Proceedings of the Winter Session of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly held at 9. a.m. on 10th December, 1974 in the Assembly Chamber, Shillong.
Present - Mr. Speaker, in the Chair, Five Ministers, Two Ministers of State and thirty-nine hon. Members.
MESSAGE FROM THE GOVERNOR UNDER ARTICLE 201OF THE CONSTITUTION
Mr. Speaker :- Let us begin the business of the day by taking up Item No.1 Here is a message from the Governor. Message from the Governor under Article 201 of the Constitution.
|"Camp : Imphal||Raj Bhavan,|
|December 4, 1974.|
Meghalaya Legislative Assembly,
I, Lallan Prasad, Governor of Meghalaya, in pursuance of the direction, under proviso to Article 201 of the Constitution, from the President of India herewith return, in pursuance of the 1st proviso to article 200 of the Constitution, the Meghalaya Transfer of Land (Regulation) (Amendment) Bill, 1972, passed by the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly, and which was reserved for the consideration of the president under Article 200 read with Article 254 of the Constitution, to the House with request that the house will re-consider the Bill with a view to restrict its scope to the transfer of land in the Tribal Areas specified in part II of the Table appended to paragraph 20 of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution.
|Sd/- (LALLAN PRASAD SINGH)|
|Governor of Meghalaya."|
Now I fix Friday, the 13th December as the date for re-consideration of the Bill on the lines suggested by the Governor in his message. Copies of the Bill and other related papers will be made available to the hon. Members in the meanwhile. Let us pass on to item No. 2.
Laying of the Constitution (Thirty-sixth Amendment) Bill, 1974.
Shri W. A. Sangma (Chief Minister) :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, I beg to lay the Constitution (Thirty-sixth Amendment) Bill, 1974, relating to Sikkim.
Mr. Speaker :- Now let us pass on to item No. 3. the Minister in charge of Supply to reply to a debate on the pending motion which was moved by the hon. member, Shri Rowell Lyngdoh on 7th December, 1974.
Shri. S. D. D. Nichols Roy (Minister, Supply) :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, I shall give the position regarding the supply food stuff by the Government in the last few months. But I would like to point out that many of the points raised by the member referred not only to the Supply Department of which I am in charge but to Revenue Department and Agriculture Department. But I shall try to touch on the various points raised.
Mr. Speaker :- The Minister need not to reply to irrelevant points raised by hon. Members but he may reply to the acute food position in certain areas as contended by the hon. Member, Shri Rowell Lyngdoh.
Shri S. D. D. Nichols-Roy (Minister, Supply) :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, the Mover of the motion had referred in certain cases of starvation in some villages of Nongstoin.
Shri Rowell Lyngdoh :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, I would like to correct the hon. Minister of Supply that I was referring to villages under Nongstoin Subdivision and not Nongstoin proper.
Mr. Speaker :- He was referring to the areas under Nongstoin Sub-division.
Shri. S. D. D. Nichols Roy (Minister, Supply) :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, some mention was made by the hon. Member about Shngimawlein and that in certain areas children are being sold and so on. This will be the gist of the speech made by the ho. member. He also referred to the lack of purchasing power of the people of those areas due to inflation. Now, in reply I would like to state that Government have not received any report relating to starvation, deaths and sale of the children, from any of the local officers in the State. However, inquiries will be made by the Government on this matter. Regarding the question of lack of purchasing power, I may say that this is a national phenomenon and the Government has taken up test-relief works in various areas for providing employment to the people who do not have the work and who also lack in purchasing power and upto 20 to 25 lakhs of rupees had been allotted for these areas for test-relief work in different part of the State where the officers have reported to the Government. Regarding the need of the test-relief works specially in some areas where floods had taken place in the State, including certain border areas where floods had taken place in the State, including certain border areas of the State. Now, mention has been made about the distribution of rice and I would like the hon. member to know all the rice that had been received from the Government of India through FCI, from the Central Pool, had been distributed to the public distribution system by the respective DCs through Fair price Shops. I would like to give a statement on what had actually been received in the last 6 months.
On account of the over-all difficult food situation in the country on account of droughts and floods, the Government of India have to reduce the monthly allocation of food grains from the Central Pool to meet the emergencies arising out of these calamities. Meghalaya is not a surplus State and has to depend for most of its requirements of essential commodities from the Central Pool. The essential commodities allotted by the Government of India from the Central Pool during June to November, 1974 were as follows :-
|4,000 + 3,000 (ad-hoc for July-September).||...||...||
2,000 +500 (additional)
2,500 +1,090 (backlog)
(Though our request to meet the flood position and other scarcity conditions in Meghalaya an ad-hoc allocation of 3,000 tones was made by the Government of India for the 3 months' period-July September) in addition to their regular monthly quota).
Our requirements of other essential commodities including rice and sugar from the open market per month are as follows :-
Our main source of supply being the Central Pool of the Government of India operated by the Food Corporation of India, we have to depend on supply from outside the State with Gauhati as the main supply base of the Food Corporation of India. The consequence of this is that we have to depend on the smooth functioning of the railways, Assam and Meghalaya Road Transport Corporation and the efficiency of the Food Corporation of India.
Although the allotment of foodstuffs has not been sufficient to meet the requirement of the State proper distribution of whatever allotment we received is made by the Deputy Commissioners through fair Price Shops. No report of acute scarcity in any particular area has been received. The allotment to the districts is done keeping in view the availability of stocks within the districts and the state of the open market. The Deputy Commissioners have been instructed to ensure fair and proper distribution within the districts and to see that deficit and vulnerable areas are given special attention.
Due to the reduction of the allotment of rice by the Government of India since September, 1974, the State Government has decided to take take up procurement of whatever marketable surplus on paddy available in all surplus areas in three districts of the State and steps for checking of smuggling of essential commodities to places outside the State have been taken by the Government.
We have previously to depend on Calcutta and Gauhati for supply of salt but due to traffic difficulties and the restriction imposed on the movement of salt by the Assam Government, the salt position in the State was not satisfactory. However, the salt position in the State is expected to improve with the arrival of fresh stocks of salt from the West Coast of India. The salt Commissioner, Government of India, has allotted 250 wagons of salt for Meghalaya for the period ending December, 1974.
The State Government has also made arrangement to bring 1,000 tonnes of broken rice from Punjab to meet the requirement of food grains during the lean months.
There is no allotment of mustard oil from the Government of India. We are to depend for mustard oil on the open market. Supply of mustard oil is also encouraging and there is no scarcity of the commodity at present. The Government of India has allotted 100 tonnes of rapeseed and the rapeseed oil available is being used through Fair price Shops. Procurement of mustard seeds was made last year in Garo Hills but it was not successful.
Supply of Varanasi by the factories has not been satisfactory due to low production in India. No Dalda has been allotted to this State for the last few months. We have been asked to take Margani in place of Vanaspati which is awaited.
Now, Shri Hopingstone Lyngdoh had referred to the failure of crops in Lyngngam area due to heavy rainfall and the gastro enteritis epidemic there. He also referred to the same situation in Jirang and Mawhati and few other places. He said that there was no scheme from the Government to help the people. there are scheme when the reports are submitted to the Government by the Officers concerned. When the situation is informed medical aid is rushed, and regarding crop failure......
Mr. Speaker :- I think that portion will be touched when we take up the next motion.
Shri S. D. D. Nichols-Roy (Minister, Supply) :- Regarding the crop condition, the concerned Department, the Agriculture Department, have been requested to take steps to give assistance, and where flood condition affects the crops the Agriculture Department has taken up the scheme to assist the people in the supply of paddy seeds or any other seeds required at subsidised rates.
Now, Shri Winstone Syiemiong had said that the procurement will effect the incentives of the lower middle class farmers. I think the members of the House should appreciate that we cannot depend solely on the Central Pool. We have heard from Members on the floor of this House and our own information also corroborates that there is surplus in certain areas of the State. We had decided to take procurement in those areas to enable us to have some stock of paddy in hand for the lean months and also to measure that this paddy does not go to the neighbouring areas outside the State and this would also safeguard the people of our State against in the lean period.
Shri S.N. Koch had referred to the large scale smuggling to the neighbouring State of Assam of paddy from Mankachar, Government have taken measures to prevent smuggling of paddy by installation of check gates at all important points in the three districts. However, to prevent smuggling the co-operation of the public is essential for the success of the measures taken by the Government. We do not have any information but incase of large-scale smuggling taking place in the roads as large-scale smuggling will take place only along the main routes-check gates have been erected along the main routes. The hon. Member from Mawhati had referred to deaths due to gesture enteritis.
Mr. Speaker :- What the hon. Member has said is that due to scarcity the people began to suffer from a number of diseases. He had not referred to any independent case.
Shri S.D. Nichol Roy (Minister, Supply) :- We had no information about this. Mr. Speaker, Sir. However, an enquiry will be made different Departments will be asked to looking into these things that have been referred to. He also suggested that the paddy procured by the Government of India should not go out of the State. We have decided that all paddy which was procured in Meghalaya will be definitely for the need of the people in different districts where its has been procured.
The hon. Member from Nongstoin had referred to appointment of wholesalers. This is being done according to the need of a particular area and the allotment of the State from the Central Pool. The allegation that the wholesale licenses are issued to the members of the same family is being enquired into. Every effort is being made, in fact, to eliminate such situation.
Mr. Pohshna had referred to the smuggling across Bangladesh.
Mr. Speaker :- Whenever you refer to the name of the hon. Member you should either refer to him by his full name or the name of his constituency.
