lies. If the situation is to continue like this, Sir, I am sure that our people who are now being hard hit economically will be faced with greater problem in the near future, especially in times of crisis as it is today in the whole country and especially in some parts of the States and in the border areas where the people are facing with great difficulties. I am not sure what will happen to the people. In the border areas. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, you will find that the gardens of the people are under occupation of the Army. It is the right season now to pluck the fruits and oranges to sell in the market, but the people cannot do so, because these fruits are being plucked by the Army people. I am not blaming the Army people, Sir, I quite understand human nature and temptation. But what I am trying to say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, is the position of the local people. They are not able to reap the fruits of their own labour. The prices of essential commodities are rising day by day. Their own produces which are to support their day to day requirements are now going away from. What will happen in the near future. The people are now facing with the great difficulty. I feel that it is high time now for our Government to find ways and means to compensate the loss of the people because of the border problems and also because of the Army being in occupation of the garden of the people. Unless the Government do something the people will not be able to cope with the situation especially with the present rise of prices of the essential commodities. Some steps might have been taken by the Government. Sir, we have heard so many assurances to help the border people. Test Relief Schemes have been prepared and promised to the people in order to help them with some financial assistance or to improve the purchasing capacity so that they can cope with the situation. But Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, none of the assurance uptil now has materialised. I do not know why it takes so long a time. Sir, I will, therefore, request the Government to kindly see that whatever promises and assurances that have been given to the people are to be materialised in the shortest possible time. This is high time, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, that the people are in need of help. Any help that is to be to them should come in time. There is time for everything, Sir. But the time has already gone and lapsed. Now and most of the people in the border areas are trying to find a job here and there. They are going away from the border areas to some other parts of the State in order to find suitable jobs for their own sustenance.
I have got a news that so many border people are now encroaching upon the protected forests of the Government in order to do their cultivation. They are forced to do so they are forced to encroach because of the situation. Poverty forced them to encroach even upon the protected areas. Orders are being issued to them from the Forest Department not to cultivate in the forests but they can't help it. Therefore, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I am placing all these facts before our begins Government and I hope that our beings to whatever extent possible. I would also appeal that whatever steps that are to be taken they should be taken in the shortest time possible. Let us materialised our promises to the people ; let us materialised our assurances to the people. We have, made promises to help the people but up till now, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, nothing has come out. Regarding rice we have heard and we have always talked in this House regarding the rice transport and also subsidy so that the people will get rice at a cheaper price. But that also has never materialised up till now. The financial year is now only two or three months to go but even then the promise for the rice transport subsidy given since the month of June or July has not been fulfilled. These are naturally the months - the summer months - when the people really need help. But that time has gone because we are to go only two or three months and the financial year will come to an end. The promise for the rice transport subsidy has not materialised as yet. I do not understand what stood in the way of and it is for our begins Government to clarify the position. I hope hon. Member of this House are all aware of these facts ; they are all aware of all these promises and assurances to the people and I expects that the hon. Members of the House will also press on the same for the expeditions implementation of our promises. Now, with these few words, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I will resume my seat.
Shri E. Bremly Lyngdoh :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I rise to support the motion moved by my friend, Mr. Ohiwot Khonglah on the rise of prices of all essential commodities in the State. It is a fact that during these few months there has been a sudden rise of prices of essential commodities in all parts of the State and most of the people. specially those in the low income group are very much affected by this sudden rise of prices. The Government has taken action as I could learn when I contacted the Deputy Commissioner of Shillong that the price has come down a little. But even though the price has come down a little, the people especially in the villages and even in towns are still facing much difficulty.
Now, I come to the people who are working in the offices of the Government, and so far as they are concerned whatever may be the rise of prices, their income will remain the same. So, it will be very difficult for them to meet their day to day requirements of essential commodities such as sugar, rice and other things. It is not also a fact that the baby food as I could learn from the Deputy Commissioner who control with all essential commodities such as sugar, rice and dal But regarding this baby food, he said that it is not under his control. I do not know , Mr., Deputy Speaker, Sir, who is the controlling authority because as, I have learnt that the price of Amul, Glaxo, Oster Milk Lactogen, etc has now more or less doubled the previous price. So, In this respect I would request Government to see if there is any possibility to take this in to consideration in order to bring down the price of these baby foods and all other essential commodities in the State to relieve the burden and of the people of the low income group and middle income group and especially the people living in the villages.
