Proceedings of the Winter Session of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly assembled at 9. 00 A.M. on Saturday the 7th December 1974, in the Assembly Chamber, Shillong.
Present - Mr. Speaker, in the Chair, Five Ministers, Two Ministers of State and Thirty Six Members.
Mr. Speaker :- Let us take up the first item of today's list of business. Mr. H.S. Lyngdoh, he is absent.
Now, Mr. Y. Fuller Lyngdoh to move his motion.
Shri Y. Fuller Lyngdoh :- Sir, I beg to move that this House do now discuss the need to open a Police Outpost at Nongkhlaw, Nongkhlaw Syiemship, Khasi Hills District.
Mr. Speaker :- Motion moved.
Shri Y. Fuller Lyngdoh (Mairang S.T.) :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, Nongkhlaw area is a big area consisting of many big villages. There is a market place where people as far as Mulur, Nongkrem and Sohmylleng come to this market place to get their daily necessities.
Mr. Speaker :- What is the nearest Police Station? Is it at Mairang?
Shri Y. Fuller Lyngdoh :- Yes, it is at Mairang. Sir, within this Nongkhlaw village there is a State Dispensary, and I.B., S.O. quarter of the P.W.D., and Government M.E. School, but the law and order situation has become very bad during the last few years. Crimes are increasing every day, and within the market itself, I have seen that there is selling of illicit liquor and gambling. So, Sir, in Outpost be opened within this village. With these few words, Sir, I move my motion.
Mr. Speaker :- Anybody would like participate in the discussion?
Shri Raisen Mawsor (Mawthengkut S.T.) :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, I rise to support the motion moved by the hon. Member from Mairang. I know there is a Police Station at Mairang. But it is far away from Nongkhlaw, and this area is a big area as not only Nongkhlaw but many other villages in Rambrai and Mairang Syiemships and also Nongspung Syiemship fall within this area. In fact we need a Police outpost to control law and order situation at Nongkhlaw. So in supporting this Motion, Sir, I would like the request Government to accept the Motion by opening one Police Outpost at Nongkhlaw.
Mr. Speaker :- Is there anybody else who would like to participate in the discussion? Now I invite the Chief Minister of reply.
Shri W.A. Sangma (Chief Minister) :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, I appreciate the desire of the mover of the Motion to have a Police Station at Nongkhlaw; but unfortunately he himself is unable to put forward convincing arguments for the establishment of such a Police Outpost. In this connection, I would like to request small State like ours, instead of going in for increased number of Police Outposts, it would be more beneficial to pay more attention to the development of the State as a whole. This particular Nongkhlaw Syiemship falls mostly under Shillong, Nongpoh and also Nongstoin Police Stations. I have tried to collect the incidence of crimes in the previous years, and according to information available with me; in 1972 there were only three cases registered; in 1973 only two cases; and in 1974 only one case and as the hon. mover himself has pointed out there is a centre at Mairang and this centre covers that area. It would be wrong on the part of the mover to justify the establishment of a Police Outpost only because there is a State dispensary, an I.B. and a Bazar. Establishment of a Police Outpost should be on the basis of incidence. I would rather like to request the hon. Member to realise that in our State, for many many eyras, we have been able to maintain the law and order situation through our own village administrative set up and agencies. In fact, I think even to day, instead of asking for more police outposts, we should try to maintain law and order in our respective areas through our own village agencies In fact, in some other parts of the State there is no necessity for establishment of police outposts as the village administrative authorities prefer to maintain the law and order situation in their respective elakas. I think that is a very good arrangement for looking into the law and order problem through village administrative units and we should encourage them. At the same time, one very important factor should be taken into consideration. When we go in for setting up of the police outposts; it is not by increasing the number of Police Outposts that we shall be able to tackle the law and order problem, but by modernising the police administration, by giving them the necessary facilities so that they will be able to discharge their functions effectively. In fact, Government is trying to modernise the police administration and also to give the police personnel all the facilities.
The mover contends since there is a bazar, as there should be a police station. That contention is not at all tenable. If that is the criterion, I do not know what will be the number of police stations in the State. Now in Garo Hills alone we have more than 400 bazars; in the Khasi Hills we have almost the same number of bazar. If the existing number of bazars is to be taken as the criterion for establishment of police outposts, then there will be no end to it. I would, therefore, request the hon. Mover to realise that according to crime incidence available at present, there is no justification to open a police outpost at Nongkhlaw.
Mr. Speaker :- But you are not asking the hon. Mover to withdraw!
Shri W.A. Sangma (Chief Minister) :- It is a motion, Sir!
Mr. Speaker :- Mr. Lyngdoh, would you like to reply?
Shri Y. Fuller Lyngdoh :- It is a fact, Sir, that there is a Police investigation centre at Mairang. But so far we have seen, the investigation centre cannot cover the entire area. So, in my opinion I feel that opening of a police outpost at Nongkhlaw is also necessary.
Mr. Speaker :- It seems that there are no new points raised by the hon. Member. So, the discussion on the subject is closed.
Mr. Speaker :- Now, motion No.3. Mr. Rowell Lyngdoh.
Shri Rowell Lyngdoh (Mawkyrwat S.T.) :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, I beg to move that this House do not discuss the acute scarcity of food stuff in certain areas of the State.
Mr. Speaker :- Motion moved.
Shri Rowell Lyngdoh :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, the scarcity of food-stuff and other essential commodities is felt in many parts of the State, and in certain areas it has become more or less like famine condition. Sir, prevails in certain areas where the people are facing a lot of difficulties because of shortage of food-stuff and other essential commodities. Sir, especially in the interior areas, non-availability of essential commodities like rice and other food-stuff is keenly felt. Sir, there had been cases of starvation in some villages like Shngimawlein in Nongspung Constituency where during the last September about 10 people died within a week, and in another village, Kmawan under Mawsynram Constituency where more than 5 people died within a week during the same period because of the fact that there was shortage of food-stuff in that area. Sir, though there were cases of death which all people suspected to be due to starvation but from the medical side and report is that they were suffering from gastro enteritis. Of course, we are nto conversant with medical term. But the general belief is that these deaths may be due to scarcity of essential commodities essential for the livelihood of the people. Sir, specially in the border areas of this district and Jaintia Hills District, may be also in Garo Hills District, as we have heard, the people were suffering very badly and till now also the same condition prevails though it is a harvest time Even now in the market there is no rice. This is because of the natural calamities like excessive rain, flood and hailstorm, that no paddy can be harvested by the cultivators. Therefore, Sir, the shortage of food stuff in these are is very much felt by the people. Moreover, Sir, news from many of the villages in the border areas. has come that the people have started selling their own children in order to get a morsel of food, and also news have come that the people are eating only the rots of some jungle trees. So, famine condition in prevailing till now in certain parts of the State, mostly in the border and in certain areas of western part of Khasi Hills District and also in some areas of Jaintia Hills District.
(At this stage the Speaker left the Chamber and the Deputy Speaker occupied the chair.)
Therefore, Sir, it is very difficulty for the people to live now without certain opportunity opened to them by the Government or without any programme which the Government ought to have taken up in order of relieve the people of the sufferings. Sir, there are many causes leading to these sad happenings because of the shortage of food-stuff in these areas, the partly it is because of the lack of purchasing power of the people since whatever essential commodities and food-stuff available there is their areas, are very very costly due to the present inflation and raising prices in the country. People cannot but the essential commodities at high prices and therefore, Sir, this leads them to starvation. And partly due to non-availability of essential foodstuff itself, most of them are suffering very much. For example we have seen that the Government's minimum demand for rice during the month of April, 1973 to March, 1974 for this District alone was up to the tune of 42,000 tonnes per year. This is according tot he replies given to unstarred Question No.176 of the last Session and the actual receipt was to the tune of 20,000 tonnes only, less than half the actual minimum demand which has been made by the Government. But Sir, only half of it was made available to the people whereas another half could not be obtained from the Central pool. So Sir, how can we expect the people to live when could not get even the minimum quantity of rice demanded. This is so far we have seen from the Government side that they could not provide adequate food-stuff to the people of this State. Moreover, Sir, due to some political change during the last few years, the position of essential commodities was such that there was restriction everywhere; even in the open market rice was not available at all. This may be due to the increase of population in almost all parts of the State of India. For so many years past we have been receiving rice in the open market from the plains of Assam and West Bengal and also part of it used to come from across the international border of Bangladesh. But now, with this political development everywhere, rice is not forthcoming to our State. Therefore, only indigenous products are sold in the markets and so there is scarcity of food-stuff in some areas. Moreover, there is certain restriction on the movement of rice and other essential commodities and so essential commodities never reach the village at all. They got struck somewhere in the towns or in some other places where they can be sold at higher prices. Therefore, Sir, this restriction for movement of essential commodities has affected the people to a great extent because they could never get food-stuff and other things in their areas especially in the border areas. Last year, during the months of July and August so many people died of starvation in Raitong of Bhoi area because rice was not available there. Moreover Sir, natural calamities have occurred in certain areas of the State and because of the failure of crops in almost all the areas of the State people are suffering very much and this does not give any encouragement at all to the people to reap a good harvest out of their cultivation in order to relieve this famine condition in the State. People will continue to suffer throughout the year as we have been suffering during the last few months; we have seen famine condition is prevailing everywhere and there is no sign of its ending. Therefore, it is the duty of the Government now to look into this matter by according some development programmes whereby we can get some relief fro our people in the State. So, Sir, I would advocate that the State Government should declare certain areas of the State as famine stricken areas where, as I have said earlier, famine condition is prevailing. Some time back I remember to have seen in the paper that in Jaintia Hills District, the C.E.M. has spoken to many villages in the border areas of the District that those areas are in near-famine condition. Therefore, I once again urge that the State, should now declare certain areas as famine striken areas and then to find out some means by which relief could be extended to those areas. Now only that development programme also should be accelerated in those areas. So, I would suggest that the following areas should be declared as famine condition:-
Mawthengkut area under Nongstoin Block, Mawkyrwat, Nongspung and Phlangdiloin Constituencies in Mawkyrwat Development Block and then the border areas under Mawsynram Block, Cherra Bholaganj Block and Pynursla Block should be declared as famine area. Then Saipung-Darrang Block of Jaintia Hills and also, Sir, some border areas of Garo Hills District should be declared as famine areas, and of course in certain part of Bhoi area also which were affected very badly by famine.
Therefore, I again request the Government to draw up some programmes and accelerate these development programmes in order to give relief to the affected people. With these few words I resume my seat.