Shri S.D.D. Nichol Roy (Minister, Supply) :- Mr. H. Enowell Pohshna. Special anti-smuggling measures are already being taken and the Border Security Force have been alerted to take greater pains to see that no essential commodities including salt are allowed to cross over to Bangladesh.
Now as I stated already, a number of members have suggested to declared certain areas as famine zones. But we have no information from the side of the Government and the officers on the spot study that the situation is so bad as to be declared famine area. Government have taken up steps to alleviate the condition of the people including gratuitous relief to the flood affected areas, test relief schemes and so on and the Deputy Commissioners have been instructed to give preference to these scarcity-affected areas. Suggestions have been made to increase the supply of foodstuff from the Central pool and we have made a reference to this. Due to the difficulty in our State for increased quota or rice, the Government of India have stated that there is difficulty to supply rice, they will supply wheat instead. But as the members said, they did respond to our request somewhat. By December atleast allotment of rice has been increased somewhat. One of the members had suggested that paddy should be produced at the market rate. This is not according to the policy of the Government of India as any procurement will have to be done at the rate suggested by the Commission and finally to be accepted by the Government of India. If this is not done, and procurement is done at the ruling market rate, the price will continue to go up and it would add to the inflationary pressure. Therefore, the price has to be fixed at a reasonable level. A number of members have mentioned about scarcity due to destruction of crops by wild animals such as wild boars. The Forest Department has stated that wild boar is not protected by anyone and can be killed at any time. Regarding elephants, the Forest Department had also taken steps to try to have more elephants caught, so that the problem purposes that elephants are used in the country. For this purpose some reduction in the rate of royalty has also been made. Finally, serious attention of the Government has been drawn to a few important matters and we will look into them. We appreciate the concern expressed by the members, both sides of the Houses. We are grateful that at least we have not had extreme scarcity due to flood and drought conditions as we have in other parts of the country and the Government have continued to watch if there is any condition which is reported to be extreme difficulties. Help will be rushed and we will refer to the Government of India for assistance, if necessary.
Prof. M. N. Majaw : Mr. Speaker, Sir, on a point of clarification, may I know form the Hon'ble Minister who has just given his replies on the debate whether he has really no information of the report submitted by the Deputy Commissioner to the Government on extreme scarcity of food in particular areas of the Ri-Bhoi resulting directly in deaths from malnutrition. This was the report from the Civil Surgeon and the Deputy Commissioner, but unfortunately, the Hon'ble Minister was not in the House when we were debating on this particular point. There should be certain co-ordination in the Ministry whereby Medical and Agriculture which are under the Finance Minister should all be channelise through Finance Department in order that the Minister could reply on the matters.
Mr. Speaker : You must have patience. Malnutrition is quite different from scarcity of foodstuff. Death may occur as a result of malnutrition.
Prof. M. N. Majaw :- The report of the Deputy Commissioner justifies this fact. On clarification, the Deputy Commissioner finds that many Fair Price Shop dealers did not carry rice to the villages of the Bhoi area. On scrutiny and in consultation with the local leaders, Government issue permits. But most of the rice did not go to the interior, and as a result of this, scarcity of foodstuff is there resulting in malnutrition and disease. But the Minister is not aware of these things. Mr. Speaker, Sir, we will also make some suggestion as regards check gates. We have to control the movement of paddy from Meghalaya to Assam. So in addition to the existing-gates, there should be more check-gates. One along the Sonapur-Jagi Road and Neli Bazar whereby a large quantity of paddy and rice goes into the markets of Assam. The Sonapur-Jagi Road and Neli Bazar are almost the exact places. Regarding the price of procurement of paddy it has to be studied and fixed at a reasonable level and then reduction will have to be fixed by the Government. May we know, whether this Government has been consulted before the price is fixed. I would really wish to be enlightened on this. As a matter of fact, there was no prevention of the State Government for procurement. Instead of going to the Food Corporation of India to get a fixed rate. Now when the rate is low, we sell paddy at a high price in the market. These are some suggestions I would like to point out.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, as regards elephant catching. I hope my colleagues will agree with me that catching of elephant in the Bhoi areas is almost an impossibility. In the plain areas it is possible. The Conservator of Forest describing to me how they propose to catch elephant. They have to train the elephant. The small one can be caught by small one. We are catching through our villages.
Mr. Deputy Speaker :- We have to discuss this matter with the expert. We have today quite a number of other important in this House to be discussed.
Prof. M. N. Majaw :- Those elephants affect the life of the people in the interior. So we would like to know from the Government what practical steps to control the menace of wild elephant.
Mr. Speaker :- The only additional point which the hon. Member has raised is the question whether the Government intends to procure paddy by itself and not in collaboration with the F.C.I. That is really a very pertinent question and of course, the question of price also.
Shri S.D.D. Nichols Roy (Minister, Supply) :- In response to your authority, Mr. Speaker, Sir, I have stated earlier also that regarding the price, that is fixed by the Agriculture Prices Commission after a study of several months. They do not consult each and every State because they do not procure paddy from all States. So, I am not too sure, I have no information on that because I am not an incharge of Agriculture. The F.C.I. is only asked to procure for those States that want their procurement done by them. Regarding the rate to be fixed by the F.C.I. or by the State concerned, this will have to be decided as per rules laid down by the Government of India for the whole country. This is the system that has been laid down by the Government of India. It would be improper if paddy is procured at one price in one State and is procured at another price in a neighbouring state. It becomes very unfair for paddy going from one State to another at different prices. As such, Mr. Speaker, Sir, it makes no difference whether procurement was made by the F.C.I. or by some other agencies, as the price of procuring paddy is the same. Therefore, a decision is arrived at by the Government of India that one procurement price is fixed for the whole country. Regarding the procurement of paddy by the F.C.I., we fell that they are the best people to do it rather than set up a new machinery of our own in a new State like ours. Regarding the suggestion to increase the number of Checkgates, this has already been decided on the road of Jagi Road and regarding Nelli Bazar, I have got no information and it will be examined. So also on the Road to Sonapur, this will be looked into.
Regarding wild elephant menace, I am not an expert on forests or elephants, I cannot enlighten the hon. Member on this.
Mr. Speaker :- That is irrelevant here.
*Shri Rowell Lyngdoh (Mawkyrwat S.T.) :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, in the course of his reply, the Hon'ble Minister has stated that he has not received the report of the scarcity of rice. If the Government is insisting only on such a report, we fail to understand if justice could be done or not. As a matter of fact, Government should know all the areas where there is good scarcity and if they depend only on the report, every-body cannot get rice or other essential commodities. Every time we have seen and also we know for a fact that there is scarcity of rice in many part of this district. Last September, I visited my constituency and I, myself, reported to the Deputy Commissioner that in Mawkyrwat area, there was acute scarcity of food-stuff. As such, it was requested that immediate distribution of rice through the Fair Price Shops should be done expeditiously in that area. Also, one officer was sent for enquiry but up till now, nothing was done.
Mr. Speaker :- In fact, the observation of the hon. Member should remind the Ministers that they should not always depend on the report or information they received from the officers. They should not only depend on the report of their own officers but also on the repot from the public the leaders from each and every area. At the same time, one more observation made by another hon. Member is that each and every Minister should not try to answer that this is not my department or that is not my department. Each one of them must try to collect the information for their own colleague and reply on this behalf whenever he is not in a position to reply. But to shift the responsibility form one to another, I think does not benefit the House. The discussion on Motion No.3 is closed now. Let us pass on to Motion No.4 to be moved by Shri S.D. Khongwir.
Shri S.D. Khongwir (Mawlai S.T.) :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, I beg to move that this Assembly do not discuss about the economic difficulties faced by the people living in the Border Areas.
Mr. Speaker :- Motion moved. Now, you can initiate the discussion.
Shri S.D. Khongwir :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, there had been occasions in the past that we have had the privilege to discuss about this important matter pertaining to the welfare of the border people, i.e., people living in the border with Bangladesh. In so far as this particular motion that I intend to deliberate today in this august body is concerned, I will only discuss the points which are closely connected with the difficulties that the people are facing this year specially, after a heavy and unprecedented rain. Mr. Speaker, Sir, we have also had the occasion to visit most of the areas in Khasi Hills bordering Bangladesh. We have not had the chance to visit other areas in the Jaintia Hills and Garo Hills. People from those areas come to meet us and requested that we should try to see to their difficulties, and in this respect, we have had several meetings with the people of those areas and we had talks with them and tried to understand what actually their problems were. The main problem that has arisen out of the unprecedented monsoon this year was that the crop were damaged by rain water. So Mr. Speaker, Sir, we have immediately brought to the notice of Government through their officers, the difficulties faced by those people, especially, with regard to the damage caused to the standing crops by unprecedented rain.
Mr. Speaker :- In fact, I do not think that monsoon and heavy rain this year have affected those areas only but I think the whole of Meghalaya as well.
Shri S.D. Khongwir :- But, Sir, I want to be relevant and confine myself to my motion. Other areas in Meghalaya will be referred to by other hon. Members from those areas. At this juncture, I would hasten to suggest to the Government to kindly look into these difficulties faced by the people. We have also suggested that Government should try immediately to solve the problems to those people and should try to provide them with essential commodities that are required for their subsistence and also to provide them with test relief works and free ration.
Mr. Speaker :- Free ration for the whole area ?