Sir, I have learnt also that the essential commodities such as sugar, rice, etc. have been allotted to the Fair Price Shops for distribution to the people. But the people are complaining that the sugar which they got from these Fair Price Shops is always wet and the rice also is always of bad quality. I do not know whether the Government allotted that kind of bad quality rice and wet sugar to these Fair Price Shops, I thin it is up to the Government to see that and clarify the position. Considering the rise of price of the essential commodities, whatever allotment these Fair Price Shops get from the Government whether sugar or rice they must give to the people the very same quality that they received from the Government There is also a complaint that the quantity of rice and sugar which the people received is very much less which will not be sufficient for one man in two day's time, but the quantity that has been given for one man is for a week's time. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I feel that it is the duty of the Government to look in to this rise of prices and would appeal that the Government should try its level best to bring down this sudden rise of prices of the essential commodities. With these words, I support the motion moved by my friend, Mr. Ohiwot Khonglah.
Shri Rokendro Dkhar :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, while supporting the Motion moved by my hon. friend, I have very few things to say. Although I quite agree with him that there is rise of prices of essential commodities in the State, I would say that I feel the rise of prices is not so much that it goes beyond the pockets of the people of the State. Yet, while supporting this Motion I say that Government should take steps to see that the price of commodities does not rise further in view of the impending war with our neighbouring country. Now that the harvest time is on in our State, I would suggest to the Government to procure paddy at this stage and store it so that it may last for the Sir three month and this will greatly help out people at the time of emergency. Yes, we feel that we and we hear that there is complaint about scarcity of baby food. But to me and the tribal people of our state these substitute baby food can be over some, because we people in this district are used to or own original baby food, that is, banana. I was brought up on banana on and not these baby foods,. I do not see that we should be afraid of the rise of this particular commodity. With the opening of the Farakka Bridge there will be no more disruption of communication of the State. Government should urge on the Central Government that the F.C.I should build its own go downs on in the district head quarters in Tura and Shillong so that they can store the most essential commodities like rice, sugar, salt and atta, etc so that in time of emergency the racketeers and profiteers do not get chance to exploit the situation. As I said, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, that I have very few things to say, I support the Motion and with these few words I resume my seat.
Shri Alwot Berry Diengdoh :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, I rise to support the Motion moved by the hon. Member regarding the rise of prices of essential commodities in the State, specially in this District. As the hon. Members have pointed out the fact about the hardship and them in participating and discussing this very important subject. Perhaps, the House is aware that the prices of commodities today specially essential commodities like rice, sugar, flour, mustard oil ghee, etc. have suddenly risen for which the people in Shillong and specially in the interiors of the districts have been faced with great difficulty, and they can hardly manage to buy these commodities to support their livelihood. In this capital, however, some of the people are somehow managing but in the interior the people are tremendously suffering from this rise of prices today. The prices of sugar and rice in Shillong are different from one locality to another locality. The price of sugar in places at the distance of 15 to 20 miles from Shillong is Rs. 3.00 to Rs. 3.50 p. per kilogram and the price of rice has gone up to Rs. 70 to Rs. 10 per quintal. Also Sir, as the hon.. members have pointed out, there is scarcity of baby food this is also a very important and serious problem- which is the Government should give top priority attention. The sudden scarcity of baby food in the state will definitely lead to the slow killing of the poor babies and children, because those babies have got used to these foods. And if these foods are suddenly withdrawn, naturally they will not be able to pull on with their life. Sir unless the Government take serious notice and fact this challenge now the price rise and the scarcity of baby good, and essential commodities especially in this District, will definitely create many problems and many problems and troubles which we have been experiencing and which are happening in other parts of the country. Of course, I cannot but appreciate the hard work and the keen interest of the District Supply Department in Shillong. Because of the sincere effort of this Department we could somehow get the small quantity of the essential commodities at controlled rates. But Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, the quota which the people enjoy, in rise, sugar, flour, dal, salt etc is very very small. I think if I am not wring, the staff of the Supply Department is supposed to check the rise of prices and food scarcity in the districts and in the State as a whole. But Sir, as I am always in touch with the Deputy Commissioner and the District Supply Department of Shillong I do not think the that the present strength of the Supervision staff of the District Supply Department will be able to meet and cope with the demand of the essential commodities or to check the price rise and scarcity. Perhaps, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, the hon. Members of the House are aware that with only, one Superintendent two Inspectors and three Sub - Inspectors in the District the Department have to look after all these things of the District. But more so, at this time when the country is in a state of Emergency this strength of staff is humanly impossible to look after and supervise the refugees also who are in the interior and in our border areas. But I do not blame them because they had to do their duty. Therefore, sometimes you will not be able to find any person in the Department. But as I have said that it is there duty to do. But I want to bring it to the notice of the Government because of these facts and especially in this state Emergency, the Government should take keen interest so as to the put some more staff for supervising the work so that our people may not suffer and are looked after by this Department. Therefore, Sir, as I have said before that I strongly support this motion and while supporting this motion I also urge the Government to take serious steps in meeting this challenge of rises of prices and scarcity of essential commodities and also to see that they are meant for helping our people and this should be done at the earliest time. Therefore, Sir, with these words I hope that the Government will sympathetically consider and look after the interest of our people. With these few words, I resume my seat.