Shri Hopingstone Lyngdoh (Pariong S.T.) :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I rise to participate in the motion moved by my colleague, Shri R. Lyngdoh, the hon. Member from Mawkyrwat. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, it is a fact that certain areas in the State are really badly affected by natural calamities and so there was scarcity of food-stuff. These areas may be declared by the Government as famine affected areas. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, out State is very poor. We cannot produce enough of food-stuff, even then during the last decade this problem of food scarcity was not there. But, Sir, this, year is the said areas of Garo Hills, Khasi and Jaintia Hills there was heavy rainfall and sometimes accompanied with hailstorms and also the depredation by wild animals the whole cultivation was damaged. Of course, I do not know much about the increase of wild animals which are also one of the causes of natural calamity of the food crops. Sir, in this year is a rather peculiar year in which we had heavy rainfall all over the State and according to records it is the heaviest so far that we have ever had in the State. Sir, this rain has damaged the cultivation by causing floods and erosion in the river valleys of the State. Of course, Sir, when we discussed some time, at some level, the Government has stated that there cannot be flood in the hills and according to their reply to a motion they could not believe that flood has hit the State very badly; but with regard to some parts of Garo Hills having been affected by flood the Government of India have of course admitted that flood has hit them. But they never believed that flood could hit the Khasi Hills. This was a fact and I do not understand the definition that the Union Government has accepted of term "flood". They say that the term "flood" can be applied only to the plains and not to the Hills. Sir, sometimes they said that only in the time of Noah that flood could cause the whole surface of earth (laughter) to be submerged but not now. But it is a fact Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, and you might have seen the river valleys in spate in these Hills then both the banks of the river valleys are flooded. This year, right from the month of May the river valleys in the State were flooded thereby causing erosion. As you know, Sir, these waters do not remain stagnant as the water of the Indian Ocean or the Bay of Bengal. So Sir, it is quite understandable that the floods cause more damages in the hills areas than in the plains. Of course, in the plains once the flood comes the areas are flooded and all living beings both animals and plants are affected but not so on higher hand. But on the other hand it is worse in the hill areas because the flood is of such a nature that it not only destroys the food crops but erodes the land also. That is the reason why there is scarcity of foodstuff in those areas especially in the Lyngngam area; may be in some parts of Garo Hills. I may mention here that the people in the Mawthengkut Constituency grow millets which they used to harvest in the months of July upto Augusts but because of the unprecedented rainfall this crop had been affected very badly and there was practically no harvest of millet in the Lyngngam area. So, Sir, in the months of August-September, there was the gastro-enteritis epidemic there. The same thing happened in the Jirang area and in Mawhati in the Ri-Bhoi area. According to the reports of the doctors the cause of outbreak of this epidemic was due to scarcity of food. At Jirang alone hundred of people died in one village. In the village of Mawtamur with 50 houses, 20 people died of gastro-enteritis. Sir, last year, if was not so bad as this year, but even then in the Lyngngam areas and also in the Ri-Bhoi areas there was shortage of food and so there was an outbreak of the gastro-enteritis epidemic there. In the Maharam Syiemship also the people had nothing to eat. As my colleague from Mawkyrwat has stated, same was the case in Balat areas, in Mawput, in Ryngku and in Kmawan. I went there during last August-September and I found that the people had nothing to eat. The reasons for this scarcity of food in these areas was because the heavy rains had damaged the cultivation very badly right from the flowering season. Sir, these people people did not have anything to exchange in the markets during the whole season and so they could not purchase even the bare necessity of life. We have also heard that some stocks of fair price rice have reached in some places like Mawlong and Laitkynsew but the people had no money to buy while, at the same time, there was no food-stuff on the other side of the border-Bangladesh because of flood. In this way, Sir, our people who used to produce cash product have nothing to exchange with the people of Bangladesh who used to bring fish and eggs. Sir, I presume that in the area is still very bad and it will be worse in the next harvesting season because of the bad harvest of paddy this year in Bangladesh from which our people used to get some quantities of food-stuff by way or smuggling to our side of the border. The cast flood has very badly affected paddy cultivation in Bangladesh and there is nothing left for the next year. Sir, in Bangladesh even salt is selling at Rs.5 per Kg. whereas here we can get salt at the rate of 80 paise per Kg. Mr. Deputy Speaker Sir, due to this high price, salt is being smuggled from this side of the border to Bangladesh every day. Not only salt, even food-stuff is being smuggled to Bangladesh and the sad thing is that these commodities are being smuggled smoothly to Bangladesh. The price of rice here is the same everywhere in India but it is not so in Bangladesh. In Bangladesh salt is being sold at Rs.5 or Rs.10 per Kg. So, Sir, the border areas because of flood and famine in Bangladesh have been greatly affected. The heavy rainfall this year has destroyed the corps of our people living in the border areas right from Jaintia Hills border down to Phulbari areas in Garo Hills District, and as a result, these areas have been affected by famine. According to my knowledge, people have nothing to eat. Sir, in some parts, of Khasi Hills District in the Upland regions the people are facing great difficulty in getting food. In 1973 the harvest was very bad and the people had nothing to eat during the month of May, June and July upto September. This year also they could not harvest maize because of heavy rainfall which has totally destroyed maize cultivation in the upland regions of this District. During the months of August, September and October, of the year the people used to live on maize but this year due to rain there is no harvest of maize. Now even seeds will not be available to the people for the next growing season. So, Sir, this year 1974 is very bad year for maize cultivation. Moreover, this heavy rainfall and flood has damaged the paddy which the people used to grow on the hill slopes. Even Jhum paddy cultivation has been smashed by rain and flood. In certain villages under the Nongstoin Block, paddy and other crops have been smashed completely by hailstones, Certain part of Mawiang under Mawkyrwat Block, Nongspung Syiemship under the Mawsynram Block and the surrounding areas have been very badly affected by hailstones. All crops have been damaged and smashed and nothing has been left for harvest. That happened in the month of October last. Therefore Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, the sole intention of my participation in the discussion of this important motion is to offer my suggestion and observation. As I said the year 1975 will be a very bad year because and even now the people do not have anything to eat right from the harvest time. In fact in every nook and corner of Khasi Hills District, either at the top of the hills or in the foothills we used to harvest at least certain quantity of paddy every year. But unfortunately this year, we have nothing to harvest and I am afraid that this food scarcity will affect our State right from the month of April. Mr. Deputy Speaker,. Sir, I support this motion and request the Government to look into this matter.
Then one thing I would like to mention here is that we have passed in the Block Committee of the Nongstoin Block a resolution urging the Government to look into this matter which has been affecting the State. Due to natural calamity there is no food-stuff in the affected areas of the State. But we learnt from the Government that there is no scheme or plan to help the people because there is nobody in the Government of India who will believe that there is flood in this State of ours which consists mainly of hilly areas. The Government of India cannot be convinced that flood occurred in the State this year. But Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, you have seen yourself that there was flood in Phulbari area this year and we had been there in Phulbari P.W.D. Inspection Bungalow we could not see anything but flood water everywhere. It was like the cape Commorin in the Indian Ocean. You have seen, Sir, the dead bodies of animals and human beings. But I am sorry, Sir, that the Government of India did not believe that there was flood in the State. Flood occurred in the Mawkyrwat Block and I do not know why the amount of Rs.2,500 only has been given to the people of Mawkyrwat Block as relief. Sir, this amount is not sufficient even for a small family like mine for a month. So, Sir, famine is prevailing in these flood-affected areas of the State. Through experience I may say that when cultivation fails there will be famine and the people will not have anything to eat or grow. I hope Sir, this House might have seen or heard of the situation, and that is why I full agree with my friend, the hon. Member who had just spoken before me, that the Government should be alert about this scarcity of food and take up certain schemes and also try to get relief money from the Government of India. We must also procure from within our State certain quantity of food-stuffs so that we can face the coming year of 1975. With these few words, Sir, I resume my seat.
Shri W. Syiemiong (Nongspung S.T.) :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, my colleagues who have spoken before me, have dwelt at length on the acute scarcity of foodstuff in certain areas of the State and I do not know whether my participation in this motion now will have any effect on the Government, because if I may remind this august House, through you, Sir, that in the month of July this year, that is during the last session, I have moved a similar motion of this type and I have predicted that such scarcity of foodstuff and other commodities will be there in future. Had the Government paid heed of my prediction, the extent of scarcity as it has happened would not have been so much.
Because of scarcity, during the last few months, some deaths have occurred out of starvation. And because of substandard food taken by the outcome of food deficiency. Some of them have taken recourse to eating wild roots and other kinds of foodstuff and because of this they have suffered from diseases. This time I would like to say that the Government should more earnest to meet the problem in future. Now I would like to say again as I did in the last Session. I would like to remind the hon. Members what the world expert in agriculture like Dr. Norman Borlog who predicted that in 1975 there will be widespread food scarcity all over the world. I wish the Government will take note of this because ours is a deficit State and where harvest has turned out a total failure in certain areas because of the failure of crops. Therefore, I can assure the House that there will be scarcity, and more of it in this area if the Government is not serious about the problem. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I therefore, want that the Government should do something to avoid this disaster, which is so obvious especially in the border areas of this district and of the Jaintia Hills District as well as the District of Garo Hills. For all these years there had been complaint that nothing definite has been done and there have been complaint that nothing definite has been done and that there have been other types of complaints which are still coming up. Even other substitutes for food also have become scarce in some region and as has been mentioned by my colleague from Pariong there has been a total failure of corps in his area also. My area is one of the places where a very good type of maize as a substitute for rice in their diet. But this year, it is quite difficult because there has been very bad harvest of maize, and many people are left with not even enough seeds for planting in the next season. Even with potato also there has been failure, not to say of rice and maize only. We also have heard of many complaints from everywhere about the breach of irrigation schemes or dams because of the floods, and in many other places where there are no such complaints, there had been cases where flood overflowed paddy fields which damaged the crops as had been stated by the hon. Member from Pariong, and as such people had been stated by the hon. Member from Pariong, and as such people had nothing to harvest. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I, therefore, would like to request the Government, through you, that for the year 1975 the Government should take bold steps to check starvation which is so imminent. I understand the Government has taken a move for procurement of paddy and I would say, to the extent I full agree. But I would like to know from the Government that while procuring paddy whether they will do so only from certain Zamindars and the like or whether the Government will procure paddy from the lower and middle class people also. As far as I know there are very few Zamindars and the like and I am afraid that when procurement is made he Government will do so from the lower and middle class farmers. This, I am afraid, may not be very good because I will certainly affect the incentive of the lower and middle class farmers. And then I would like to point out to the Government that in this procurement of Paddy, that Government should be careful in fixing the price lest we create problems like those which were being experienced by the State of Assam as well as the State of West Bengal in procuring paddy. In any case, I feel that the Government will be able to cope with this problem in future. My last request in this that if the Government is going to procure more rice for the State, I am sure the Government would procure rice from the State of Haryana and Assam and not from Western countries like U.S.A. or Canada because by eating the rice from these countries may defile us as has been alleged by some of the newspaper. It may be that our eating the rice from America and Canada made us anti-nationals. As a matter of fact, I wish the Government therefore to be strong in its arguments to convince the F.C.I. and the Government of India to offer us rice from Haryana and from Assam or from others State of India because we shall be anti-nationals if we take rice from U.S.A. or Canada although I personally never come into contact with any Western Missionary or any other Missionary nor do I believe that any of the hon. Member of this august House have come into contact and became defiled by ideas injected by them. With these few words, I resume my seat.