*Shri S.D. Khongwir :- Sir, for the border areas, It is a well-known fact that ever since the partition of the country the people in those areas have had to face many difficulties, especially because of the closure of the trade relations with the erstwhile East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. So it is the duty of the Government to try to help the people and to move the Government of India to try their best to open up these trade relation with the Bangladesh to do something in the matter of supply of rice and other essential commodities to those people. It is a fact that the Government from this side have tried their level best to rush essential commodities like rice, sugar and other things for the benefit of these people but Sir, on enquiry we have found that most of these commodities like rice, salt and other things, instead of reaching the people of the border areas, have either remained here in Shillong or being smuggled to Bangladesh. As a result, the quota of rice, salt and other things meant for these people has not actually reached them for whose benefit these commodities are meant and the Government must have information regarding the smuggling that is going on across the border especially in salt. We know for a fact, Sir, that these essential commodities like mustard oil, rice, sugar and salt are heavily smuggled across the border of Bangladesh, and as a result, these commodities which are meant for the benefit of our people, are being enjoyed by other people across the border. I have seen that the Government have allocated some funds for test relief work for the benefit of the border areas and for implementation of these schemes I have seen that the Government have already made suggestion to entrust these works to the different Block Development Officers in those areas. Sir, in this regard I am very sorry to have to say that in our several meetings with the people of the border areas they informed us that they have lodged several complaints against the performance of the Block Development Officers. In one of these meetings Mawsynram the people reported to us that the Block Development Officers have, on many occasions, given them blank paper to be signed as a receipt book. There was nothing written, simply blank paper. The Block Development Officer would ask them to sign on that blank paper. The Block Development Officer would ask them to sign on that blank paper and he in turn might have given them to sign on that blank paper and he in turn might have given them some money or something. In fact it is being done without the knowledge of the actual recipients or the beneficiaries of loans or anything. They have simply to sign on the blank sheet of paper, and they have complained to me that the Block Development Officers, were not at all serious about the complaints that the people have made to them. They seldom visited the areas from where they have received the complaints or the people who informed them about the state of affairs. Mr. Speaker, Sir, as we have had the occasions to meet with these people who have expressed all these difficulties.....................
Mr. Speaker :- There is a piece of information that you have given that the Block Development Officers ask the people to sign only on blank sheet of paper. Do the Block Development Officers distribute any financial assistance or loans to the people alone or in the presence of the public leaders?
Shri S.D. Khongwir :- He did it alone. At the meeting held at Mawsynram I was informed by the the people and I have brought this to the notice.
Mr. Speaker :- This was informed by the people. I mean you have not gone deep into the matter.
Shri S.D. Khongwir :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, I have had a meeting at Mawsynram and I was told by the people and this is a fact, that as such I have brought to the notice that these things were perpetrated.
(A voice : That is a very serious allegation)
So Sir, the matter is very serious and I would like to be enlightened on it. I have brought this allegation to your notice because it is a fact................
Mr. Speaker :- Mr. Khongwir, this is more a matter for legal action than to be brought before the House the House. Anyway, afterwards we would like to hear from the Member from the Mawsynram Constituency also.
Shri S.D. Khongwir :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, the hon. Member from Mawsynram Constituency was not present in that meeting.
Mr. Speaker :- But this kind of allegation is not justified unless you are convinced that the information is correct. Otherwise it tantamounts to making a charge against an officer on the floor of the House where he was no right to defend himself.
Shri S.D. Khongwir :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, I have not mentioned any name of the Block Development Officers.
Mr. Speaker :- But you have mentioned about the Mawsynram Block and we know who the officer was.
Shri S.D. Khongwir :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, I am very much convinced since the people of that area told us, and to that extent, I am convinced. Moreover, I have no chance to enquire further into the matter.
Now Sir, we know that in the border areas there are plenty of Bangladesh nationals. It is a fact that-and we have visited some of the area and we have also got reports from the people-the nationals from the other side of the border have come to settle down in those areas. This is a very serious matter. I would remind the Government that in one of my questions I have asked the Government to kindly furnished information whether the Government is aware that there are, even in Shillong not to speak of the border areas, many Bangladesh nationals. We would like to know what action has been taken by the Government on these people. Sir, regarding economic difficulties of the people of the border areas, I would like to suggest to Government to kindly provide them with necessary and adequate medical facilities and to request the department concerned to depute medical officers to those areas in which there are no dispensaries at all. I would also like to suggest the relief measures should be taken to relieve the people of their economic hardships. Lastly it has come to my mind regarding the payment of compensation of the owners of land in the order areas whose land had been affected by the influx of refugees during 1971-72. With these may be other members who would like to participate.
Shri H.S. Lyngdoh (Pariong S.T.) :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, I rise to participate on the Motion moved by the colleague from Mawlai regarding the distress of the people in the border areas. Mr. Speaker, Sir, while discussing this Motion, I would like to say that the people in the border areas are really faced with a very serious situation economically. Sir, this problem is not only during this year but it is a long problem which these people have been facing. So, Sir, in a short time when I am going to participate in this Motion, I want to make certain observation as to the reason why the people living in the border areas are suffering and will continue to suffer and why this year, they are suffering more than even before and whether there are remedies that can be made at present. Sir, it is a fact hat because of the partition of the country between India and Pakistan there was a sudden and immediate effect on the very economic condition of the people. Economic condition was cut off totally which in the past centuries, the people in the border areas were more prosperous than any other people in the State or in this part of the country, By this partition, Sir, the main affect is that immediate closure of trade with Pakistan then; now Bangladesh which has affected the very economic root of the people there. Closure of market and loss of agricultural lands in the plains to Bangladesh, which the people used to cultivate paddy all along the border are the result of the portion. Vast areas of land belonging to our Khasi people-and when I am saying this, I know fully well that our Khasi people - and when I am saying this, I know full well that our Khasi and Jaintia people have lost vast areas and all those areas could nto be got back. So the people have lost the chance of getting food crops for their economy. Previously our people there levied both on food crops and cash cops. By cash corps, I mean pan leaves, bettle nut, oranges and other fruits, and food crops mean paddy which could be grown all along the border where there are low lands or plain area at the foothill which also belonged to our people. Sir, till now after the last fixation of boundary line there are certain areas of plain land which our people still grow rice.
Mr. Speaker :- You mean within the territory of Bangladesh?
Shri H.S. Lyngdoh :- Yes, Sir, in Bangladesh our people during the harvesting time used to throw the paddy across the border. People may laugh at me, but it is a fact.
(Voices : We are not laughing, we are only smiling)
I do not know whether the Government is aware of this, but of course Government would not know unless it is reported by the officials. Only then they will know it. So Sir, I would like to tell the Minister that this is a fact. Sir, losing these paddy lands is one of the main causes that led to the economic distress when the border people have no other alternative to grow foodstuff. So according to me these are the two reasons closure of the markets and loss of paddy lands to Bangladesh are the main causes. Sir, at present as my colleague, the mover of the Motion has mentioned, the unprecedented rain also is one of the cause which has contributed to this. During the Pakistan regime though, there was no trade agreement between India and Pakistan but still there was free trade all along the border but during the past two years with Bangladesh there was no exchange of food stuff, no fish, no eggs, no chicken no such things, come from Bangladesh to our side; while from this side people used to sell foodstuff. But Sir, the attitude of our Government and the attitude of the Bangladesh Government did not change and the unprecedented rain we had in the State had also made food in Bangladesh, which contributed to the Cause. Now there is no rice, there is no food-stuff, no eggs, no chicken there. We never see these things coming from across the border. During the time of Pakistan ................. (interruption)
Mr. Speaker :- We are discussing the difficulties of our people. We do not discuss the difficulties of the people of Bangladesh.
Shri H.S. Lyngdoh :- No, Sir, but it is one of the cause of the difficulties of our people who now have nothing to eat because food-stuffs do not come from the other side. Some of these people have nothing to eat for the last 4 or 5 months, and in fact, they have to live on jungle roots and wild vegetables. Sir, it is also a fact that because of the failure of the Supply Department, the people, even though they work hard, cannot manage to buy rice from the Government as the rice supplied by the Government to this area is nto properly distributed. We know fully well, Sir, that every day these black marketeers use to carry foodstuff especially during the month of November at night time in truck loads down to Bangladesh. I have reported the matter to the Deputy Commissioner, and in fact, Sir, the police forces have raided the godowns of these smugglers. But you know Sir, these smugglers are much clever than the police forces or the police forces are even bribed by these smugglers on many occasions the result always was a failure. Sir, for instance I have given the truck number, the timing that they started from here at 3 o'clock in the morning but truck-load of food-stuff was moving down at 3 o'clock and the truck passed smoothly down to Maheshkola. On the eve of the last Diwali itself one truck was carrying about 50 thousand rupees or so worth of food stuff down to Bangladesh. Sir, if it is considered necessary by the Government this moment I can give the truck No. date, etc, and I will show......................
Mr. Speaker :- Mr. Lyngdoh you can write about it to the Minister in charge.
Shri H.S. Lyngdoh :- No sir, I did not but I have reported the matter to the Police and to Deputy Commissioner. But when I required later as to what action they have taken in this regard, they said that this might be due to the fact that the police were enjoying Diwali at the time and what could be done now. Sir, again one day I have seen two trucks were loading food-stuff like sugar salt and other things near Gupta Store and I was also informed that another truck was loading food-stuff at Laitumkhrah at 3 o'clock and moved from here. These also I have reported earlier to the authorities but nothing came out. It was also a fact that Government have given food relief to the poor suffering people but as already stated by my hon. friends, this foodstuff never reached the people who are really in need of these commodities. If I am not mistaken, Sir, the Government of India have ear marked Rs.9 cores for relief of the distressed persons during the Fifth Five Year Plans, but I am doubtful whether any part of that amount was really spent for the purpose during this financial year.