*Shri Akramozamman :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I have learn with great attention the observations made by my friends and I am quite in agreement with their arguments as I also know that there is a rise in the price of essential commodities which is beyond the limit of the common people to purchase, Sir, of course, there are some difficulties on the part of the Government but I just believe that if the Government could have visualized the situation just after the influx of the refugees from Bangladesh to our State, and its consequences, the present crisis could not have come up. Sir, due to this crisis of border conflict there was crisis particularly in food crops in Meghalaya State, and there are some reasons for this. Let us discuss also these. There is one factor that in some reasons for this. Let us discuss also these. There is one factor that in some areas Ahu crops could not be cultivated due to the incessant rains and in the border areas, particularly, the paddy growing areas of Garo Hills, viz, Mahendraganj, Ampati, Dalu, the cultivators had to shift from the border areas due to disturbances. These people also have become refugees living in camps. On the other hand there is only open road communication in Garo Hills, i.e the road from Phulbari to Tura. This road is also in such a condition that it was not possible to run the vehicles. So these contributed to a great extent towards the rise of price. On the other hand in our country not only in Meghalaya, there is a tendency among the businessmen, if not all, to make profit. This is also a vital reason for which the rise of price has gone up. The price of Atta i.e the substitute of rice, has also gone up. We have seen that there is a Green Revolution in production of wheat in India. But in our State there is no Green Revolution rather we may say it is a grim deduction, just contrary to that, and it is in state of demising return. What is the reason ? There may be shortfall in rice procurement but for atta I think there is huge stock which has already been made not only for the urban people but also for the rural people. Inspite of that there is no Atta availed. The atta which we get a Salmura by paying 1.25/ 1.20 paise per K.g we are to pay 1.50 paise at Phulbari. What is the reason ? We have heard also that there was an indent from Supply Department for some thousands of bags of atta but we got only 1,000 bags. Of course, we cannot we deny that there are about the shortage of staff. I agree with him that with the coming of refugees it has become a part of their duty to supply commodities also. But we have not been able to increase the number of staff and I think it is quite impossible for human beings to cope with the situation unless there is reinforcement. This is not only in the case of Khasi Hills but also in the case of Garo Hills. So the Government should taken into consideration the need for some extra hands in order to check the overall rise of price and scarcity. Sir, I would like to put an example to show how the Government policy also caused rise in price. There are whole salers at Phulbari who are to carry rice Tura. But when trucks are carrying rice from elsewhere on way to Tura via Phulbari, no rice can be dropped at Phulbari Because rice would gain to come to Phulbari Tura after travelling another 53 miles i.e total mileage comes to 106 miles, The result is that the people of Phulbari have to pay 1-40 paise per K.g of rice in place of 1.30 paise. Sir, this is a problem which has been created by the Government. This is rice in price in this particular region, I am sorry to say, is due to this wrong policy of the Government. For distribution of rice, atta or sugar at Garobada or Phulbari there is no dearth of go downs. At Phulbari also there are go downs agricultural go downs. Government can make the best use of these go downs by stocking the essential articles. There are also other examples for which the Government policy is responsible for rise in price in some particular regions.