Shri S.N. Koch :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, while participating in this motion, I would refer to a Committee meeting the date of which if I correctly remember was 25th September of this year when I raised this question to the Chief Minister who happens to be the Chairman of the Flood Relief Committee as to what is the definition of flood. Then the Honourable Chief Minister, the Chairman of the Flood Relief Committee ruled out that this is a ridiculous question. Hearing from H.S. Lyngdoh, I came to know that the Union Government and the Union leaders could not believe that there may be floods in our State. This was also made known to me through press and discussions in the street. The Union leaders are not inclined to accept the fact that there is flood in Meghalaya. This doubt appeared in my mind long back and that is the reason why I wanted to know from the hon. Chief Minister whether the rain waters which flow from Hill to Plains and submerge the soil can also be treated as flood. But our Hon. Chief Minister did not answer and the hon. Members present in the meeting also did not give much heel to it and hence there is no wonder today if Union Government rejects the plain fact of flood ravages in our State While I am referring to this particular point here Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I would like to stress before this House that there may not be floods by the Brahmaputra water in many parts of the State but in my humble opinion there may be floods caused by rain water which sunk down from the top of the hill through streams rivulets and rivers and the instances of such floods are very much visible in my Constituency in Mendipathar where the sears of these ravages are still to be seen.
Shri W.A. Sangma (Chief Minister) :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I want to know whether the point raised by the hon. Member is about the food or the flood situation. I would request the hon. Member to confine himself only to the question of flood as it arises in this very context.
Shri S.N. Koch :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, regarding relevancy whether this is relevant or not?
Shri W.A. Sangma (Chief Minister) :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, the hon. Member being a lawyer himself should realise that this is relevant.
Shri Maham Singh :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, the cause of flood scarcity is because of floods.
Shri W.A. Sangma (Chief Minister) :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, we are not here to discuss the definition of floods but the hon. Member is trying to discuss the definition of flood.
Shri H.E. Pohshna :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir,.............
Shri W.A. Sangma (Chief Minister) :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I would request the hon. Member not to pursue the definition of flood as this is out of the question
Shri S.N. Koch :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I cannot speak about food scarcity without referring to floods. Why I speak about flood and its definition is because I have seen these things reported in the newspaper also.
Shri W.A. Sangma (Chief Minister) :- Let the hon. Member give the definition of flood and the Government will consider it.
Mr. Deputy Speaker :- Mr. Koch, please confine yourself to the Motion.
Shri S.N. Koch :- Yes, Sir, I will confine to that.
Mr. Deputy Speaker :- Flood is no doubt once of the causes for food scarcity but now you are discussing about the meaning of flood, etc.
You can say that flood is one of the causes which bring about food scarcity.
Shri S.N. Koch :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, the question now is that my constituency, Mendipathar is a flood affected area but the flood water of Mendipathar constituency is not the water coming from Brahmaputra as is under flood by the national leaders and the Union Government when they refer to floods in Assam and also from the discussion previously made in this House, I cannot say that this Mendipathar is a flood-affected area. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, you have come and passed through Mendipathar and you have seen yourself in three places there are breaches of Gajing-Resulbelpara P.W.D. Road at the bottom which is 100. ft. wide.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Are you referring to national leaders?
Shri S. N. Koch : Yes, Sir, the national leaders are not believing that there could be floods in Meghalaya.
Shri B. B. Lyngdoh (Minister, Finance) : The national leaders and the Union leaders believed that there were floods in Meghalaya and even made donation to the Test Relief Fund and even loans also.
Shri S. N. Koch : Let me leave the chapter. But the food condition in our State, specially in Garo Hills is very bad because of floods, and this was in the worst position from June to September. And the attitude of the Government in the matter of handling the situation was not upto expectation. When flood came, I rushed to the flood affected areas and I visited an collected datas and wrote letters to the Government apprising it of the position. Fortunately or unfortunately, of course, we have one very efficient District Administrator at that time and under his own discretion, he did something to give relief to the flood victims and I believe he had done it with great sincerity but as soon as the matter went to the Government level all his requests and appeals were received coldly. In fact, thereafter, when this comes to the Government level, what I gather from the discussion in the Secretariat level nothing tangible was done to help the flood victims. I remember on 20th September when we visited Phulbari in course of the Estimate Committee's Inspection and while we were visiting Hospital, Members and P.W.D. staff and some of the people present reported to us that in the average, five people died daily in the hospital and in the camps because there was no sufficient supply of food stuff. On returning from our tour when I contacted the Deputy Commissioner he told me that the could give relief to those victims who are homeless only for 3 days as that was the instruction he got from the Government. Now, Sir, this is only about the situation in Phulbari area. Like Phulbari area, there are other parts in the plains and in the foot hills of the district, for example, Mouza No.7 which falls in the Selsela Constituency, Mouza No.5 under Resubelpara Block and Mendipathar Constituency where people were affected by flood. As regards Mendipathar this much I can say that the rise of water from the river bed about 60 ft. high destroyed the standing crops as well as bridges.
Shri Humphrey Hadem : On a point of clarification, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I want to make some observation. The hon. Member has referred to natural calamities which actually do not fall within the purview of this motion. The motion is about food scarcity. Sir, I would like here here to refer to Rule 131(3)(ix) where it is stated "it shall not relate to a matter which is not primarily the concern of the Government of the State". May we understand Sir, whether natural calamities are primarily the concern of the State Government?
Shri S. N. Koch : The hon. Member himself has replied.
Shri Humphrey Hadem : I would like to have clarification Sir, whether natural calamities are caused by nature or are created by the Government?
Shri S. N. Koch :You have made the point clear, Sir. When I said I was hit by a bullet fired by Mr. Hadem - and if I complained for the injury caused by the bullet shot of Mr. Hadem his name automatically comes into the picture.
Shri Humphrey Hadem : This is primarily unfair, Sir. I am not charging the Member directly.
Shri H. E. Pohshna : I cannot understand- whether Mr. Hadem referred to the natural or national calamities.
Shri Humphrey Hadem : I request that some clarification should be made because the rules do not permit a motion on happenings which were not primarily caused by the Government. But now it was alleged that so many natural calamities were actually caused by the Government. That is why I am asking whether these calamities were created by the Government? And whether these are the governing principles that the Motion has been admitted where the hon. Member has charged that the Government is causing the natural calamities.
Prof. M. N. Majaw : Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, natural calamities may be caused by nature and relief is granted by Government. It is the duty of the Government to grant relief to those victims and only just now, the Finance Minister has said that the Central Government have given loans and grants to victims affected by natural calamities. So I feel that the hon. Member from this side is not speaking irrelevant.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : I have already requested the hon. Member to confine only to the subject of the main Motion.
Shri Pritington Sangma : Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, when the hon. Member mentioned that at least 5 persons died daily in hospital, I want to know in which particular hospital these people died on account of flood?
Shri S. N. Koch : At Phulbari. We have been there with the Estimates Committee Members.
Shri Pritington Sangma : Another thing, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, the hon. members has mentioned about the flood at Mendipathar area. As a responsible Member, I would like to know whether he has ever visited the flood-affected people there.
Shri S. N. Koch :Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, it appears that, instead of discussing on this important subject, my standing up to speak has become the subject matter for the discussion. I have been interrupted by the Leader of the House right from the start upto the last Member who speak just now.
Shri B. B. Lyngdoh (Minister, Parliamentary Affairs) : Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, may I intervene? Here actually the hon. Member was responsible for this diversion. He himself has diverted too far from the subject of the Motion. If it is a Motion to discuss about flood situation that can be understood. But this Motion seeks to discuss the food situation in the State. Sir, there are so many things to be said on the flood situation but it is quite irrelevant here under this motion. That is why the hon. Member is responsible for this diversion.
Shri S. N. Koch : Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, it appears that there is objection from the Treasury Bench that for the food scarcity in our State flood is not responsible. Let us accept that view that food scarcity in our State is not result of national calamities like devastating flood which have recently visited so we can come to the conclusion that it is man-made scarcity. I have spoken for example, about Phulbari area where about 5 or 6 people died daily and where as many as 7 M.L.As have visited that area. One day I have been to Dalu along with one Garo friend. I saw one Garo gentleman; he has only with skin and bone, and on enquiry, I came to know that this very gentleman did not get his food nor tasted rice for about 14 days. So also in my own village where I was born, there are 60 families.
Out of 60 families about 58 families have to live without food. As a result of this I was compelled to refer to this flood. The people there live on three crops, that is Sali, Ahu and Jute. Now Sir, our State is an agriculturists State and more than 80 per cent of the people live on cultivation. These are the main crops harvested right from June-July Sali is harvested during the months of November to January and the cultivators have to live on Sali paddy upto June-July and then they are to depend on relieving crops such as Ahu and Jute. The flood water coming from the hills and from the plains this year has destroyed the relieving crops such as Ahu and Jute and as a result the people have nothing to eat and in those periods, there were rumours of large smuggling of food stuff to the next neighbouring State, that in Assam. Specially, Mankachar and Sukchar and that the Tura Police detected as many as 12 or 13 trucks load of paddy going towards Mankachar. As soon as the Police caught the trucks the traders came back to the Supply office and managed movement permit, which they could not show when the Police detected them. I do not know the reason behind all this. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, if somebody stands for five minutes in the Deputy Commissioner's Court compound one will find that the people are standing in queue for days and weeks for the allotment of rice, Atta, etc. but always one hears that there was nor allotment as there was no stock. In this way, people are coming and going almost without any allotment, but at the same time some truck -loads or rice and Atas are going towards Phulbari, Mankachar, Mahendragang etc. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, during this year, the people of our State, especially in Garo Hills District, are experiencing man-made calamities, as well as natural calamities. During the last Assembly Session, I referred to this subject in which for a simple matter I went to the Supply office. That is a matter for the appointment of lessee when the Deputy Commissioner has made a rule that he would appoint a F.P. shop lessee if a committee constituted by the local M.L.As, M.D.Cs and B.D.Os recommend his case. But in spite of such recommendation took two months time to appoint, two F.P. shop lessee despite my personal request to the Supply authority. I have written a letter in this respect to D.C with copy to the Supply Minister stating that there is a rumour that papers of the Supply office moved only on payment at the rate of Re.1.00 per inch. I got the copy of the said letter endorsed to the Minister i/c Supply and I also spoke on this particular case on the floor of this august House but I do not know whether Government has taken any action, or not I therefore, would request the Ministry through you, Sir, that Government should make thorough overhauling of the Government machinery in Supply Department so that people do not suffer in the hands of dishonest officers. With these few words, I resume my seat.