Moreover Sir, lakhs and lakhs of rupees have been spent in the name of relief or help to the people in the border who have been suffering since the partition of the country. But up till now we have not yet seen any economic development of the border. We have not since been able to stabilise their economic condition. However, I would like to differ with the mover of the Motion who pleaded to free Supply of or give rice, free ration to the people. This, in fact, will not help the people as it is not possible for Government to supply free rice, free ration to them from all live. I would only like to suggest that in order to give some special sort of relief to the poor people Government should organise a special committee to implement all the schemes approved or sanctioned by the Government like agriculture selling up of industries road construction and other relief works.
Mr. Speaker :- Actually the Government have already established a separate department know as the Border Areas Development Department for giving relief to those people.
Shri H.S. Lyngdoh :- Sir, if there is any such department we would like to see that this department functions immediately because we have learned that Government have earmarked certain amount of money to help those poor people. But I know at Mawkyrwat, one of the Development Blocks in the border areas, where I happen to be Chairman of the Development Block Sub-Committee, I have received a letter that only an amount Rs.2,500 was sanctioned for the whole block. The amount was meant to be distributed to the people in the border areas. But Sir, I have seen that nothing has helped the border people through this amount.
Again Sir, the other day we have discussed about flood in the hill areas because our hill areas are also affected by this flood. But the Government said that flood can never happen in our hill area excepting during the time of Noath................. (Laughter...............) When flood occurred at that time, Sir, mountains and hills were submerged under water. But we found Sir, that flood is worse in these hills this year.
Shri B.B. Lyngdoh (Finance Minister) :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, on a point of information. According to the Finance Commission's recommendation, the whole State was provided with only 4 lakhs of rupees for the whole area under the Test Relief Scheme only because of the actual distress and hard conditions that were obtaining in this State. The Government had of its own accord to go much beyond this amount of 4 lakhs of rupees. I will give the facts here. For Garo Hills along i.e., for flood affected areas in the border areas we have Rs.2,12,000 only and for test relief works we have Rs.16,09,700. So for Garo Hills alone the amount comes to a total or more than Rs.18 lakhs. Then for Khasi Hills according to the report on the position obtaining in the border areas and some other areas like Jirang-we have advanced for the last few months for test relief, Rs.4,20,000 and then for Jaintia Hills we have advanced for Rs.2,24,000. This come to near about Rs.25 lakhs. So far the State of Planning Commission has provided only Rs.4 lakhs but we have done very far beyond it. The selection of the areas was done very thoroughly by the Deputy Commissioner along with the B.D.Os for the whole District, as also to assess the reality and priority and then the reasonable amount that is needed. All these things were done together with the Secretary, Revenue. So Sir, we have gone very far and thoroughly and the amount may very from one place to another according to the assessment made by the Secretary, Revenue and the Deputy Commissioner sitting together with the Block Development Officers who are incharge of these areas. I do not know how much more in expected of the Government in this matter.
Shri Winstone Syiemiong (Nongspung S.T.) :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, I would like to say Something on what the Minister stated just now I want to inform this House that there are many areas which this Block Development Office never paid any a visit and I wonder what sort of report they gave to the Deputy Commissioner or she face of this allegation.
Shri B.B. Lyngdoh (Finance Minister) :- Sir, these B.D.Os may not be able to visit every single inch of the whole Block but they have the Gram Sevaks and members of the B.D.C. to assist them. Then there are the M.L.As and M.D.Cs to inform them. They are all human beings drawn from society and if there is any one to be blamed then we are all to be blamed, as a whole.
Mr. Speaker :- I do not understand why the Gram Sevaks alone are worse. Then through which type of officers shall the Government function?
(Voices : Do we have any persons?)
I do not think these persons will go beneath the dignity to act as such, and as officers they are always to think of their responsibilities. Now, Mr. Lyngdoh.
Shri Hopingstone Lyngdoh :- In spite of these interruptions, I would like to know whether the money has been fully utilised.
Shri B.B. Lyngdoh :- Yes, the money is being utilised. The amounts have been drawn and they are in the process of being utilised.
Shri Hopingstone Lyngdoh :- Well and good. But so far my knowledge goes, Sir, I have recently come across the fact that in the Mawsynram Block and also at Mawkyrwat Block there is no sign of such work being implemented by the Government Department or by the B.D.O. However, we have seen that only for the border area Rs. 2,500.00 were given to each Block. Anyhow, Sir, that is that. But I want o say is that the Mawsynram Block has nor yet received anything. In the Mawsynram Block where most of the areas fall within the border and the member from the Mawsynram Block.
Mr. Speaker : The member from the Mawsynram Block?
Shri Hopingstone Lyngdoh :- Yes, Sir, the member from the Mawsynram Block.
Shri W. Syiemiong : Mr. Speaker, Sir, it so happened that I had been a member of both the Blocks and I know that in the Mawsynram Block we have nto had any such thing, Sir.
Shri Hopingstone Lyngdoh :- In this respect, because of the information from the Minister, I would like to draw the attention of the whole Cabinet to the fact that it is vital for it to consider the matter very seriously because we have found that practically nothing has been implemented. If at all government have organised such a cell, I would prefer that there should be a separate cell for all these relief works for the border people and the work should not be entrusted to officers who are always much interested in incentives. That is why, they used to deal with the people in such a way as Mr. Khongwir, the hon. Member from Mawlai, has stated, that the B.D.Os used to go and try to educate the people with certain new ideas with incentive and thereby they will be praised by the people and then they will ask the people "Sign here, sign here". That is the practice. (Laughter) So Sir, they are bent on theoretical things, while the major development or relief works are done haphazardly.
Shri P. R. Kyndiah : On a point of proprietary order, Mr. Speaker, Sir, whether it is right and proper to make a blanket charge on the B.D.Os?
Mr. Speaker : I think Mr. Lyngdoh has not given any blanket charge. Actually, he is trying to defend that they are mostly concerned with development based on the incentive of the people themselves.
Shri P. R. Kyndiah : All right, Sir. ( Laughter )
Shri Hopingstone Lyngdoh :- Sir, the B.D.Os the Gram Sevaks or Gram Sevaka or the Extension Officers always used to get habituated to do these things. So if they are entrusted with these petty things, they will not have the time to do their jobs of which we are discussing, i.e., the distress of the people in the border areas. So, I would suggest, if there is such a cell, that the Government implement it immediately and go seriously into the matter, as clarified the Minister, so that big sums like Rs. 15. crores will not again be issued as was the case during the Bangladesh refugees' influx.
Another thing, Sir, which I consider proper after having visited the border areas, is that we should prepare the basic economic structure for the border areas , is that we should prepare the basic economic structure for the border not only to go in for reliefs alone. You might have seen how they demand some time free ration and some time subsidy rice. This will.
Mr. Speaker : It becomes some sort of education for them to go for that means of getting, is it not?
Shri Hopingstone Lyngdoh :- Yes, Sir, relief and temporary relief. So, I would like to submit here. Sir, that our government should do something immediately because we cannot avoid the fact that the border area will be border area, and we have lost and we are losing fertile paddy land to Bangladesh.
Mr. Speaker : I think it is better to be more specific. There is always the rule that you may suggest to the State Planning Board and I think the Government will take into account all types of suggestions that may be given.
Shri Hopingstone Lyngdoh :- Finally Sir, I would like to conclude the observation. Sir, the Government should go for long-terms plans to deal with the basic structure of economic development of our border areas. Another thing which I would like to suggest is that we may move the Government of India for more funds to help our people in the border and also to resume trade between the two Countries because of the attitude that we have experienced during the Pakistan because of the attitude that we have experienced during the Pakistan Regime and which is especially worse with Bangladesh now.
Mr. Speaker :- I think Mr. Lyngdoh we had better to dignified. There are certain words and phrases used not only by you but by some other hon. Members which, after careful reading, I may have to order the expunction of some of those words. We cannot make any drastic remarks against any friends country.
Shri Hopingstone Lyngdoh :- I submit, Sir. But it is our experience that there is nothing to show how friendly Bangladesh is. Rather it is worse than what we have experience with Pakistan.
While supporting the Bangladesh movement that Bangladesh be an independent State, we had hoped that we should get friendly relations and that trade may be resumed between the two counties so that our people in the border areas will get relief. But it is not so. Only the people of Bangladesh nationals are coming trucks after trucks from Balat to Shillong or from Shella to Shillong but not anything in exchange. I do not know whether the Government is aware of the influx of the Bangladesh nationals to Shillong today. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, Sir, this is one of the reasons for the shortage of food in the State. It is a fact that every day trucks after trucks of Bangladesh nationals are coming to Shillong. I submit Sir, from Umkiang to the Phulbari so that check gates will become effective enough to check all the smugglers, intruders and infiltrators into our State. With these few words Sir, I resume my seat.
Shri Francis K. Mawlot (Nongstoin S.T.) :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, I support the Motion moved by the hon. Member from Mawlai. I only want to request the Government to please depute some officers to the border areas to get the statistical figures of how many young boys and young's girls from the border areas have left their villages with effect from the 1st January, 1973 till date, and on what grounds these young persons, either boys or girls, have left their villages and come over to Shillong What are the purposes which these persons have to leave their villages to come over to Shillong. I would submit, Sir, that these statistical figures would be given by the Government in the Press Note as early as possible.