This policy should be rectified. Sir, of course 10 days before in the local market the lowest and worst of quality rice could be had at Rs. 1.80 per kg now it has come down to Rs. 1.50 per kg., and it will be come down more when the harvesting started. But one factor that has come up in Garo Hills and particularly in the Border Area is the plantation of Sali. But it is very difficult to say whether this paddy can be harvested or not because the people have already shifted and panic has already started due to the circumstances prevailing there. So it is to be seen from the Government side that the paddy which has been grown in the border areas is to be harvested and needs security measure. Security measure should be taken in such a way so that the people can harvest and thresh safely. The paddy is for their own consumption. If it is not done, then I think the price of rice which has come down will stay only for a month. Another thing to be seen is that from Garo Hills District there is a flow of rice to Goalpara District. This should have been tightened up, not only by the Supply Department but other village voluntary workers should also be taken in to confidence by which they can function effectively and there should not be supply of flow of rice. Another factor has also come to light. Many Mahajan from outside have advanced purchases and they pay Rs. 15 or Rs 16 like that per month of paddy as that crisis was so serious because of some cases of diarrhea or cholera. I do not think it is cholera and diarrhea but I think it has started from mal nutrition and then disease started and persons died. It is only an example. In other parts of the State also the same factor is there. Only if we take these matters in to account, whatever might be the intention of the Government, we shall be able to control the prices of other food - grains. So far as the other matter is concerned what is required is that the rise of price in salt, dal and mustard oil, is also to be seen. The matter also was also discussed, particularly mustard seed in Meghalaya. We can also have sufficient mustard seeds and mustard oil because in the region mustard seed can be grown and can be transported to other parts of the country. This matter was also discussed when the Minister visited Phulbari and there was a suggestion for grinding mills to be established where mustard oil can be produced and can easily be stocked by the Government and the price of mustard oil can be controlled not only in this year but for year to come. This mill can be established and afterwards, mustard seed, can be produced for our own consumption Kerosene is another crisis. I do not know what is the actual price of Kerosene. In some parts of the locality, the price of kerosene has gone up to Rs. 2. to Rs. 2.5s0 per litre and even and at Tura town there was this rise in price. There may be a shortage of kerosene. There was a tendency in the minds of the people to stock kerosene and we cannot deny that there exists such a tendency. This crisis has started since the last few months and it is still continuing, I cite the example of Phulbari. The people of South Salmara in the Goalpara District previously used to get their kerosene without any difficulty. Now what has happened ? Instead of inferior type of kerosene the dealers and sell diesel oil and even that diesel will be not of stock shortly. So this matter requires Government's intervention in the matter of production as well as distribution, as the people have no voice, .This matter of production control and distribution of kerosene. sugar, etc ., is mainly the concern of the Government. In my own opinion, Kerosene should be sold through fair price shops in different villages and licences for fair price shops should be given through the Deputy Commissioner or the appropriate authorities.
Without constituting the Vigilance Committee, not shop should be opened anywhere I know also that there should be the Price Vigilance Committees formed by both the Government and the people in which there should not be only representative of the people but also the representatives of the businessmen. Unless and until this thing is done and taken into account, we cannot have or gain the confidence of both the people and the businessmen and the big problem of rising price could not be solved if left to the Government's side alone. In this respects, I believe it is not only the duty of the the Government servants alone who should stack to this also the people should co - operative with each other and see how things go on. But here, the first hand co - operation of the people is needed and the Government is there side by side with the experts to see what can be done. The attitude of the people of Meghalaya is of such a nature that they will never be co - operative to the Government and the officials also. Now, I would request the Minister in charge of Public Works Department to see that the Phulbari - Goalpara Routes' conditions are improved. The other day only, it is found that the journey from Phulbari to Goalpara required two and half hours only. But yesterday, it takes about four hours or so. Now, Sir, it is easily understood what are the difficulties on this Route previously. But after the month of July or August, after this matter had been looked in to by the experts, it takes us seven or eight hours only from Phulbari to Goalpara, Of course, it s a rash traffic. I do not say that it is a heavy traffic that has been started since last year i.e. from the beginning of the creation of this route.
Shri E. Bareh (Minister, of P.W.D) :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, for the information of the hon., Members, a portion of the road which is in our area, will be metalled within this season.
*Shri Akramozamman :- Yes, I have also seen the collection of section of gravels and boulders .. ... ... .. .. ..Besides, that, there is no operation at all along the route and the portion in between this, is perhaps the worst. But I do not say I am an expert. Because, my intention, it is that preciously the journey takes only two and half hours or so, to reach Goalpara. I think during that time road is not being improved in such a way that it may take more or less two hours only. Therefore, it is a fact that during summer season, it will be naturally impossible for the trucks to ply in this route. Also it is a fact that those previous conditions have been improved to some extent now and I believe, if the people will cooperate and if the Public Works Department pays serious attention to this matter, I am sure we shall be able to solve this problem at no time by taking the problem in to consideration and also to see when and where they should be implemented.