Prof. M.N. Majaw (Mawhati S.T.) :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I am grateful to the hon. Member from Mawkyrwat for moving this motion today, because it has given me an opportunity to discuss a very important subject affecting in the State. Important though this subject be to the members of the Ruling Party, I do not know why less than half of them are present now during a discussion of this important motion; perhaps those who are absent are perhaps satisfied with the supply of food in the State. So I would earnestly request those who are present, and who are obviously not satisfied and have, therefore, come to participate in the debate, not to take up an attitude of opposition merely because the motion has been moved from this side of the House, as they will not have to vote on the motion. To speak frankly, there is no party whip to oppose this motion. Now, the Government ahs often said from the agricultural point of view that paddy production is increasing in the State. In fact, I was told by a senior officer of this Government that the officers of Supply Department and Agriculture Department went to Delhi at the same time. Some officers went to Delhi to get more allotment for the State from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and others to report on increased production. So that on the one hand paddy production is supposed to be increasing and on the other hand we beg for more supply of food for our State. It is certainly important to procure some quantity of paddy, in addition to what is provided by the Central Government, as this would assist the State. It was decided that the Food Corporation of India would act as an agent in the procurement of paddy and certain areas were decided upon or selected for this purpose in this District. We suggest that procurement should take place during the kharif season and the rates laid down should be the lowest market rates. Unfortunately, this is a very sad year particularly in the Bhoi area where we are supposed to get so much of rice but unfortunately, all those stocks of rice were depleted. In many villages in the Bhoi area people are dying every day from starvation. Many of them have to live on leaves, roots and straw-pellets. There is a reports from the Civil Surgeon to the Deputy Commissioner of this district that in the village of Raitong alone in the Mawhati Constituency, people are living haphazardly on roots and leaves in the month of July as there was no rice or paddy available. This has been put down in writing by the Civil Surgeon in his report to the Deputy Commissioner and the D.C. had to rush rice and other consumable commodities immediately to certain villages in which there is no food at all. I do know that the deaths that took place in certain villages in the Bhoi area were directly the cause of nature. But Sir, I would also like to point out to this august House that in many cases diseases were indirectly caused by lack of stamina and components in the human body and also due to lack of food. There is no stamina in the human body to resist the diseases and so the people have died. In my Constituency alone about 230 people died of gastro-enteritis and malnutrition. I would definitely say that indirectly death occurred due to scarcity of food in the sara. In the village of Raitong alone, 40 people have died including some from the village of Belkuri in the Nongpoh Constituency. It is reopened that on one occasion, 30 our of 40 people died in this village previously which amounts to almost 3 people per house. Further, I am told that in Jirang village over 100 people have died according to the report received by the D.C. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, the people who died, I must say, are fortunate because those who live are now to face something worse than death and starvation. In the village of Raitong, for example because a large number of families were engaged in looking after the sick, the people have no time to go to their field and as such there were many fields in the area which were covered by shrub and became untilisable. A number of families could not go to their fields to cultivate or plough them as they have to attend to the sick at home for weeks together. I had the occasion at one time to attend the funeral of a deceased villager. On one occasion, I had attended three funerals on the same day in the village of Raitong. Day before yesterday, I went to the interior of my Constituency where the hail-storm had destroyed almost half the crops or atleast one-third of the crops on the 15th November, 1974 right from Umroi upto Iapngar village. The Deputy Commissioner went with me and interviewed many people about the happening. Yesterday, I went to Iapngar the area swept by storm and the loss on cultivation is difficult to describe. At least half of the crops were completely destroyed and wiped out by storm. People of that area have submitted petitions to the Government and I hope that they will be sympathetically looked into and some kind of aid in cash or loan will be given to the affected persons. I do not accept the contention that when we refer to scarcity we are speaking irrelevantly for the simple reason that we refer to flood. Flood, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, has three results direct results upon food, I want to mention a few of the areas where we have visited. Firstly is the carrying away of soil which is used for cultivation and for the soil having been carried away you can not grow anything and therefore, no food can be expected out of that land where the people used to live. Secondly, flood carries away every cultivation from the soil. Thirdly, there are places in my Constituency in the Bhoi area where the rivers flooded and the people cannot cross the river to come to market to bring a little to sell. Therefore, those who come to the market could not buy or sell paddy or rice. In this way, flood had prevented the people from coming to the market to sell or buy paddy or rice thereby causing scarcity of food in those areas. But even then, they are being granted some concession by this Government when they say that these are natural calamities what can we do? But this a flood which is man-made. We have suffered from it, we have seen it. This is a man-made flood. When our great Assam State Electricity Board releases water from the dame suddenly on the 2nd and 3rd October while I was returning to Shillong from Pynthor, water rose to 5 feet high as it came rushing down from Barapani Lake. Then I thought I was like Moses as it is only he who could pass through waters and water came rushing back when he passed. Right from Lalung area upto Nowgong district of Assam throughout Umiam river all those areas were affected by this sudden and tremendous release of water from the dam. Prior to that, another flood happened on 16th and 17th August because of the sudden release of water from the dam. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, 11 paddy fields on the other side of Tyrso Valley have been destroyed by water rising about 100 feet from the bed carrying away all the standing crops on 16th August 1974. When our Public Accounts Committee visited those villages upto Sohnidan we received many complaints from the villagers who have suffered from the sudden release of water by the Assam State Electricity Board the marks and remains of that flood can well be seen and imagined. Many paddy fields in Tyrso Valley, Umlaper, Pynthor, Kseh and Mawtari have been destroyed by this flood. Now, Sir, I have always registered may protest to the Assam State Electricity Board for this. Of course, I am subject to person non-grata for that. I have also opposed to the setting up of a great project in our State in which 25,000 acres of paddy fields would be washed away further depicting the stock of paddy in the State. Of course, they want to drink more water, eat more fishes but without rice. They have not done anything and no compensation was paid to a single farmer right from Umiam upto Lalung areas in the Nowgong district of Assam. So many applications and petitions are still lying with the Government for the damage caused by this man-made flood but not even a naya paisa has been released. In fact the Executive Engineer of Assam State Electricity Board was very kind to issue notice to the people of Tyrso and other adjoining places that they should not cross the river of Umiam for three months. I do not know in that case how people will go the market, to their paddy fields if they are not allowed to cross the river Umiam for three months because water would be released at a high spate. When it was brought to the notice of the Chief Engineer, he of course replied, well Professor, why are you so anxious? We have got siren at Barapani. I think that siren could be heard only by God, even the people of Umroi would not be able to hear the siren let alone the people of Tyrso and other places. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, nobody knows how much damage is caused how many cattle and other animals are carried away by this man-made flood. During the last Session I had warned this Government but nothing has been done whatsoever. Therefore, I would demand in this House that next year when it will be necessary for the project,. perhaps this Assam State Electricity Board is partially responsible to this House also, they must be compelled to issue more notifications before they release water so that immense damage caused to the paddy fields and cattle of course we do not know whether human beings also had been carried away by this man-made flood or not could be avoided. Lots of people alone the bank of Umroi river had been very adversely affected and I would demand from the Government whether they are prepared to issue some sort of ultimatum to the Assam State Electricity Board so that they will be compelled to put siren along the entire length of Umiam river. But then why should they release all water at a time; why not smaller quantity? why the river is at so much spate suddenly because they release water at a time from a height of 3218 ft. from sea level; as a result the level of water in the river goes up 10 ft. high. I do not understand why every night could not be releases say 2/3 ft. instead of waiting for rainy season and then release the water from Olympian height at Barapani by opening the sluice and causing thereby immense damage.
Then Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, animals that destroy food, destroy corps. This is not the first time we have referred to depredation of food stocks in the State caused by elephants and other animals. Unfortunately then we have got wild life protection scheme. And I know for myself in one village at least where a problem is posed as to whether animals should live or men should live. There are hundreds of applications before this Government on account of depredations by animals, and I remember some hunters were sent to Sanidan for shooting the elephants. But the hunter refused to shoot any elephants since the elephants did not have any tusk. So even after spending so much by the people for food and other spiritual things for the hunters not a single elephant was short. One cannot say how many crops have been destroyed in Mawhati and Umsning area by elephants. The situation is worst in Jair, a village of 26 houses, where people are watching their paddy fields every night for last 3 months and are protecting their paddy either by fire or shouting from Machangs. And it so happened that them Sirdar of Jair while watching the paddy field over nigh from the Machangs he felt sleepy and fell down on the fire down below the burnt his whole face. You may smile but the poor fellow burnt his whole face. This was another incident where one villagers died. He was watching the elephant from the Machangs carrying his baby and he also felt sleepy and fell down. He lost his life, somehow the baby could survive. Every year half of the crops are being destroyed especially in Bhoi areas by Elephants. The wild elephant come out in hordes in search of young bamboo shoots and just trample the paddy. then there are bears and monkeys which are creating havoc in Kyrdem areas. They come in hordes and destroyed everything, especially paddy. Then he have got wild boars and had this Government been a little active the could have made a good provision of roasts during Christmas by killing these wild boars.
Now, I would like to say a few words regarding pests. Now, so far as pests are concerned it has been that the Agriculture Department supplied pesticides and insecticides and by using these things not only pests or insects died; along with them crops also died and the animals died who tried to eat the crops.
I do not know which company supplied these pesticides or insecticides Rather it has become something like cattle-cides like homicides.
Now, what is the solution of all these problems. Well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, the Government has some suggestions. We have fair Price shops which again is a big joke. Generally whatever little quantity of rice we get through these fair price shops does not reach the interior places. It is further deleted. And then the quantity issued by the Supply Department after a great deal of manipulation and depletion the quantity is so small say for example, sugar hardly a few spoonful of sugar you will get. The quantity of rice is only 250 grams per week per head whereas a man in Bhoi area will eat 250 grams in one meal (laughter). How can he carry on with 250 grams only in one week?
(A voice : let them take elephants!) That is welcome.
Now coming to seeds, If you go to the Agriculture Department, you will find either DAO is out on tour or he has gone somewhere or by the time they get the seeds, it is no longer time for planting and by the time the fertilizer is given, it has already passed the fertilizer period. Now, there are one or two Department who must be given due credit like the Soil Conservation Department and Agriculture Department who at least are trying to do something but these are limping along. They are doing a lot in terracing and other forms of agriculture to help the farmers but still then they should come forward to open roads so that they can bring their produce to the markets. But I must say that the Agriculture Department and Supply Department should be completely reorganised. Sir, some of these great chaps of the Department should be transferred immediately, not back to the Supply Department in the District Office, but say to Industries or to some other District Office where they have nothing to do with the supply. I will speak of another action which Government can take, that is by transferring them not only within the Deputy Commissioner, but from the Deputy Commissioner of Industries or other officers like P.W.D. or P.H.E. and to other offices within the District so that these persons who are holding up supply of food to these areas may be transferred to areas unsuitable to them.