Shri K.M. Roy Marbaniang (Mawsynram S.T.) :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, I am thankful to some extent to the mover of this motion, the hon. Member from Mawlai. Actually I should have moved a similar motion since I represent the border areas. He said many thins for the improvement of the border areas which I personally also feel that the Government should step into have more schemes and plans fort the improvement of the border areas. That is why during these few days I have received also a memorandum submitted by the Heads of those Elakas living in the border area, urging the Government that they should bring that administrative used up nearer to them so that schemes and plans which the Government is thinking to do or which is in the process of doing so for helping the border people may be done effectively. The mover of the motion has also said about the unprecedented flood for this year only. Actually this economic disease of the border areas has been there since years together, since the partition of the country. Every year the Government is helping the people by way of grants, loans and test relief and many of the schemes but it has not been able to improve the actual economic upliftment of these people in the border area for 25 years. I personally think that those Sirdars and Syiems of those Elakas are perfectly correct to move the Government to bring the administrative set up nearer to them. In this connection, I am glad that the Government have partially started in that direction, I mean the Government have created the Border Areas Department. But this the Border Areas Department as it is now is functioning from Shillong and that is why probably those heads of the Elakas of those areas in the border are requesting the Government to bring the (At this stage the Speaker left the Chamber and Shri G. Mylliemngap took the Chair) administrative set up nearer to them so as to be able to do the work of upliftment of the border areas effectively. The hon. Member from Mawlai has also stated that in one of the meetings held at Mawsynram the B.D.O. is asking the people to sign in the blank forms. I am sorry Mr. Chairman, Sir, to say that the meeting held at that time at Mawsynram was a political meeting of one political party only. Actually if it was a meeting convened by the people of that particular area, I, being the representative of that area, should have been invited to attend that meeting (Interruption)
Shri S.D. Khongwir :- Mr. Chairman, Sir, on a point of clarification, actually the meeting was convened by the local leaders. The meeting was a political meeting of one party only and so far my knowledge goes, the hon. Member was invited to attend the meeting but he did not attend. Moreover, the meeting was not the meeting of the local representatives of Mawsynram constituencies but it was the meeting of the M.D.Cs of the Mawsynram constituencies.
Shri K.M. Roy Marbaniang :- Mr. Chairman, Sir, it is quite wrong to say that I was also invited. As I said, the meeting was a meeting of one political party only. Therefore, Mr. Chairman, Sir, I do not agree with whatever the hon. Member from Mawlai had said tat that meeting at Mawsynram that the B.D.Os are asking or giving the people blank forms a sign without putting any amount of grant or loan given to them because generally, the B.D.Os are instructed that whatever grant or loan or any amount sanctioned by the B.D.C. for a particular scheme or given to a particular person should be written clearly in the receipts form. Mr. Chairman, Sir, I am also thankful to one of the hon. Members, the leader of the HSPDP Group who said that we should not give encouragement to the people for asking free ration, free food and free clothing which I also personally feel that we should not teach our people in our State to become beggars. Our people should struggle for their own livelihood. Of course Government should help the people in the critical time for survival of their lives but not to the extent that they shall all become beggars. Mr. Chairman, Sir, as I said in that particular meeting held at Mawsynram, all along as far as my information goes, they were accusing the Government that the Government is to give free ration, free food and free clothing to the people. ( Interruption).
Shri E. BAREH (Minister, C.D.) :- It is the duty of the Opposition.
Shri K.M. Roy Marbaniang :- Mr. Chairman, Sir, as it is today, the Opposition always want to oppose the Government in every sphere of development works done by the Government.
( Interruption )
Prof M.N. Majaw : So you are satisfied.
Shri K.M. Roy Marbaniang :- The hon. Member from Nongspung has said that no relief work has been done. I am sorry the hon. Member perhaps is nto connected with any committees or sub-committees of the Block connected with the Border areas and that is why he does not know about these developments. Generally all the Members are not represented in such committees, therefore, it is difficult for the hon. Member to know about the Block which he does not represent in that particular committee.
Shri E. Pohshna :- Mr. Chairman, Sir, the hon. Member said that the motion should not have been moved. But I who represent the border area am grateful that the motion has been moved. If he has not moved it I would have moved it myself. The hon. Member should be thankful.
Shri K.M. Roy Marbaniang :- I do not say that I should be thankful for the motion as a whole. When the hon. Member said about the difficulties, the economic difficulties of the people living in the border, I am thankful in that respect only.
Shri W. Syiemiong :- Mr. Chairman, Sir, on a point of personal clarification, may we know whether there are special committees like sub-committees for the border areas in the Block. According to the hon. Member from Mawsynram, he stated that there is special committee within the Block for the border areas, may we know of such Committee.
Shri K.M. Roy Marbaniang :- Mr. Chairman, Sir, the hon. Member who is not connected with such committee in the Block does not know the development in the Border areas.
Shri W. Syiemiong :- Mr. Chairman, Sir, may we know of any provision, for such special committee?
Shri S.D. Khongwir :- Mr. Chairman, Sir, may we have clarification from the Minister, C.D. himself who is present here?
Shri E. Bareh (Minister C.D.) :- Mr. Chairman, Sir, the B.D.Cs are entitled to appoint sub-committees as they feel desirable.
Shri W. Syiemiong :- One a point of clarification Mr. Chairman, Sir, I am a member of Block Committee of Mawsynram Development Block and so far as I can remember we have not appointed any such sub-committee. I wonder what committee the hon. Member from Mawsynram referred to.
Shri Hopingstone Lyngdoh :- Mr. Chairman, Sir, it mighty be a secret committee (Laughter). A Committee for the secret manipulation of money.......................
Shri K.M. Roy Marbaniang :- Mr. Chairman, Sir, there is no such secret committee. The hon. Member from Nongspung once attended a saying that he had no use for attending this meeting for there was nothing to be done for this area...................
Shri W. Syiemiong :- The charge of the hon. Member from Mawsynram, Mr. Chairman, Sir, is wrong. he has to prove that I said like that. I did say something, I wish he could say this outside the House. I did not say these things. On the question of border areas, I might have said something.
Shri Hopingstone Lyngdoh :- Mr. Chairman, Sir, we would like to know whether there are such sub-committees and whether these sub-committees are responsible for the misusing of money while there is no money for the development of the border areas.
Mr. Chairman :- I think the hon. Member from Mawsynram might have referred to the Block Development Committee.
Shri E. Bareh (Minister C.D.) :- Mr. Chairman, Sir, the D.C. as Chairman, used to have consultation with the members of the committee for any programme meant for any particular area. Then he has also the power to constitute any committee to advise him as to what is to be done for any area and with such committee he formed he used to consult; the used to consult the member of the committee representing a particular area.
Shri S.D. Khongwir :- Mr. Chairman, Sir, may we know whether the D.C. as Chairman of B.D.C. has the power to appoint his committee?
Shri E. Bareh (Minister C.D.) :- There is no bar for the D.C. to appoint any sub-committee for consultation nor there is any bar for the Minister to appoint any committee for consultation on any project and the Minister-in-charge of Border Areas many a time has called meetings of representatives of the border areas to consult with them on certain project in the border.
Shri S.D. Khongwir :- So Mr. Chairman Sir, so far as the Mawsynram Block is concerned, is there such a consultative committee appointed by the D.C.?
Shri E. Bareh (Minister C.D.) :- There is no bar for the D.C. He may appoint such a committee. We cannot call the D.C. now, he is not here to answer.
Shri S.D. Khongwir :- Mr. Chairman, Sir, it is not for the office to answer, it is for the Government, it is for the Minister to give the answer.
This is a parliamentary democracy, and we cannot expect the officer to answer to our question!
(At this stage the Speaker, Sir, occupied the Chair)
Mr. Speaker :- The Minister is trying to clarify certain points. Now let us allow the confusion to blow out like a smoke out of the chimney.
Shri B.B. Shallam :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, on a point or order. When a particular question asked is not replied how can a reply to be given to another particular question?
Shri S.D. Khongwir :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, I have a right to ask the Minister in charge.
Mr. Speaker :- Everybody has a right to ask the Minister in charge to reply to certain points raised at certain stage of the discussion.
Shri Maham Singh :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, it is a matter for regret that a Member made a statement of which he is totally ignorant. He he does not know whether the Committee existed or not because the Deputy Commissioner is not present to clarify certain points.
Mr. Speaker :- I think you know that we cannot bring in the Deputy Commission here. The House cannot demand the presence of an officer but the Minister should also have patience to reply only at the time when they give the correct information.
Shri E. Bareh (Minister, Agriculture) :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, I made a reply under pressure. Now I have clarified my points.
Mr. Speaker :- Perhaps it is a slip of tongue. The House should have a little patience to give time to the Minister to reply to particular question. We are all human beings and we are sometimes emotional. We should have a little bit of patience to listen to the reply at proper time. Now Mr. Marbaniang to please continue.
Shri K.M. Roy Marbaniang :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, before I concluded, I would request the Government also to see that their is a development for the upliftment of the economic condition in the border areas and also should try to bring the administration nearer to the people of those areas so that all the development works could be done effectively. With these few words, Sir, I resume my seat.
Mr. Speaker :- Mr. Jormanick Syiem.