Shri P. Ripple Kyndiah :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I am glad that this matter has come before this House for discussion. It is an admitted fact that there is rise in price of essential commodities. In fact, it was spiraling and had only very recently come to the halt. But for that matter in India to day we are witnessing all kinds of phenomenon - spiraling-spiraling rise in prices, spiraling in number of people, refugee population. We are witnessing everything spiraling up. Somehow this phenomenon is going on and there is need therefore of close examination of the problem in hand. On the one hand we are told about the green revolution as mentioned by the hon. Member Shri Akramozamman that there is wheat revolution in Punjab and Haryana and sugar cane revolution in Maharashtra State. There is the fact that we would get abundant supply of wheat product. And therefore, when this question of rise prices comes up, naturally there must be something wrong somewhere in the process of supplying these very essential commodities. I do not claim to know the price condition of the whole State of Meghalaya, I only know about the Khasi - Jaintia Hills District and more particularly about Shillong. Now for the last few months we have been witnessing this spiral lung rise in price. In fact there have been agitations in a small and there has been representation to Government, to the Deputy Commissioner and there are many occasions when we had opportunities to exchange views about the rise in prices and tried to bring down rise in prices. We are aware of difficulties and that the people are facing. As much as we are aware also of the difficulties faced by the Government. They are faced with the refugee problem. They need to feed 7 lakhs refugees population in Meghalaya which has added to the problem of the Supply and administrative machinery and as a result of this, it has eroded to a large extent the effectiveness of the departments and I quite agree that there is much force in it. I also agree that in view of the stage that we are facing today, a stage as almost existing in every State where refugees are camping, there has been difficulty in transporting the commodities also. I realise the difficulties of the Government. But at the same time I do not think it correct or proper for us to remain silent spectators. I say this with full responsibility because I know that if the Government have taken some advanced action in the earlier stage, things would not come to this stage. This also I know. I also felt that there are inherent difficulties on the part of the Government being new State with new set up and all that. I have thought that the Government at the initial stage should strengthen the Directorate of Supply and make it up to date. I know that this particular Directorate is functioning with very inadequate staff, very very much. I think even to day there is no Superintendent and there is no adequate staff, a very essential factor for the Directorate to function effectively. Even in the district level I know there are very few officers in the inspecting side and field staff. Some of the inspecting staff have been involved in Bangladesh - Refugee works and normal and special works to be attended to Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, while appreciating the difficulties of the Government and making this little suggestion I have though that in any matter of the supply question it is the primary duty of the Government to take the initiative. We cannot rely on the people to take the initiative. Somehow we are fortunate in this part of the country that the people despite the problems are demonstration shy. Other wise we would be witnessing procession and demonstrators every now and then. Somehow, the Meghalayans have not come to the stage of demonstrative action in economic matters. But this should not be misunderstood. I know of many families especially in the order areas who are groaning under the wave of rise in prices and I come to know quite a few a of them have to come to a near starvation. Many of them are barely eating a single meal a day. In Shillong today, I know of many families facing great difficulties and managing to just keep themselves alive somehow. Therefore, I feel that the Government should take this matter in a planned manner and more so when today the nation may have to face crisis of Armed conflict or refugee problem. The department concerned has to streamline its administration. I had the occasion to meet the District Authorities discussing these difficulties. I pitied them fact that I am cannot do any thing. They are to take the initiative, they are to take up things, My opinion is that there is need in a planned way of distribution of essential commodities like Rice, Atta, Salt and Sugar and to see that they are well distributed to border people. This has not been done in a planned way and there has been always a missing line between the fair price shops and holders and the people who are to get things which the Government staff have to be vigilant. So this is an important thing and I am very happy that the hon. Member, Mr. Akramozamman made a suggestion which I was about to suggest for the creation of a Vigilance Committee in this because it is not our experience that on many occasions the fair price shops dealers are not very good and they are always trying to take advantage of the situation. I have got also to say one more thing about the quantity of thing the consumer get from the shops. The consumers do not normally get the quantity that they are to get. So if there is the Vigilance Committee, it will act, firstly to see that the commodities are evenly given to the people at the right price right quantity and right quality. It is, there fore, very very important to have this Vigilance Committee in our State. Meghalaya is a State having certain inherent disadvantage mainly in communication. Whether in the case between Gauhati to Tura or whether it is in the case between Gauhati to Shillong, we find that we have only these two road links as the life lines. Now, because of this and because of the nature of things today, it is necessary