Now, about grants. The Hon'ble Minister for Agriculture announced in the House that from the 1st April no more grants would be given. In principle, we agree. But then when no more grants were given, they should be given in kind. But as pointed out your kind is most unkind, because you do not give seeds at the right time, fertilisers at the right time and so your grants in kind are very unkindly given. And again if you talk about machine-tractors and bulldozers. Good heavens! There are areas where they cannot approach within five miles because there are no roads. Previously when grants were given somehow or other the grants may go to a radio or wrist watch but still it went to the farmer. Now, all grants at this stage the Deputy Speaker left the Chamber and Shri H. Hadem took the Chair) have been stopped and kind is very unkindly given and the net result is that nothing goes to the interior. I can see the reply in the Minister's mind. There is a great Block a stumbling Block. The blocks that we have are stumbling blocks. If a farmers wants to get grant or loan to develop agriculture in his farm. Mr. Chairman, Sir, the procedure is he will have to go to Umsning that is in the Bhoi area. He has to go on an average of 12 to 20 times of persuade the Gram Sevak, his holiness, his highness the Gram Sevak to come to his village and after a dozen appeals on different occasions and spending so much money in coming and going to Umsning, ultimately his majesty the Gram Sevak decided to go. His rate is about Rs.50 just to set his royal foot upon the village. And of course the poor farmer has to supply him with needs both material and spiritual and then he goes home without signing any single sheet of paper. Again the poor farmer has to go to another senior Gram Sevak, the great potentate whose powers is something to be seen and a great leech. This senior Gram Sevak has a higher rate who after bargaining would ultimately come down to about Rs.100 just to visit and nothing is done. This Gram Sevak being senior his hunger is greater and his thirst greater. This senior Gram Sevak has a senior hunger and a senior thirst but he also failed to sign any paper and came back to Umsning Block Headquarters. A great petition is now made to the A.E.O. the Agricultural Extension Officer whose extend of powers is better seen that imagined. His demand is of course greater and he has another rate but I will not involved too many officers of the Hierarchy through which the simple farmers has to go through in order to get ultimately Rs.200. He has spent Rs.700 and at the time of getting the grant he has to give Rs.100 for this expense and Rs.100 for that. There was a case of a farmer in Jair. He was given a loan of Rs.1,500 and you will be surprised, Mr. Chairman, Sir, to know that ultimately from the loan of Rs.1,500 he got only Rs.250 and I told him : "You fool why did you accept it"? But the farmer replied that being that being a poor man he will take anything even Rs.100. He said when he went to get the money they produced along list of taxes even donation to Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister. Such things are mentioned by him. In this way could he hope to develop agriculture and help the farmers and produce more food? I can see that the members and less in the House. There are now less than 1/3 which shows how serious this Government it to solve food problem in the State. Mr. Chairman, Sir, how can you persuade this Government to develop food in the State when they have a scheme to flood more than 25,000 acres of paddy fields. What we need is procurement. Procurement is a matter which, if correctly applied, would work well. But then the rate given by the Government of India to the Food Corporation of India is not a reasonable rate. When we at first insist that Government should come forward and buy extra stocks from the villages, our intention was to request Government not to come to all the villages but to the areas adjoining Assam to prevent rice from going out from Meghalaya to Assam. Our intention is proposing this step is that the Government should erect checkgates at the boundary of Meghalaya and buy all the rice at a reasonable rate and thus stop the flow of rice to Assam. Government then could stock the rice and sell it at a relatively low price in the market at the time of scarcity. But to bring the Food Corporation of India into it directly is not feasible as the farmers have to sell it at a rate which is lower than the market rate. So how can you solve this problem? We have stated that the Food Corporation of India should not come into it but the State Government should come forward and buy the rice which ultimately would go to Assam if not checked, and at the rates prevalent in the market, which are certainly low when rice is abundantly available and these stocks can be sold to the people later on at a slightly higher price to cover the expenses of the Government but certainly at a price lower than the price prevailing in the market at the time. Also there is no guarantee that the rice procured by the Food Corporation of India could transfer its stock from one State to another under orders from the Central Government. Can Government give us a definite guarantee that paddy will be procured and will not be sent out to other States of India even if there is greater scarcity in other States. I don't think the Government can do so. It will be much better for the State Government itself, if either the Supply Department or Agriculture Department comes forward to procure paddy and keep it is the Warehousing Corporation to look after if and then get a cash against if from the Bank up to 60 or 70 percent and then resell to the farmers at lower rates than the rates prevailing at that time. But I do not know whether Government will succeed in doing that. Now Sir, the Agriculture Department has also tried to teach the people to adopt better methods of arming. But how do they teach? They came twice to my constituency. In one of the areas they said let us have a big picnic and then really had a nice big picture party and somebody gave a lecture on nitrogen hydrogen, phosphorus and so on and so forth. I do not know how many things understood and how many families could learn all these things. Even they have written on the black boards about these things which I don't think the people could understand and all and they could be read the writings on the black board and so they had to pack up all these black boards and every body had got a good feast for the day offered by Agriculture Department and they left the place without any benefit to the people. Then I remember they came to Umsohlait and taught the people there also but I don't think a single person understood this. Then Sir, they came to Iapngar also and they paid the daily allowance of rs.6 per head per day. Of course there was a benefit for the people to get this amount per head and I brought all the adults of the area knowing that the Government pay about this six rupees per head. But what did they learn about farming? And I have seen only one man took down notes on the subject. I think he understands something about phosphorus, nitrogen and it was a very scholarly erudite lecture delivered by some doctor talking about farming. But what did the poor people understand about it? They only got six rupees per head but on agricultural farming they learned almost nothing at all. So advise this Government to adopt more practical methods for farming. Mr. Chairman, Sir, I would also like to make a proposal that Government should demarcate certain areas where soil is good, where cultivation is good and take up certain intensive schemes and open some agricultural schools not here in Shillong but right in the heart of paddy growing areas and farming areas and keep permanent demonstrators are not erudite persons to give lectures on agricultural subject. I hope in that way we will be able to encourage the people to grow more food and we will be able to solve partially the food problem in the State.
Mr. Chairman :- Any other hon. Member?
Shri Francis K. Mawlot (Nongstoin S.T.) :- Mr. Chairman, Sir, I would like to say a few words in support of the motion moved by the hon. Member from Mawkyrwat. Well Sir, scarcity of food stuff is a known fact to every-body even to the kids who are of the age of two to three years. They have understood that they are hungry and that their parents could not give them proper food. Mr. Chairman, Sir, this has never occurred during our young days. At that age we did not understand that we did not have any food. But now if you ask even a small kid who spends his time only in sleeping, crying and singing and dancing he begins to understand that he has no food in his family to eat. There is scarcity of food no doubt and so many Members have given different proposals in different ways and I don't think I have to repeat them. But the first and the only proposal which I have to offer is that our Government should see that food-stuff is procured timely and secondly, as the hon. Member has just spoken that when we procure food-stuffs, we must provide warehouses for storing them so that they did not get rotten and that there should be proper distribution at proper time. Well Mr. Chairman, Sir, this lies only in the effective working of the Supply Department. The hon. Member from Mawhati has pointed out about the failure or ineffectiveness of the Fair Price Shops. I do not like to go to that extent, but what I want to say is about the appointment of the wholesalers. We urge upon the Government to open wholesale shops in every corner of the State especially in those areas which have a very dense population. For example Balat, Mawkyrwat, Nongstoin, Bhoi area and also in Jowai so that the small quantity which we have will go straight to the consumers. The Government have appointed only few wholesalers here in Shillong and in Nongstoin. They have also appointed at Balat so that people from Maheshkola can come there otherwise they have to come to Shillong only to get a bag of rice and then go back to Maheshkola with this bag of rice. Can you imagine the position if a man has to come from such a distance only for a bag of rice? Whether he is interested to take this rice or sell it in Shillong so that he can get bus fare to go back to Maheshkhola. But if we have centres closer to the villages it would be a great help to the people to get even a small quantity they are entitled to get and take to their respective villages. Moreover, Sir, the Supply Department had given the wholesale dealership to three persons in Shillong and Government had given to two persons who are of the same family-one in the name of father, and sons one in the name of son, one in the name of father and so on. In other areas the wholesalers were appointed specifically either for salt or rice or sugar. But from experience that we have here in Shillong we find that the same fellow is dealing is salt, sugar, rice, cement, iron and steel and so on. The same person ahs been getting quota of different commodities and the man has to work alone. That is not so in the case of Government. In the Government we have at least 30 persons in one branch-whereas in this wholesale business only one man is running the show. So if he is given too many items to deal in, he will not work effectively. That is why the result will be that he will be compelled to do effectively in one commodities and try to board other commodities. Not only that. When our people are crying for jobs, we cannot employ them in Government Service or give them alternative employment. So, why should our Government concentrate only in one or two persons. Now if we can give only one item to one person, then five other persons could have been employed only in the distribution of commodities to the consumers. Last year, we have 11 wholesales in Shillong but this year we have only 7 and out of those 7, 4 are from two families. 4 dealers are from 2 families which means one family having two names. Mr. Chairman, Sir, I would like to request the Government to see into this matter so that....................
Mr. Chairman :- Have you bring it to the notice of the Government?
Shri F.K. Mawlot :- Mr. Chairman, Sir, it is the Government who have appointed them and I am not supposed to take it to the notice of the Government. Because I cannot bear to see these things I just cannot keep quiet and so I am saying now. Does it mean that the Government does not know these things. The Government is fully aware of these. So, Mr. Chairman, Sir, in order to solve this problem or at least to help the inhabitants needing a few grains of rice I would suggest to the Government to see that the Supply Department should be reshuffled, re-oriented and re-organised completely.
Shri E. Pohshna (Nongtalang S.T.) :- Mr. Chairman, Sir, I am to express my thanks to the mover of the motion for the opportunity that we have got to discuss is very very important subject. On the other hand, I am very grateful to the Finance Minister who has free listening very attentively to this big problem that is facing the State. I will take only a few minutes, Sir, and the first thing that I want to bring to the notice of the Government is about a few areas which are in a half-starving condition in the Dawki border areas - the Padu-Nongbareh-Satpaytor areas and right along the border near Borkhat. There are two villages which have been for the last 3 years complaining against the supply of rice but no attention has been paid to them by the Government and up till not also they have not been supplied with rice. These villages are Huroi and Hingkeria. Then there a few other villages adjoining the Jaintia Hills which are in a starving condition and these people are in Nongryngkoh village and other villages and at the moment, you cannot find them in large numbers coming to bazar. These people sometimes come to Jowai for purchasing of rice and you can find them standing with other consumers in front of Fair Price Shops in Jowai. When I asked them, they said that they are in great difficulties. Therefore I would draw the attention of the Government to this and request them to make an immediate enquiry as to why, up till now, no relief has been given to them. As we know there was a scheme for test-relief works which should have been opened long up but up till now no such schemes are coming up to give help to those hard hit border people.