Shri Jormanick Syiem (Mylliem S.T.) :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, I would also like to participate in this motion which is very important and which has created also some commotion just now. The sufferings of the border people in the border areas has been a chronic problem. It has been a headache to State Government also to the Central Government because the conditions are such that we cannot alleviate their sufferings unless we find out ways and means to help the people to stand on their own feed. The first and foremost point that I want to place before the House is that why the people in the border area as are not able to grow their own food. I do not know whether Agricultural Experts had examined the position as to what crops-food crops could be grown in these areas considering the terrain and the climatic conditions. We cannot expert that the State or the Central Governments will feel the people by giving them free rations or opening test-relief year in and year out. It is for the experts to explore the possibility of opening out cultivation of such crops as may be suitable to those areas. I have yet to know if any such attempt has been made by the Agriculture Department as unless that is done, I am afraid the economic condition of the border areas will continue not only for a few years but for generations to come. We have, for about 25 to 27 years or so facing this problem year in and year out. So I would suggest the Government to try to explore the possibility of introducing such crops which these people could grow and convert them into food. Some remarks have been made about smuggling of foodstuffs, into Bangladesh. I do not know how should we tackle this problem unless some machinery is evolved, to see that the movement of foodstuffs from Shillong actually goes tot he border areas. Instead of keeping them in Shillong or selling them on the way, we should also see whether the B.S.F. people there are keeping a watch and whether they are doing their part properly to see that a watch and whether they are doing their part properly to see that neither salt nor rice nor atta nor any such things are going across the border. So, unless these things - I mean, the Vigilant Committees or some other machineries are evolved the check the smuggling, this may go on and the people will suffer from time to time perhaps for many years to come. So the Government, after having heard the leakage of such foodstuffs from Shillong or being smuggled out to the border, should see that the people responsible to the border areas should not allow such mal-practices to be done in those areas. It is no use clamoring in this House or saying anything outside unless the proper machineries are set up to check such smuggling.
Another point Mr. Speaker, Sir, I would like to know whether our State Government has got any say in the Indo-Bangladesh Trade agreement. Bangladesh wants coal or lime and perhaps timbers but they do not want to take our pan leave or tej-patta which is the pre-partition days used to go to all parts of India through Bangladesh and also in Bangladesh itself. I wonder whether the Government can ask the Bangladesh Government through the Central Government that if they want coal or lime they should also take our pan-leaves and tej-patta. It will not be possible, or course, to build the China-Wall from Umlakiang to Phulbari but I think an agreement should be made between India and Bangladesh. that Bangladesh would take our pan leaves, tej-patta also as they used to take before pre-partition days otherwise they cannot just lime and coal which they need. In this way our border people will be economically benefited. These are my suggestion, Sir, for the consideration of the Government.
Shri H.E. Pohshna (Nongtalang S.T) :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, while talking part in the discussion of this very very important Motion, I am very grateful to the hon. Members who were, once upon a time, in the middle of the country but due to political changes and due to partition, they have been made 'Border' and situated in the border. Government no doubt may try and have tried to implement schemes to help these people and they are trying that also up till now. But unless trade is open it is very doubtful that the problem of these people in the border areas will be solved. Some significant actions by the Government have been taken. Only recently, that is last month only, we have see big quantity of potatoes have been supplied to Bangladesh by the Government of Meghalaya and also timber has gone there. Why not a policy be adopted in the same manner that the Government itself will take up the scheme to market the border produces? Because of so many official difficulties in the trade by export of import licences and in spire of so many Border agreements, trade has not been regularised or opened between the two countries. Therefore, I fully agree with the opinion of the hon. Member who has suggested that if they want coal lime, timber from us they should accept our goals also, why not create a situation that the people of Bangladesh will also be convinced to receive our goods. I know that the Minister in charge of Border Areas is very serious about this. He used to go Delhi and had a talk about opening of the Border trade but now, it appears that the border market in small scale will only encourage smuggling. I therefore, suggest that border market should be opened on large scale basis. Secondly, about the implementation of the scheme, there is no doubt that the Test Relief Scheme have been implemented by the Government. There is no doubt also the Government have purchased trucks. But I regret that I have to repeat this very subject all the time because it is a fact that Government have purchased the trucks meant for border area for transporting the border produces. But where are those trucks which were purchased in the name of border problem? In the name of helping to market the border produces from the border areas to the important markets in the State? Government has spent lakhs and lakhs of rupees for the purchase of these trucks, but where are all those trucks? The people have to depend upon private trucks during the peak season for oranges, and other produces. I have seen, when I see to the District Agriculture Office in Jowai, trucks are lying without tyres. How can we answer to the people that trucks there without the tyres and naturally, no trucks can ply without tyres and trucks with no tyres is not a truck : it is a lame truck. Therefore, I request the Government to see that these trucks meant for border areas should be well equipped with tyres. If a private man cannot purchase types because of high price especially when our Meghalaya Government has not provided any tyres for the trucks in State, and they have to obtained from other markets in other States : that is difference and there is no wonder about it. But why, the border trucks sanctioned by the Central Government in order to help the poor border people have no tyres? There is no justification at all specially during the peak season for oranges, pine-apples and other produces from the border areas that trucks meant for transporting these produces are not available and the poor border people had to depend on private truck owners. So I would request to the Government to see these trucks be well equipped with types. Sometimes it is very doubtful whether these trucks are really without tyres or not because for other purposes these trucks are plying. This is for the Government to see.
Regarding Text Relief Scheme Sir, I have seen that there is much partiality in the allotment of funds for the border areas of Khasi and Jaintia Hills. In the Budget provision under Natural Calamities under Test Relief Scheme, the Garo Hills are provided with Rs.23 lakhs, Khasi Hills Rs.2 lakhs, Jaintia Hills Rs.1 lakh or course, it is a fact that Garo Hills is the worst hit areas are more funds will have to be provided. But considering the amounts of Rs.2 lakhs provided for Khasi Hills, the provision which will not only go to the border areas but to the entire district I do not think the allotment is justified at all. I have see schemes for which Government have sanctioned funds under Test Relief Schemes. In Jaintia Hills, I have glanced the scheme and found that although the Finance Minister has stated that M.L.As and M.D.Cs are always consulted; rather in my opinion, I have seen that the scheme of the M.L.As are not considered at all. Therefore, Sir, this is also an important point. I think, we should consider. I do not know from which source the Finance Minister has stated that Test Relief works are being implemented during the last 6 months. Of course we have asked the Government to give rest relief schemes; I do not know about the last two or three days when we are in Session, but before that, I know the scheme have not been implemented at all. the reply was very carefully made and given to the Government, when it takes about one year even to implement it. Time factor is very important when you deal with the people who are in distress. The Mover of the motion has suggested that free ration should be given and even free food. These are the people who deserve help urgently. In general principle, we cannot agree to give free ration or free food, but in special cases where we have to adopt this policy of giving free ration to some deserving people who are half-starved, Government should see to this urgent need and such people cannot wait for test relief works to come to their aid which takes months together, so free ration should be provided. So Sir, I would like that the Government should take serious steps on this matter to see that the border people really get the help in time. This matter is very important, more important than other matters in the State.
The border areas comprises of one third of the State and if its distress continues and very likely I am afraid it is continuing it will speak to other areas also. For example, we find that there is an acute shortage of foodstuff. This has started in the border and the shortage cannot be solved by the Government. It has now spread to the other part of the State and it has become a colossal problem. Therefore, Sir, I request the Government that they should be very serious in tackling this problem and that help should come early to the people. One thing that has crept into our mind while listening to the Finance Minister who said that they have not got the report from the officers of starvation : I am sorry that I have not got the report form the officers of starvation : I am sorry that I have to make a remark that we found that in most cases, officers especially the Deputy Commissioner, Block Development Officers and other Officers always made it a point to visit border areas only during the inauguration of some hospitals, some schools and some festivals by Minister. But there is no initiative on their part to come to the interior villages to really study the local conditions of the people there and learn from the people whether they are in a starving condition or not. They should always go and enquire into the people's report and should not remain silent over the reports. If Government consult that tour dairy of the Deputy Commissioner of Officers, they can study this. Sir, if there is any function usually the headman and other who use to deal business with the Head of the District will first see that before inviting the Minister in charge the first invitation to receive is the Deputy Commissioner and the Block Development Officer also. Sir, I find in so far as the Jaintia Hills District is concerned, they are not serious in their duty and their dealing with border people is very bad. Last month, there was distribution of some agricultural grants to the people of the border areas. The Block Development Officer sent a circular notice to all the people in the border that on such and such date they are to come from Dawki to Khliehriat to receive the grants. But for going for Dawki to Khliehriat the headquarter to Saipung-Darrang Block, the people have at least to spend Rs.30 in order to get a grant of Rs.50. Why not the Block Development Officer go himself to Dawki and distribute the said grant there. This is very small example for the House to know. If for the distribution of grants of Rs.50, Rs.70, Rs.80, Rs.100 and Rs.200, the Block Development Officer is not inclined to go from his headquarter up to Dawki! What do we think about his willingness to enquire about the natural calamity and suffering of the people? Therefore, Sir, I agree with what the hon. Member, Mr. Jormanik Syiem has said that the machinery should be very active, and the machinery itself which is looking after the border areas is the office of the Deputy Commissioner and the office of the Block Development Officers. I do not know what has become of the border trucks? Why they are not plying in the border? It was told they are short of types, that shows that the machinery itself has got no tyres. Therefore, Sir, in spite of the beautiful schemes, which the Government has in hand with the best of intentions to help the people they have purchased the trucks yet these trucks remains idle. Unless the machinery is active and serious to implement the scheme, I doubt whether we can at all help the border people. Before I take my seat, I would like to state here in the House that I used to tell the Minister-in-charge of Border Areas in the following words:- "Your are the most distressed Minister because you have to deal with Supply, Transport, Trades and also the most difficult problem, an international and external problem which is the border problem. Therefore, I would suggest that if we are to solve the border problem; the only things is to open the border trade. It is not possible for the local people to do it by themselves. It is a fact, the Government have opened up facilities for import-export licenses. But how can a man like me or a man from Mawlai and Nongstoin, go to Calcutta? How are we to go to Calcutta to deposit currency. What is that English currency? Anyway, the Minister knows the kind of currency to be deposited into the Reserve Bank for the purpose. I understand that even the currency which the people deal in the trade with Bangladesh is difficult to calculate. It is told that Rs.10 of Bangladesh currency is equal to Rs.2 Indian currency only in the border line. How can it be? Therefore, although Government is offering facilities for export and import licenses yet it will not be applicable to the illiterate Border people of this district. Further, the people who are literate have not got much money. How can he go to Calcutta for export license and how he will go to Bangladesh for import license? They have to send a lot. Therefore, before resuming my seat, I request the Government to spend a few lakhs of rupees on experiment of border trade by taking up trade by themselves. With these few words, Sir, I give my thanks to the mover of the Motion for this opportunity that we have been able to discuss this very important and vital matter.