that the Government should create a buffer stock. The creation of this buffer stock is an imperative need. Let us not be guided by events I do not know what is going is to happen but at least a tremendous buffer stock has to be created in this part of the country. I do not know what is going to happen in the next few days or next few weeks. But once these vital road links get disrupted, the Government will face many a great difficulty. I know the Government now are facing ware housing problems and there are no proper storage or ware housing facilities for storing of essential commodities. But, I thought this is not an impossible task, Sir, there are certain houses which can be rented out and there are also ways of making temporary ware - housing which we be built up within a period of two weeks and keeping the commodities in a safe way. I know this because as Red Cross Workers, we have a kind of Nashan Hat' which will make ware housing facilities readily available. The floors have to be cemented and they cannot be raised within a matter of a week or two. There are very good means of creating ware housing facilities. So Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I feel that this is a very important matter. Now, while coming to the police of procurement - I will also speak of distribution. I have not learned very much or educated much about the policy of procurement of the State Government while there are many ways of doing that. I presume that the State Government or the Supply Department gives permission to certain whole sales dealers who in their turn, give to the retailers and others. Now, all this, I feel that certain Government Agencies like Development Corporation should also be taken up as procuring Agents, because here there is no question of any profit making and definer, we will be able to get the essential commodities are reasonable rate and because of no - profit motive, they will be able to sell at the rates much lower. This because a catalyst and then I feel that this question has to be taken up in this House. Now, the question of adulteration of food stuff. Some time ago, I had the discussion that a good deal of adulteration takes place even in kerosene oil. I also remember that there was a Case where kerosene oil was mixed with diesel oil and all such things. About this mixing with other materials of commodities, their are cases of adulteration in which the commodity itself become rotten to the extent that it was not fit for human consumption. Many times we get commodities which are deteriorated to such an extent that they are not fit for human consumption. Now I feel that the Government has to be so strong when they chance to come to the people who are dealing in these adulterated articles and I should take strong deterrent action. I am very happy about certain actions taken by the District Authority some time ago when it was known that certain commodities have gone underground. Then the District Authority took immediate action in the Bara Bazar area and arrested about 2 people and immediately after that things began to move that in a nice way. But unless the supply machinery whether in the Directorate level or District level is geared up to be effective it will be impossible to do anything. Now, I was happy also to note that in this House we are discussing this problem with a sense of responsibility - which is very good in deed. Faced, as we are in the border State, with the situation that we are in today, I feel despite my very strong feeling on the subject, that we should not in any case encourage any agitational approach to this question. We should try to work together objectively and dispassionately to over come the difficulties. Because ultimately, in this question the role of the citizens is very very important but the role will be effective if and and when the Government takes them in to confidence. So, this idea of getting the people involved in the various processes of supply and distribution is a very good thing in deed. Somehow I have not heard the Advisory Board in the District level and the Regional Level. What happen to all these Supply Advisory Boards, ? These Boards give the scope and opportunity to ventilate the grievances of the people and also to offer suggestions as to how to take action.
Now, there is another thing which I like to point out here. Because of the natural economic law of supply and demand, it is natural for a businessmen to try to make hay while the sun shines. He was has got that tendency. But I feel that in the crisis of today, that businessman should come out of this shell of thinking. It is the duty of the businessman and the citizen to see that the citizens get the commodities at controlled price and there may not be any question of profiteering and hoarding. Cases of profiteering and hoarding have been detected and taken in Shillong and if more action is taken, it will be very good indeed.
There is another point on which I like to say, that is, with regard to the natural hoarding of the individual. As soon as there is any state of emergency or fear of emergency, people instead of purchasing their required quantity of foodstuff, they begin to buy more than what is necessary out of the fear that the commodities may not be available in future. So, in this process everybody becomes a hoarder. So it is very essential that the people should be educated not to hoard in fear. We should be able to take things what we really need for consumption ; otherwise, this hoarding will go on and on. So Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, while I am very happy that this questions is discussed today I only advocate that the Government should streamline the supply machinery and take deterrent action against profiteers and hoarders and at the same time take the people in to confidence and get them involved in a Vigilance Board and Advisory Boards and I think if we can do that , we shall be able to do a lot. Otherwise, under the situation we are facing we shall not be able to discharge our duties and responsibilities.
Mr. Deputy Speaker :- Any other hon. Member who would like to take part ? The Minister in charge will now reply.