Then I come to another question which has been one of the main causes for the scarcity of food. This is because our border is not properly checked. If you go to Jaintiapur and other markets in Bangladesh you will find plenty of rice, atta, sugar and others. I have tried to enquire about this matter and I have come to learn that in the night time, under cover of darkness, plenty or ice, atta, mustard oil, cigarettes, etc. are being smuggled to the other side of the country though our Border Security Forces are there and our Customs people are there. So Sir, it is mysteriously strange to find that their interest is only always to seize the chilies and other cash crops but they never seized rice, atta, biris, mustard oil, etc. because their attention is always invited to seizing particularly form ladies of those areas carrying chilies to the market and this year on the Muktapur Borkhar road one Havildar or Subadar of the B.S.F. warned the people that "nobody should carry chilies and other food-stuffs from Muktapur to Brokhat without any information." Then I went to him and told him "what is this? From what particular Department have you come to seized the chilies, turmeric and others? why do you pay special interest to check them? what about atta and rice? How they are carried there? which are abundant in Jaintiapur bazar?" Some people may say whether Mr. Pohshna had been to Jaintiapur. Yes, I went there. Then, Sir, it is only on the 23rd of October that some thing came up when three members of the Village Defence Party of Nulgiri or Umlympiang bazar were beaten by the Secretary of the Bazar in the presence of the B.S.F. because they were checking the going out or rice, atta and sugar. I know the Village Defence Party have sent a report to the O.C. Dawki P.S. Therefore Sir, I have given the date '23 October' when three members of V.D.P. have been beaten and a report made to the O.C. Dawki P.S. An enquiry should be made but it should not end like the enquiry made into the death of one man at Dawki who had been killed by the people on the other side. I would like to see that something is done. Therefore, if even in road-heads these things happened you can well imagine what will happen in jungles when miles and miles together there is no Border Security Force, on Police personnel and officers or custom personnel but only jungle and animals. What will happen there for the smuggling of rice, atta, etc. Therefore, Sir, I think the reason of one of the very very important subject of food scarcity is this that we have not been able to guard smuggling of rice and other food-stuffs. Another important matter which I would like to bring before the floor of this august House as has been made by the hon. Member who has just spoken before me is the appointment of wholesale dealers. I do not know why or what is the reason that we are not going to repeat something that the Assam Government has been doing? So far as the appointment wholesale dealers is concerned, all the centres are located here in Shillong. During the time of the Assam Government the wholeseller centres had been located at Dawki and other important roadheads but now these centres have been concentrated in towns only. In Jowai, four dealers have been appointed as wholesale dealers for the supply of rice, etc. The major portion of rice quota in Jaintia Hills is going to Dawki and I do not know what is the difficulty of stationing wholesale centres at Dawki since the major supply of rice or rationed rice for Jaintia Hills District is for the consumers of Dawki areas. I fully agree with the hon. Member who has suggested that on all important roadheads wholesale centres should be opened. Then Sir, sugar is very sweet yes it is; and of we go to the open market there is no scarcity of sugar but there is scarcity of sugar in the fair price shops. What is this? We have no information on what basis sugar allotment has been made. The border people and the people living in the rural areas are compelled to purchase sugar at a higher price in the open markets that the people who purchase sugar at a higher price in the open markets than the people who purchase sugar from the fair price shops which have a very very small quantity of it per head per week and per month. What is the reason of it? How difficult it is to know about this? Therefore, Sir, I would request the Finance Minister to take personal interest in this matter of sugar and to look into the suggestions which have just been made in order to see that important centres in important bazars should be selected as wholesale centres for the distribution of rice, sugar etc. My last point Sir, is with regard to crops this year. Really, it is a very sad for the agriculturists not only because in the month of November there was hailstones but rains which have damaged major portion of standing crops in many places of the State. In many places and villages of the States standing paddy and crops and crop have been greatly damaged by rain flood. I fully agree with some of my friends that we should clear this point. This point in other words should be clarified and there should not be any misunderstanding in and outside that there is no flood in the hills but instead the flood in these hills specially this year is more cruel and angry that the flood in the plains. The Agriculture Minister who happened to go for fishing on the Myntdu river could see how the angry flood of the Myntdu river has washed away the growing crops in both banks of the river. I congratulate the fishing party of 17 jeeps headed by the Minister Agriculture, fishing along the banks of the Myntdu river for having escaped from the angry flood of the 'red sea' of the river Myntdu near Borkhat. But the crops because they cannot run or there is nobody to shout for them: "Wake up! the flood is coming!" have been damaged in both sides of the river. I would therefore request the Finance Minister who happened to be here to cause enquiry as to what has happened to the crops in the Lakroh areas which have been destroyed by flood during the time when the fishing party of 17 jeeps was going to those areas. With these few words Mr. Chairman, Sir, I resume my seat.
(At this state the Deputy Speaker occupied the Chair)
Shri Reidson Momin (Dadengir ST) :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I am grateful to the mover of the Motion on this very important subject because of the fact that we have an opportunity to discuss this very important subject and also I am glad that many Members have participated in this discussion. I am very glad that many representatives of our people. Today we are participating in the discussion of this important matter. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, the food problem in the State is indeed a very great subject because of the fact that our State is a deficit State in the matter of food-stuffs and that every now and then or rather and unfortunately even the Central Government to give us food supply and unfortunately even the Central Government is not in the position today to supply enough food of our State because the food supply today is a problem in all over the world. I do not know the requirement of this district but in Garo Hills District the monthly requirement of rice is 14000 quintals but instead of 14000 quintals we are hardly getting sometimes 8 or 9 thousands quintals even. Last month we requested the Government to give us 12000 quintals of rice which the Government could not comply with because they have received short supply frothed Government of India. The Government of India has also to cut down our allotment because of the fact that we are not producing enough food for our people. We have to import from a number of foreign countries who are co-operating with us. I should say that the supply position of food stuff in our State today is much better than the other States adjoining this State. I know even in Shillong we do not have that much of scarcity, we do not have to buy rice at Rs.5 and Rs.6 per Kg. In Tura we are really happy that we have not faced such difficulties throughout the year. Some hon. Member, I think the Member from Mendipathar criticised the Government of this food scarcity is of man made and because of insufficiency in the Government machinery this scarcity has occurred. Unfortunately the hon. Member is not here; does not know the actual situation because he does not try to contact the Government officers and the Government machinery either at district headquarters or in the State headquarters. While in Garo Hills in order to improve the supply position or distributing system, we have convened a meeting with the Deputy Commissioner and the approved wholesale dealers in each and every Block so that the rice or other foodstuffs which come to the District would be distributed through these centres and to reach the far flung areas of the District. And for this I should rather appreciate and also congratulate the Government. When I say Government, I would like to refer to what the hon. Member from Mendipathar said when he approached the Government at the State level or District level, when the District authorities tried to take up something, it is the Government of Meghalaya itself which is functioning at Tura, at Shillong, and at Jowai. So we cannot make any difference between the District and State Government. So with the cooperation of the District authorities Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, we have appointed these wholesalers and dealers in the Blocks and from there these Fair Price Shop dealers draw their allotments and take them to their respective Centres. This, I say, is very successful. In this respect, I would like to say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, that it is not only the Government who is to look after our own people, it is not for the Government to feed the people, but we as the representatives of our own people should look into the difficulties and try to solve the problem with the help of the Government. We have to move the Government, we have to consult the Government in what way we can help our people. Say, here in Shillong also I think it will be better for the hon. Members to consult the Government at the District level the Deputy Commissioner and have the problem studied whether the distribution system or any system will be good for district. We have been doing it in Garo Hills and we have been successful there. Anyway, the Government of Meghalaya has been trying its level best to procure food supply from the Central Government, but it will be wrong to say that the Government is not paying attention to this food problem. We have a Central pool here in Shillong from where Government is allotting quota of rice or and other foodstuffs to the headquarters of the Districts. The Government also has its supply from the F.C.I.
One hon. Member from Jaintia Hills has just said that sugar is no doubt very sweet. But no matter how much we would like to have sugar in our houses for consumption, quota of sugar from the Central Government or the F.C.I. is limited that it cannot be distributed fairly and squarely to the villagers living in far-flung areas. There are two types of sugar available in the market. The sugar which is sold in the fair price shops is called levied sugar and sugar which is available in the open market is called non-levied sugar. the levied sugar is subsidised by the Government and naturally the price of levied sugar is lower. The price of non-levied sugar is much higher because it is being distributed directly from the mills and as such the price is higher and for this the Government is not responsible. But if the Government try to interred with them, the sugar that is available in the open market will be affected because when I visited the Supply Department. I have come to know that the sugar that is coming to open market comes directly from the sugar manufacturers that is from the mill themselves.
Food problem has been a long standing problem specially in a State like Meghalaya. I do not know much about Khasi Hills nor the Jaintia Hills, but we in Garo Hills were people depend much on jhum, long back they had been experiencing starvation when they ate shoots and roots to satisfy their hunger. In Garo Hills people have to depend much on jhum for their food. Yet our people knowing that the Government also cannot help them, they resigned to their fate and they hardly ate two square meals a day for a long a time as two or three months. The suffering was much because of excessive rain and flood in the plains, and there was no rice available for the people. But whatever possible the Government has been doing. We cannot charge the Government. It is not because of Government's doing that our hills are becoming barren and they do not produce foodstuff for the people. I would rather congratulate the Government of Meghalaya that with a handful of officers especially with technical experience in the State, they are trying their level best to improve the food situation. The hon. Member from Mendipathar. I am sorry to refer to him again, has stated very wrongly that our people in Garo Hills are selling their children for food. It is very wrong, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, because I have not heard anything about such selling of children by the people in Garo Hills. But it is a fact that a very unfortunate fact that the people in Garo Hills. But it is a fact and a very unfortunately fact that the people from the plains rather have been invading our town, and there are increasing beggars now in Tura. And there is not a single Meghalayan among them. And then he also referred to some people who died of starvation (Interruption) Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, the fact is that those people died of some disease. That disease may be due to malnutrition, but we cannot charge the Government and say that their deaths were due to starvation. And one hon. Member has accused the Government that our records and statistics show that we have increased only food products and that is why when they go to the Central Government Government to Delhi to request them for food they have turned down that plea that since you have increased food production your quota should be cut down. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, this may be true that the Central Government might have turned down our request due to the increased production of our food stuff but probably they have forgotten to carry with them the record of increase in the birth-rate also which is to show that our population has increased and as such, we need more food.