Shri Raisen Mawsor (Mawthengkut S.T) :- Mr. Speaker, Sir, the motion regarding the people living in the border area is an important one. During the last few months we submitted a petition to the Nongstoin Development Block. But the Officers and the Government had replied that this is a very difficult problem and nothing could be done for the economic upliftment of the people of the border. The people living in the border area are facing great economic distress and all villages within that, Sir, even here in the area bordering Kamrup District, the people facing great difficult as also many villages bordering Garo Hills.
(At this state, the Speaker, left the Chamber and the Deputy Speaker took the Chair.)
So, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I would urge upon the Government to look into this matter immediately. Because Sir, I perfectly remember, in the last bye election in My Constituency, in the Mawthengkut Constituency, in the name of Test Relief Works, Government was spending lakhs and lakhs of rupees for the border areas. Even Nongstoin which is at about a distance of 30 kilo meters away, was included under the Test Relief Scheme for border areas. I do not understand what is that intention of the Government to implement the Test Relief Schemes only at the time of elections. My experience last year led me to belief that Government is puring every penny from their pockets during the last election campaign in my Constituency and while doing so, they have involved many of the villages outside the purview of the border areas. Therefore, Sir, I feel that there is no justification at all in their policy of implementing the schemes. Hence I would request the Government to do the needful to help those villages which are really deserving and not to do things only for the sake of winning in the elections in future. With these few words, Sir, I resume my seat.
Shri Plansing K. Marak :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I will associate myself with my friends by participating in the discussion regarding the difficulties faced by the people in the border areas. I, being a representative from one of the border Constituencies, understand the difficulties that the people are facing. I do not know much about Khasi Hills. Of course, I have visited certain areas last time which are facing economic difficulties in Khasi Hills. But I know more about Garo Hills which I represent. During the British time, the people in the border areas of Garo Hills were the richest people their economic condition was the best. They even have better education than any other side in the Garo Hills district. But since the partition of the country, people in the border areas of Garo Hills district. But since the partition of the country, people in the border areas of Garo Hills have been hard hit. They have to live without an land or property. Whatever permanent cultivation they used to have, they have been asked to part with it. In those days, they used to grow jack-fruit, pineapples mangoes and other fruit trees. But today, the have abandoned due to want to markets. The Border areas in the Garo Hills District start from South-east Mankachar and extend to the South west. Therefore, in the Northern side, the people of that area were the happiest. But during the last two years the people of the border areas of Garo Hills have been hard hit by rain as well as drought. This year because of excessive rain, several cultivable lands have been washed away by rain, as a result of which, people are living without food or any bare subsistence throughout the year. Much has been done to improve the loss of those people by the Government not only by the Government of Meghalaya but by the Government of Assam as well. I remember during the time of Capt. Sangma when he was a Minister of Tribal Areas Department in Assam, much has been done at least for Garo Hills by giving subsidies to improve the economic condition of the border people. But unfortunately, we find that the economic condition of the people which has been so established in those days, is deteriorating today. Government is spending lakhs and lakhs of rupees to improve the economic condition of the border people by importing seeds and implementing Test Relief Schemes. I personally an of the opinion that by giving subsidies, the people have become lazier than before. They do not know how to utilise the money they get from the Government. As such, I am afraid that in future we should not encourage them by giving subsidies for whatever scheme we may take up to help the people of the border areas. I think something concrete and permanent or useful should be given to them so that it would be of permanent help to those distress people. Sir, during these days, some people came to me and asked me for a subsidy for land reclamation and for terracing. I always gave a reply that if they really wanted reclamation of their land or terracing, then I would request the Government to make reclamation or terracing for them. I told them I cannot give you money. If you want reclamation, I would request the department to reclaim for you but Government will not give you money. Government may send personnel to examine whether your land is reclaimable or not. They only something could be done to help you. Other people came to me last time and asked for money for purchase or a pair of bullocks. But I said I would request the Government to get a pair of bullocks for them but not money. So Sir, this is what is happening in the border areas. Therefore, I am very much adamant to give any subsidy in the form of money. Whatever we are going to improve the economic condition of the border people, we should not try to do that in the form of giving subsidy, I mean cash subsidy. I am very much against it. However, I am grateful to the Agriculture Department because they are doing their work themselves in the field of the reclaiming the land for the people. Somebody may require irrigation facility. then the Agriculture Department will send their field officers to inspect the places and then if everything is alright, they will commence the work themselves. So there is no scope for giving subsidy. This is quite good and is rather an encouraging practice of the benefit of the people in the border areas. I find that a lot of work could be done without spending any amount for the scheme. Some flat lands can be converted into wet cultivable lands within a short span of time thereby, making the scheme a permanent source of relief to those distressed people in the border areas. Today, if I am asked to define the word "border areas" as an M.L.A. from the border area, I find it extremely difficult to do so. I remember that those villages in the border areas within a radius of 10 miles perhaps - I am speaking subject to correction-are termed as border areas. I also remember that for economic development purpose certain areas which are worst hit are taken as one of the border villages. I do not know whether this provision is still there or not. Sir, today the worst hit areas in Garo Hills are the border areas and the people thereof. They do not have any means for their subsistence. During summer, I remember while I was travelling through all those areas, I have seen the sad plight of the people. There are many people who have not taken any meals for 4/5 days; there are many who are taking root and leave of the jungle tree. It is true that Government has taken some measures to supply rice and other essential commodities to the border people but the border people have not the purchasing capacity of all to get those commodities. Last time, I mean last session, we have requested the Minister in charge of Border Areas to consider in what best way we could improve the lots of the border people. Some schemes have been taken up and I am very happy to learn that the Government is giving to implement these schemes very soon and perhaps administrative sanction has already been given. For example, for the border areas of Garo Hills, a scheme for rubber plantation has been taken up. If the scheme becomes successful then it will be a permanent scheme which would go a long way in improving the economic condition of the border people. In this connection, I would also like to request the Government to prepare schemes which will be a permanent source for economic development of these border people. Sir, I am very happy that the Government of Meghalaya has given subsidy to the border areas in cash for piggery farming, etc. But at the same time I am sorry to say that instead of giving cash, Government should have given subsidy in kind. Otherwise this will not benefit the border people because whatever they receive in cash they will spend only for their requirements. I think it would have been better if some pigs or any other things in kind be given to the border people. But it is unfortunate that instead of giving pigs, money has been given to those border areas. I doubt very much how much the recipients have spent for purchasing pigs. So in future if there is such scheme, such a piggery farming, etc. I would request the Government not to give grants in a cash but they should be given in kind. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I would also request the Government in the examine properly, I believe, you will find vast wet cultivable lands which are still to be reclaimed by the Soil Conservation Department. However I am happy to tell the House that a scheme for accommodating 100 families is being taken up by the Soil Conservation. I am thankful to the Department for taking up this project. Similarly, I would request the Government to reclaim those wet cultivable lands in the border areas and distribute them to the people. If that can be done, it will be a permanent source of relief for those border people. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I would also like to suggest that since summer is not relief for those border people. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I would also like to suggest that since summer is not very far, it would be very difficult to send rice and other essential commodities to the places like Siju, Rongara, Mahadeo, Moheshkhola, etc, because there is permanent road block. So, may I request the Government to improve the border roads in order to carry the essential commodities from Tura to those places smoothly. We have a permanent Division of P.W.D. at Barengapara and I believe it would not be difficult for the Division to improve the border roads. But unfortunately much could not be done by the Division. So it is my sincere and earnest request to the Government to accelerate the work of development of the border roads. I remember that last year I was detained for 3 days at Baghmara due to very bad condition of the roads. Therefore, I would request the Government to improve these border roads so that essential commodities can be taken from one border village to another. In this connection I would request the Government to initiate schemes like test relief and other crash programmes so that the economic condition of the border people is improved and their purchasing capacity raised. Otherwise, last time, I have seen even if you supply rice and other essential commodities through the Fair Price shops, the people would not be in a position to buy them. So it would be of no use if you send subsidy in the form of rice, atta etc since they would not be able to purchase anything. Therefore, it is desirable if the Government takes up schemes in the form of crash programmes or test relief so that their purchasing capacity would be increased by working under those test relief and crash schemes. But for not properly implementing the schemes unlike, the hon. Member from Nongtalang, I would not blame the BDOs rather I would blame our own people. I do not know about other blocks, but so far as the Asanang Block is concerned I may tell you, Sir, the BDO there had been taking into confidence the public leaders like M.L.As or M.D.C.s for implementing any schemes or projects. Everything was being done in consultation with them and on their recommendation. But I have seen in the majority of cases, in the matter of implementing crash programme in the form of roads development etc. major part of the money goes to a private individual. In what way it goes, I know. For example, in my area, i.e. Asanang Block, money was sanctioned for construction of the road. Then the Secretary of the village applied that he has got a road of 6 miles in length and requested that road may kindly be included in the test relief scheme. In consultation with the BDO and Secretary could manage an amount of Rs.6000. They met the Secretary who told them to apply fro road construction saying that they have a road six miles long and this may kindly be under taken Test Relief Scheme. In consultation with the M.L.As the B.D.O. very kindly sanctioned the money to the Secretary of the village. But the Secretary spent the money, the sanction of which was Rs.6,000. This is the amount sanctioned and the particular Secretary spent Rs.800 out of this amount. The poor villages are asked to work and because they have nothing to purchase, having no money to purchase rice and sugar, they worked and this man who acted as Secretary also acted as contractor.