Shri S.D.D. Nichols Roy (Minister, Supply) :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I am grateful to the members fo the discussion that has taken place regarding the supply and prices of essential commodities. But I have noticed that even while expressing concern of the representatives it has been remarked that in the last couple of weeks certain proves have fallen. Now, to start with I would like to remind the hon. Members and I am sure all of them know about the limitation of this Government, in the control of prices of essential commodities. In the first place through out the country, prices have had a tendency to rise. This matter has been debated in the Parliament and it is not certainly within control of this small State to control price all over the country Secondly, this State is an Autonomous State and certain limitations are placed on it because of the geographical situation of the North East India. Other limitations are that the Assam Government still controls part of this State an in particular the capital of Shillong and as Shillong is the headquarters of the Khasi and Jaintia Hills District, anything which happens within Shillong is reflected in the while District. So there are the limitation in which we are placed. In so far as the supply and distribution of essential commodities are concerned, out Government have started when we took up the responsibility in 1970, to take over some of the function but not all the functions. As I have said it is linked with the supply of essential commodities to Shillong. Another limitation is the fact that we do have control of the transport in to the North East India and from Gauhati to Shillong. As a matter of fact the House is aware that so far as Transport is concerned it is still under the controls of the Assam Government and the Assam Transport Corporation controls the supply of commodities from Gauhati to Shillong. Inspite of this I am glad that Members have noted that prices of commodities have gone down in the last few day weeks although the prices were rising during the last few months. As my information goes, so far as rice is concerned there is no rise of price of rice during the last three months., In certain commodities like sugar, dal, atta and flour there is a rise in prices and it was not only in the case of Shillong but in the case of other places in the North East India and the fundamental problem is that we are always facing and will continue to face from time to time until the communication is improved because during the flood season in the state of Bihar and West Bengal the Railway lines were disrupted. This is very important factor which reflected in the supply of commodities coming to the North East India including Meghalaya. This is completely of the control of this Government and practically all other State Governments. It is a fact that now during the last few months there has been a build up of the security forces and requirements by the Defence Forces in case of trouble and some of the wagons required for carrying supplies were taken over by the Defence Forces. This also is a fact than we need to keep in mind that some of the commodities wares left behind. The second thing which is noted by the hon. members is that we heard of inordinate increase in the human population in this area because of the influx of refugees to the true of almost 7½ lakhs. This fact has caused a considerable strain on the communication system of the whole region including Assam, Tripura, and Meghalaya and as a result the prospect of bringing more commodities for meeting the requirements in its additional population in this region and consequently the general supplies of the State and of the whole region have been short. SO there are are the basic factors behind the shortage of supply and in the increase of prices from time and to time. But as I have stated earlier, we are fortunate that somehow or rather rice has continued to be supplied and did not rise in prices ordinate except in a few cases in the interior of border areas. Now there are some factors which are good beyond or control and there are some factors under our control and we do something about it and we have taken up with the Government of India and the Food Corporation of India, regarding the question of adequate, supplies to our State, There were a number of discussions which have taken place with the F.C.I and the need of establishing a buffer stock was considered. We had taken up the question of establishment of a buffer stock for the last 3 months and the F.C.I promised to establish adequate were housing in Tura, Shillong and Jowai. Already steps have been taken to build these go downs and so within a short space of time we hope we will be able to establish this additional buffer stock. Some of the hon. Members have mentioned about the baby - food. Now it so happens that this particular commodity is no listed in the essential commodities and it is not within the control of this Government or any Government in this country. It has been left to the normal trade practices to supply. The fact that there is shortage of baby food product in India is due to growing demand, and it is appreciated that one of the hon. Members had suggested that so far as our people are concerned, we have to go back to the traditional practice of feeding our babies on bananas. I am happy to the note that there is some alternative in this area to depend on banana to feed our babies since the baby food referred to does no come within our control and because of the shortage of supply in the whole country and there is inadequate production of the same in the whole world. I may inform the Member concerned that today there is inadequate supply of milk products and in future unless we increase the production of milk we will fact shortage of supply of baby food and other essential milk commodities also. It is a fact that some of the commodities were short in supply and the price in some of the interior areas in high especially in the border areas our where people have begin facing great difficulties because of not being able to sell their own products of pan leaf and others because of the closure of our international border markets. This is the fact of history, the political history especially because of the conditions in East Pakistan or East Bengal or Bangladesh. Now it is because of this that our Government took up with the Government of India during the last 4 or 5 months the need for doing something for our border people and it is after many attempts by letters, telegrams telephone calls and visits to Delhi and meeting with the Government of India leaders that we have been able to succeed in getting the Government of India to agree to the Border Transport Subsidy scheme for the supply of essential commodities. I am very happy that the Government of India have finally agreed to our schemes and or proposals and has sanctioned the supply of essential commodities to the border areas. In the past only rice was subsidised. In certain areas so far so as transport was concerned but today we are going to implement in a very short period of time supply of 5 essential commodities namely rice, salt, sugar, dal and mustard oil to the border areas and the price will be the same as that Shillong or Tura which are the supply centres. Now this subsidy scheme is going to be operated shortly and it will be a great help to the border people. So at last the Government has been able to do something in this regard. I am grateful to the Government of India for coming to our assistance in this respect.