Then, Mr. Deputy speaker, Sir, I come to one pertinent point. The hon. Member from Mawhati has also submitted in this regard that depredation by wild animals has contributed to the food scarcity in our State, specially elephants and wild pigs. Mr. Deputy speaker, Sir, I have occasion to say in the previous sessions also in this regard that the population of wild pigs in Garo Hills specially has increased many-folds after the creation of Bangladesh. I was not then convinced, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, but now I am fully convinced that it is a fact and while fighting took place in the plain area at the foot of our hills there are so many marshy lands, many bushes in Bangladesh and in and around our hills wild pigs used to live but when the war started due to bombardment, due to coming of fighting forces and due to sound of machine guns, these wild pigs got scared and frightened and when to our hills for safety. Something must be done really to destroy them. I will, therefore, request the Government through you, Sir, to take some measures to destroy these animals and also elephants specially. I am proud to me from a constituency which is infested by wild elephants and the dacoae done to my people is tremendous. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, their homes are destroyed, their fields are destroyed and their livelihood is destroyed. So, through you, Sir, I would request Government specially the Agriculture Department to take some measures to control these wild animals. With these few words, I resume my seat.
Shri Raisen Mawsor (Mawthengkut S.T.) :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, while supporting this Motion, I would like to speak something for my constituency in Lyngngam. I happened to visit some village, viz. Rongthok, Kalu, Juksiar, Wahthre, Niangju, and found they are in very bad condition. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, there was heavy rainfall and hailstorm in the area and the standing crops in the area were also destroyed by wild elephants. People told me that elephants from the Garo Hills have come to my area. So these areas are badly hit due to rainfalls hailstorm and elephants. So, in my constituency especially, the condition a very bad. I do not know what will happen. In the last few weeks, I have seen the newspapers that in Nongstoin Subdivision rice supply would be stopped by Government from the month of December to the month of March. This is very wrong. I demand that rice ration should continue. Last year I visited some villages these villages like Umtasong and Umbah have got no ration supply. So, if it is true as reported in the newspapers that the ration in Nongstoin are is to be stopped for 3 months from December to March, then the condition of the people in those areas will be very bad and that Government have taken a wrong step. I request Government to continue the ration. And then another point, Sir, I know that the Government has appointed one whole seller at Sonapahar last year as people from Aradonga had to come to Nongstoin on foot for two days and then from Sonapahar and Aradonga. So, I request Government to look into this matter. Sir, people in the Lyngngam area depend on jhum cultivation and as the area was hit by rainfall and hailstorm and not only that but damaged by wild elephants the harvest was almost nil. So, I request Government to look into this matter so as to help the people by taking up schemes and especially to confirm to supply paddy seeds free of cost to these poor people and those poor families who have no paddy. So Sir, this is my request and I hope that Government will consider and will do something for this, With these few words, Sir, I take my seat.
Shri W. Cecil R. Marak (Selsella) :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I would like to participate in the discussion of this important subject. While participating in this Motion I would like to say that scarcity of food-stuffs in certain areas of the State is not only because of natural calamities but there are causes which contribute to the scarcity of food-stuffs in certain areas of the State. Of course, I would like to point out that this is a story of long years. The allotment of 150 quintal of food-stuffs during emergency to Garo Hills was made by the Government in the month of October, 1973 and it was allotted from the wholesale dealers at Shillong itself and the dealers were supposed to send the allotment to Garo Hills in the same month, i.e., October, 1973 but unfortunately, this allotment did not reach its destination till today. So I would like to request the Government to look into this serious matter and take necessary steps. I would also like to point out about the procurement of paddy. Last year, Government have proposed to procured and have also agreed to procure about 20,000 quintals of paddy, if I am not mistaken, but only 2,500 quintals have been procured for Garo Hills. This year also they have proposed to procure the target of 20,000 quintals of paddy and this procurement has been entrusted to the wholesale dealers of the district. In this matter also I would request the Government not to entrust only to the wholesale dealers who get the facilities of procurement of paddy from the villages but to extend it to the Co-operative Societies and other agencies also.
Acute scarcity of food-stuffs in the State of Meghalaya is not only due to natural calamites like flood, etc, but it also because of the anti elements or anti national activities like smuggling, black-marketing and hoarding. Only this year, the Finance Minister had made a statement in the paper in the month of September that we should be very vigilant about smuggling, black-marketing and hoarding. This is very welcoming statement and we hope we will be able to check these anti elements in the entire State.
Another point is that supply of seed to the flood affected people did not reach in time. As for the seedlings raised by the Agriculture Department for about 40 acres, this does nto cover the flood affected areas which are more than 40 acres and it is insufficient to distribute to the flood affected people of the area.
I would also like to suggest that the Government should see that banking facilities to the agriculturists be started because such facilities are really very important for more production of food stuffs. If Government is determined to implement this policy, the economic distress of the people in the State will be overcome, otherwise the very purpose of this scheme will be defeated. The hon. Member from Mendipathar has stated that due to scarcity of food, even selling of ones own children is prevailing in the State of Meghalaya.
Shri Plansingh Marak :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, that is not correct. They are not the people of Meghalaya who are selling their children. They are beggars who came to Meghalaya from other States and sell their own children and they are not Meghalayans. He has said that they are Meghalayans. Now, if I go to Bengal and sell my children, am I to be called a Bengali?
Shri W. Cecil R. Marak (Salsella) :- You may be called an Indian. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, my humble request is that in order to overcome this food problem I would request the Government to see that banking facilities are extended to the Agriculturists. Also the target procurement of food-stuffs, which has been meant for the people of Garo Hills by the Government should not be procured wholly by the wholesale dealers only but should be extensively done and supervised by the Government. With these few words, Sir, I resume my seat.
Shri S.P. Swer (Sohra S.T.) :- I am thankful to the mover of this motion on the food situation in the State. He has kindly pointed out in the motion about the acute scarcity of the food-stuff in certain areas of the State. It is a fact that certain areas of the State which are not so easily accessible to road communications and other communications are facing great scarcity of food-stuffs. But the scarcity of food-stuff and the rise in price of food-stuffs are prevalent all over the State and it is in fact and the situation is not peculiar only in our State. It is prevalent all over India, and in fact all over the world. I have carefully listened to various members who spoke today and I do not find that anyone has even mentioned of any death due to starvation. Death occurred because of Gastroenteritis, or Gasocollitis, a disease which is prevalent now in the State, since the Bangladesh war. And it is a contagious disease. Sir, we know that our three Districts of Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills and Garo Hills, even when they were in the composite ate of Assam, were deficit Districts. Therefore, we had to depend for our supply of food-stuff from outside. So also now when we have achieved our State, this situation in food stuffs continues to be deficit. Some hon. members have criticised about the functioning of Fair Price Shops or rather about the distribution of foodstuffs and they have also taken as if the Government is the only source of Supply or is fully responsible for feeding the people - through the Fair Price Shops. I think in this respect we should know that the Fair Price Shops are set up the Government in every central place all over the State with a specifically object to fight against the rise in prices of foodstuffs and to bring down the price of foodstuff in the open market. We find even during the lean years, last year and this year, the Government controlled rise has reached every part and every nook and corner and corner of the State. The situation was so much eased if we compare it with other neighbouring States during the corresponding period of the year. We read in newspapers of many deaths of starvations in other States. But we have not yet come across any such thing in our State, that deaths occurred due to starvation. I should express my thanks to the Government and especially to the Supply Department which has been able to tackle the difficult situation this year and during the whole year of 1973. But I would like to plead before this august House to realise one fact. That the food situation in our State, in our country and in the world is deteriorating especially with the poor harvest of this season. I think we will face a most difficult time next year. It is therefore the duty of all responsible leaders of this august House to fight unitedly against the threat of starvation in future, because as I have unitedly against the treat of starvation in future, because as I have said, it is not that the Government alone and solely from its stock can fully meet the requirement of the people. The main part of the Government is to help the people to get a share of the controlled foodstuff and to bring down the price of foodstuffs and all essential commodities for the benefit of the people of this State. As I said, this scarcity is not only in our State but it is a national phenomenon. Even the whole world is now facing great difficulty how to tackle with this situation in the near future. Therefore, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I feel that there might be certain causes here and there where people have not been able to get two square meals per day. There may be some families who could not afford to have two square meals a day or there may be some who cannot even have only one square meals per day. But this is what we find even in normal times. There are families who can not have two square meals a day. The reason may be different from one family to another and it may be that something happened to the earning member of the family. In this regard, I would suggest to the Government that in cases where the families cannot really afford to have two square meals a day, relief should be given to such deserving cases after a thorough and proper enquiry. I cannot but appreciate the Government for taking a bold step in this direction to procure as much paddy as they could within a State. Some of the hon. Members have expressed concern about the integrity of the food Corporation of India that procurement of paddy and other foodstuffs from our State may not be kept for the consumption of our State. I think one should know that the Food Corporation of India stands for the whole of India; it is not only for our State alone, and as such, procurement of paddy by the Food Corporation of India is meant for the whole of India and not particularly for this State. Therefore, this fear of what the Food Corporation of India will do with the paddy procured from our State should not be there, because as I said, our State is a deficit State. We have to depend for our foodstuff, for our requirement from outside the State and the Food Corporation of India is always helping our State by supplying foodstuffs even though sufficient quantity cannot be supplied to meet our full requirements. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, once again I express my gratefulness to the hon. mover of this motion, whom I think, has very seriously thought and brought this motion before the House. In the course of his speech, he has not mentioned any starvation death but he only appealed to the Government to declare certain areas as famine areas. I think the areas he mentioned to declare as famine areas are nto correct because certain areas which he mentioned to be famine areas are not really so, as some of them are rice growing areas. Therefore, to declare that these areas are famine areas, I do not think is right and proper when the supply position of the State is almost the same everywhere. If they are to be declared as famine areas, that is the whole State should also be declared as a famine area. But Sir, I do not think that the occasion has arisen for us to come to that conclusion. With these few words, Sir, I resume my seat.
Shri Salseng C. Marak (Resubelpara S.T.) :-Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, first of all, I thank the hon. mover who has brought this motion on an important subject such as food scarcity in our State. I, as a responsible public leader, am concerned with the acute scarcity of food in our State. But in doing so, one should know that this problem is not confined to our State, alone, but to our country, and is an international phenomenon. This problem is caused by natural calamities as most of the hon. Members have pointed out, like flood, pestilence and others which contribute much to this food scarcity. But let me add here that the practice of unscientific method of cultivation in our State is also another important factor. Let us remember that mere shouting in the Assembly would not help solving this problem. At least, we as responsible leaders must put our heads together and try to solve this problem and come to a concrete solution. Most of the Members who have spoken have pointed out the causes for the scarcity of foodgrains but few of them suggested anything to avert this great disastrous problem. How to solve this problem. Unless we try to find out some measures to remove this disaster, condition will remain as it is. So I want to put a few suggestions to tackle this problem. The first will be the procurement system. Now it is a time all over the country to do effective procurement of paddy for future storage. It is found that the present procurement system is not effective at all. So it is my sincere request to the Government as well as to the leaders here to strengthen this procurement agency in our State. Secondly,. the distribution system. At present, of course, we have a number of Fair Price Shops at different centres. But I am very sorry to say that some of the consignments do not reach the centres. This is because some people may be interested to take advantage of the situation or there may be some other reasons. So my humble suggestions will be to start with the best system of distributing centres in such important places where people can come and collect their ration and also some important centres of whole-sale should be established in some important places. Of course, during this year we could establish some such centres in Garo Hills due to hard work of the Deputy Commissioner, Garo Hills. He did a great deal to remove this scarcity by doing his best in the distribution of essential commodities through fair price centres. Therefore, we have to strengthen our distribution system in order to avert this great disaster and whatever little food we have should reach the people living in the interior places. And thirdly, I would like to suggest that the people should be encouraged to do extensive cultivation; they should be encouraged in the practice of double cropping or multi-cropping system. There are so many waste lands lying uncultivated; those should be reclaimed. Irrigation facilities should be provided and I would suggest also that experts should be engaged to help the farmers to grow more food and produce more food and by doing so, at least, we can improve our food situation in our State. So, Sir, with these few words I resume my seat.
Shri Plansing Marak (Kherapara S.T.) :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I rise to sing glories of the Supply Department, Government of Meghalaya, for tackling the food problem in those difficult months. True that scarcity has prevailed in the whole State and it is still prevailing even now. The Supply Department does not mean to supply all the food necessary to maintain the subsistence of the people of the whole State. It is meant only to supplement what little food left to the people. It would be quite impossible on the part of the Government to supply all the food for each and every individual. So the intention of the Supply Department is to supplement something so that in these difficult days it will be a help to them. This year, owing to excessive rainfall there has been failure of crops both in the hills and plains and during last year as a result of drought scarcity was there. This scarcity which occurred as a result of drought has been worsened because of excessive rainfall this year. In many places in Garo Hills standing crops have been damaged no doubt by flood water and also by insects. And as such some of the hon. Member from the Opposition Bench blamed the Government for these natural calamities. I would be happy if the Government is capable of causing natural calamities and if so Government would be fully responsible for these natural calamities. But we know that natural calamities are created by God over which men or Government could do nothing. So it is not possible to avoid these natural calamities. Sir, looking around from all sides we find that this year the food situation is going to be worse than what it was last year particularly in Garo Hills. Most of the speakers have spoken about the prevailing food situation of their own areas only. It means that most the speakers have concentrated their attention in those areas. I have gone to the plain and Hill areas in my district and I have gone not only to my constituency but to Phulbari, Tikrikilla and Mahendraganj areas and also to interior areas like Siju, Rongra, Mahadeo and those villages which are bordering Bangladesh and I found them to be worst hit. My friend who referred to those plain areas should have come to these areas and he will find that the plains people are better off than the people in these areas bordering Bangladesh. Even if rice reaches them, these people are quite helpless because they have no purchasing capacity. I went to certain areas and I find Fair Price Shops but to my surprise I find that in spite of the fact that there is rice, still they could not purchase and satisfy their hunger. So, Sir, something is going to happen next year also. So my humble suggestion is that it will be good if we can take up some crash programme and test relief scheme in order to relieve all these people who are living in those interior areas.
Sir, with regard to the work of the Supply Department in the District. I would like to say that our Deputy Commissioner who was careful and who is so scared about food scarcity within the District has tried his level best to maintain the food situation to the entire satisfaction of the people. He has no other alternative when the Food Corporation of India failed to supply rice to the State of Meghalaya. As expressed by some of my friends the monthly requirements of the whole district is 14,000 quintals, but unfortunately sometimes the State could not supply half of this quantity the reason being that the State could not get enough quota of rice from the Food Corporation of India. Time and again we have sent wireless message to the Supply Minister, and Secretary Supply, informing them that our people are in starving condition. But in spite of this request they have satisfied us by replying that they are also finding difficulty to get supply of food-stuffs from the Central Government. Our Chief Minister has just returned only recently from his tour in Europe and U.S.A. and was telling us recently about the prevailing food situation not only in Meghalaya, in India, but it is happening all over the world. The richest country in the world, the Untied States of America has refused to supply surplus food-stuffs to other parts of the world today. Therefore, Sir, when our Government is in such a difficult situation we cannot put the entire blame on them. I would simply request that Government should do something in the coming year so that we shall be able to get enough supplies of food-stuffs for the people of our State.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, with regard to the arrangements of supply to the villages, it has been done to the utmost by the respective M.L.As., M.D.Cs and District Officers of the District of Garo Hill. I do not know much about Khasi Hills but certainly I will not put the blame on the Government but the people themselves. We have made such arrangements so that there will be no chance for smuggling or chance for swindling, whatever quantity of rice is supplied to these centres. We used to appoint 5 or 6 members of the Vigilance Committee and it is their duty to see whatever quantity of rice supplied to these centres by the Supply Department arrive those particular centres. If they are vigilant enough, there is no chance of smuggling and no chance for swindling, but it is these people who give chance for swindling whatever quantity of rice is supplied to these centres. Now we have a number of Vigilance Committees and it is for the respective members, hon. Members, M.L.As., M.D.Cs., to go to their respective centres and explain to the members of these Vigilance Committee that it will be their duty to see that whatever quantity of rice supplied goes to their centres. First of all they should obtain a book, an issue book which has been supplied by the Supply Department and see from that khatta how many quintals of rice have been supplied to their centre. Later on they will have to produce that book and it is the duty of the Secretary of the Vigilance Committee to sign that 5 quintals of rice supplied to that particular centre have been received and distributed to the people that was the agreement between the Vigilance Committee members and the Deputy Commissioner and the Supply Department that unless this signature of the Secretary of the Vigilance Committee is received in the Supply Office about the quantity of rice supplied no more rice will be issued to that particular centre. This is the agreement. But what we know is that most of the members of the Vigilance Committee are poor people. They will say I will give you Rs.50, as this time I got 10 quintals. Then they will sell 5 quintals and say 'do not mind'. For this reason they cannot sign and as a result they cannot take rice to different centres. Who is responsible for this discrepancy? Whether the Government or the people? For the members to put the blame on the Government. I think is unfair. How many of the members have gone to see things for themselves? I have got 5 or 6 dealers who purchased Rs.256 per quintal and sold it in Tura Bazar, and when I caught them they had to purchase in black market to replace it. How many members had done this? Only then they will know whether Government is responsible or the people, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, these are the things which are prevailing in the Supply Department and that is why the M.L.As., M.D.Cs. will have to be vigilant. With regard to scarcity condition, I would like to speak a few words, Sir, one of the causes as I have mentioned is because of irregular rain.
Last year there was a drought as a result of which rice crops died. What is going to happen next year, nobody knows, God alone knows? So, we are to prepare ourselves in what way we shall be able to improve our rice position. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, last time while we were discussing in Tura with Officers, M.L.As. and M.D.Cs. we made certain suggestions to the departmental heads who are here. I would simply remain them of what we had discussed. We are to improve agriculture. Of course Agriculture Department is very active; they are doing their very best to improve agriculture but there were many suggestions for improving supply of seeds which is usually very late. So, I would request the Minister-in-charge of Agriculture to ensure that seeds are supplied to the cultivators in time so that they will be able to grow their crops properly and timely.
Another suggestion is that Soil Conservation Department is going commendable work in the District of Garo Hills. But unfortunately, the response of the people is very poor. In my area everybody has seen the glories of Soil Conservation Department where there were standing crops but, unfortunately, this year the people have abandoned that cultivation and jungles are growing in their place. One of the reasons, perhaps is that there is no source of water for irrigation. So, I would like to suggest to the Department that it would be good and advisable to reclaim only those lands where there is possibility of irrigation.
Another suggestion I would like to make is this. Now land reclamation is under Soil Conservation Department whereas irrigation is under Agriculture Department. But since the Minister-in-charge is the same person, it would be good to have land reclamation tagged with agriculture or alternatively to take irrigation tot he Soil Conservation Department so that there will be easier co-ordination among these two departments. The Soil Conservation Department, whenever they have to take up land reclamation, they would do well to take up first the flat lands where there is possibility of irrigation which would be good for conversion to wet cultivation.
Another thing, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir which I would like to suggest is that whatever projects have been taken up, they should be quickly implemented. It is found that on many occasions for want of administrative sanction many of the schemes could not be implemented in time. Therefore, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, it is time that we put our heads together, consider in what best way we can improve our food position in our State. As hon. Member Mr. Marak, from Resubelpara has stated that by simply shouting and criticising the Government in this House will not solve the problem. If we put our heads together and try to solve the problem then only we shall be able to improve the food position and our State will march from strength to strength. With these few words, I resume my seat.
Mr. Deputy Speaker :- I think there has been enough discussion on this motion. Now I request the Minister-in-charge to give the reply.
Shri B.B. Lyngdoh (Minister for Parliamentary Affairs) :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, Government fully share the concern and anxiety expressed by by the hon. Member from all sides of this august House on the question of food scarcity. I would like to have more time to discuss this matter and to share with the hon. Members the problems and difficulties. However, Sir, as the time is very short for today and as, at the same time, the Minister-in-charge would be returning this evening and may be continuing to reply on the next day, whether it would be advisable that the reply be given in full by the Minister-in-charge himself because, just now, I will be replying partly and it will be completed by the Minister-in-charge. I would suggest that we adjourn today and the discussion on the motion as a whole. This is my suggestion if it is acceptable to the Chair and to the House.
Shri Maham Singh :- Yes, we agree to the suggestion.
Mr. Deputy Speaker :- Now Motion No.4 to be moved by Shri S.D. Khongwir. But he is absent.
Shri Maham Singh :- As far as I understand the suggestion is that we adjourn the House today.
Shri B.B. Lyngdoh (Minister for Parliamentary Affairs) :- We have only ten minutes and in such a short time we will not be able to do justice to the discussion. I would suggest that we adjourn today and take up the matter next day.
Shri Rowell Lyngdoh :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, when the Minister is ready to reply to certain portions I think it is better that he continues his reply concerning his subject.
Shri B.B. Lyngdoh (Minister for Parliamentary Affairs) :- This is one subject, the food position in the State.
Mr. Deputy Speaker :- The business will go on according to the precedence in the Order Paper.
Shri B.B. Lyngdoh (Minister for Parliamentary Affairs) :- I am fully prepared to reply to the discussion but I would prefer that the Minister-in-charge would do that.
Mr. Deputy Speaker :- I am coming to that point. The
discussion will be carried over to the next day, i.e., on 10th December,
1974 when the reply to the discussion on the motion will be made by the
Minister-in-charge after his return.
The House stands adjourned till 9.00 a.m. on Monday the 9th December, 1974.
The 7th December, 1974.
|Meghalaya Legislative Assembly.|