So, while recognizing some concerns that the Members have voiced, we have taken a number of steps. We have approached Government of India and Food Corporation of India to increase their supply, to bring in buffer stocks, to build go downs so that the situation can be controlled. We have approached the Railway authorizes for special wagons and special trains for salt, sugar and other essential commodities and this is why the prices of some of these commodities have come down. The price of sugar has fallen. Now that the Farakka Bridge has been completed, the railway position will be improved. It will be of some assistance to the people during these winter months. But against, we will have to look forward to the future so that we have enough essential commodities in case of future floods. I am sure that the position will improve during the winter months when transport and communications are already better. So far as the other suggestions are concerned, we shall certainly take in to consideration the reappoint ting or the creation of Vigilance Committees, Advisory Boards and so on. This will certainly be looked into and taken up. A number of Members have mentioned about the Supply Department staff. Now perhaps the member may have seen in the List of Supplementary Demand for Grant that this matter is to be placed before the House. This has already been introduced before the House in which a number of schemes have been taken up particularly for the purpose of these schemes as well as the buffer stock and the questions that the number of staff is to be increased. The staff is to be increased and strengthened in the Supply Department and I am sure it will go a long way to assist us in controlling the situation It was not within the budget of the Departments to do it immediately and that is why we have to bring up supplementary budget. Now there is one factor which I must bring to the attention of the House which again is not quite within our control. That the main supply centre for Meghalaya is not anywhere within Meghalaya, but it is at Gauhati. This is the fact of the matter that the railway ends there. But so far as we are concerned, all the main whole - sellers keep their go downs and supplies at Gauhati as a result, the supplies are affected by what happens in and around Gauhati in Kamrup District. Gauhati is under the control of the Assam Government. From time to time the D.C Kamrup has put certain restrictions on the supply and movements out of Gauhati and that has affected the supplies to Shillong. At number of times, we had to get in touch with the Government of Assam and D.C Gauhati to lift these restriction not to stop the supplies coming to Shillong. The want to restrict the supplies going out and of Kamrup which means restriction of commodities coming to Shillong and Meghalaya. I want to bring this fact to the attention of the House because it has affected the supply of essential commodities coming to Shillong and Tura and prices there of . There fore, these are the things which we are to take up with the Government of Assam and we have taken up. The other factor was that the road transport between Tura, Gauhati and Shillong is yet not within out control and and we have had to discuss at various levels - at Directorate level, Secretariat level and Ministers level many times during the past year to for the improvement of supplies by the Assam Road Transport Corporation to Shillong. As a matter of fact, there have been many times when we have had to take this up with them and it so happened that during these few months when transport has been short, the trucks have occupied for taking supplies to the border for the refugees. Also, trucks have been requisitioned for the Defence requirements and so the shortage of trucks has been felt. But the Government has been very well aware of this and are in constant touch with the people in the Assam Government and the Assam State Transport Corporation. Somehow we have been able to maintain the supplies although there have been scarcities from time to time. But we are continuing to maintain that contact and put pressure so that Meghalaya Government will continue to have its adequate supplies. Therefore, within the limitations placed on us because of our situation. The Government has been able to do certain things which have kept the supplies going on and the prices not going too high. As a matter of fact, during November, prices have dropped on most of the essential commodities, except one or two wheat commodities and even in this I am sure, they will continue to come down when the improvement in the over - all supply to North - East India will indicate because of the improvement in the railways. So while taking in to consideration many of the suggestions made by the Members. I am sure that they will also realise the difficulties and the limitations in which we are placed. If any one here is placed in the same position as I am to day, I am sure he will appreciate, more of the limitations we are placed because it is very easy to complaint and make us responsible. As far as prices are concerned, they are beyond the control of many Governments and it is an over all question, yet we are concerned. We are trying to do what we can and when transport, roads, and supplies are fully within our control then of course it will improve. Anyhow, things are not going too badly, we are certainly aware of all the dangers that may crops up in case of war, in case of railway disturbance and the Government is taking steps to see that stocks and are maintained and properly taking up improvement of staff, getting stocks and issuing them and that they are distributed at proper prices. It will be appreciated that it need co - operation of the Members to see that any shortfall, inadequacy of the staff within the Department are brought to the notice of the Government.
Mr. Deputy Speaker :- Now I want to ascertain from the Mover of the Motion, Shri Khonglah, if he has got anything more to say.
Shri O. Khonglah :- No, Sir.
Mr. Deputy Speaker :- The debate is now closed.
The House stands adjourned till 10 a.m. tomorrow, Saturday, the 27th November, 1971.
|Dated Shillong :||
|The 26th November, 1971.||
Meghalaya Legislative Assembly.