Mr. Deputy Speaker :- Mr. Marak, whether that particular incident has been brought to the notice of the authorities or not?
Shri Plansing K. Marak :- Yes, Sir, I have brought it to the notice of the B.D.O. and I am going to tell it in the next meeting of the B.D.C.I. have a written report and I am going to produce it in the next meeting of the B.D.C. As my friend has said, if I am not a member then I would like to become Secretary; no doubt. So it is seen that money given as test relief is not properly utilised. But for this, I do not blame Government or blame the B.D.O. It is my own people who are taking undue advantage like this. I would request Government to create markets for horticulture produces so that people will be able to grow fruit trees in the gardens. Along with this, Government should encourage people to go in for horticulture and at the same time create markets for sale of their produces. Simply encouraging them will not do, because whatever we asked our villages to do they used to do but in the long run they find there is no market for their produce. There is one particular incident in my district, that is the growing of cashew-nut. That was during the time of Assam. I do not like to mention the name of the officer, but the people are told to clear hillocks and they did so.
Shri S.N. Koch :- On a point of order, Sir, The hon. Member has used the words "my people". Whether he means the people of Garo Hills?
Shri M. Reidson Momin :- That does not call for a point of order. The hon. Member is using the right words.
Shri Plansing K. Marak :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I am talking about my people. If you are a member of the Garos of Meghalaya, you should say "my people".
Shri S.N. Koch :- You should say "our people" and not "my people". If you say "my wife" (interruption)...............
Shri Plansing K. Marak :- Since I am speaking to the hon. Members, I have used the word "my people" in the singular; but if I speak to Mr. Koch, I will used the "our people".
Shri Reidson Momin :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, the hon. Member has very rightly explained it.
Shri Plansing K. Marak :- So Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, along with the opening of horticulture, I would request the Government to open markets in order to enable the people to sell their fruits that are grown in their gardens. Lastly I would request Government, especially Agriculture Department, to see whether there are wet cultivable lands and if wet cultivable lands are available then they should be reclaimed properly by construction of bunds and dams. Simply reclaiming the land will be of no use without proper irrigation. This could be done by construction of bunds and dams. Sir, I am very much concerned about the border areas and how we can improve the lot of our people there. I would also request the Government to take up various projects and see that these schemes are sincerely and faithfully implemented, so that it would be of help to the distress people living in the border areas. With these few words, I conclude my speech.
Shri Salseng Marak (Resubelpara S.T.) :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I rise to participate in the debate of this important Motion. Though I am not a representative of the people of the border area, I am equally concerned over the sufferings of the people living in the border area. It concerned over the sufferings of the people living in the border area. It is found that most of the Members are concerned ever this problem and this has brought forward many suggestions to remove this problem. I do not know much about Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills, but I do know Something about Garo Hills regarding this border problem. Whatever ends the people have are utilised the fullest extent. But in spite of this, they cannot better of their conditions They have been subjected to natural calamities as well as man-made calamities.
(Voices : What are man-made calamites?)
Shri Salseng Marak :- By man-made calamities, I mean harassment from the neighbouring country, like lifting the cattle and these things and that things. Their economic conditions are worsened by the closure of border markets. They cannot sell their produces and they have to leave them to perish t\and this has worsened their economic condition. Now the Government of Meghalaya has taken up scheme in order to remove all these difficulties. Government have set up a Department known as Border Area Development Department in order to look to the difficulties of these people. The Government also extended relief and subsidy and I quite agree with the hon. Member from Kherapara when he said that this giving of relief and subsidy to the people has made the people relief minded and subsidy minded. So it is very unfortunate that our people have become relief-minded and subsidy-minded. So in order to remove this tendency from the minds of the people we have to do something. That is why I quite agree with the hon. Member from Pariong when he said that a Special Cell should be created to look after the border problem. As you know most of the B.D.Os, as pointed out by some of the hon. Members, are doing development works and have no time to look to the needs of the border people. So in order to be able to look properly into the difficulties of the border areas, I suggest that Government should create a Special Cell which should be manned by experts to look into and study the problems and difficulties of the people living in border areas. Lastly I would point out that it is not the Government along which can solve this problem This problem can be solved only with the co-operation of the people and public leaders. Sir, it is our duty as responsible leaders to co-operate with the Government in solving this problem as I said earlier. Sir, with these few words I resume my seat.
Shri Rowell Lyngdoh (Mawkyrwat S.T.) :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, in taking part of this motion I would only like to say that we do appreciate the difficulties faced by the border people and in this connection, the Government have also shown their concern over these difficulties. But Sir, what we have seen for the last so many years is that no permanent programme is being taken up to develop these border areas so that the economic condition of the border people could be brought at par with other people of the State. Though some temporary relief measures have been taken by the Government e.g. test relief etc, but the real implementation of these relief and other measures are not at all satisfactory. Sir, every year the Government have sanctioned certain amount of money under the Test Relief Schemes for the benefit of the border people which we in fact, appreciate, but Sir, this has deprived other people of the State of the benefits from these schemes. At the same time while lot of relief is being given to the border people, the actual implementation of these relief measures is not satisfactory.
I now refer only to one Block where I happened to be a Member of the Block Development Committee under the Mawkyrwat Block. Sir, nearly Rs.2 lakhs worth of test relief was given and also this year a certain amount of money under test relief scheme was given to the tune of something like Rs.50,000 by the Government. Yet the implementation of that schemes has not been done anywhere. The sanction was made by the Government as per schemes to the village local committee. But on many cases no order were issued to the local committees and they do not know how money was really sanctioned for them. Sometimes the B.D.O. just summons some villages and then gives them the money. Therefore, Sir, because the village committees do not received the money, the poor people are crying for not getting any relief. Sir, though Government have sanctioned the money yet the people do not receive it. Therefore I would request the Government should take a serious note of it. Moreover Sir, some village in the border areas have not been included under these test relief schemes given to the border people. So many villagers of those villages used to grumble that their villages have not been included in the scheme. Sometimes the Block Development Officer themselves are implementing the schemes because no meeting of the Block Development Committee whatsoever was called by them. No Block Committee meeting was held for preparing of formulating these schemes for border development works or Test Relief in the border. Generally the Government has entrusted these schemes of Block Development Officers and Deputy Commissioners to execute them. But they never consulted the Members of the Block Development Committees. Sir, it has come to our knowledge that villages like Nongshluid under Mawsynram Development Block and other villages have been excluded from the schemes. People of these villages have come and reported to us and even they used to go to the Block Development Officer himself for inclusion of their villages also in the scheme. But no help was given to them by the Block Development Officer. Therefore, it shows that there is discrimination in distributing other border relief to the people even though their villages fall under Border area. Therefore, Sir, I would suggest that Government should see to this and try to take other permanent measures also to give relief to those poor people. We do appreciate the Government when it has started this Border Areas Development Department under which development programmes and schemes have been formulated. But then I had occasion to be in the Advisory Committee and it was unfortunate that our suggestions for some permanent schemes were rejected. We have suggested that the Government should include coffee plantation as well as industrialisation of the border areas, but the Government have shown their inability to do so because of some reasons like imposition of some customs and excise duties. But Sir, we have seen in the news some time back that the Assam Government have encouraged people to grow coffee because it is very lucrative business and we can export it even to foreign counties also. So I do not see any reason why our Government should reject the suggestion given by the people from the border areas themselves. We know that coffee plantation is very good in the border area. Of course the Government has accepted certain suggestions for growing of certain plants like wild pepper and other cash crops, etc, but nothing has been done for industrialisation of the border areas. The people used to demand for certain tyres of industries, I mean small-scale industries like canning and fruit preservation industries. But no effort has been made by the Government on that score. Moreover, in the matter of employment Sir, we see that not much scope has been given or created for employing the local people in the border areas. For example, there is one company by the name of Kommorah Lime Stone Company which is in the border and it is expected that it will give employment to the people like giving contracts to the local border people for purpose of gathering lime-stone. Actually Sir, we see that employment is not given to the local people and contract is not given to them though the Minister as assured the people of that area that he would look into the matter and see that contracts and employment opportunities should be given to the local people. Well Sir, there are certain restrictions that the people cannot work there because the Company used to do some tactics by not making regular payment to the labourers, etc. Instead they ring many other people at cheaper rates from outside the State. Naturally the people that area never get proper employment. Therefore, with the starting of an industry or with industrialisation of the border areas, we hope that the Government should ensure that employment is also be given to the local people of that area. Now we have seen that the Government is trying to extend road communication to many parts of the State in the border areas yet along these roads, there are no markets. So I would like to suggest, as the hon. Member from Nongtalang has stated, that Government should try to open up border markets and try to persuade the Central Government to have some dialogues with Bangladesh for opening these border markets because, as we have seen in the news, there is revival of the trade agreement between India and Bangladesh. But there is nothing about border trade; there was no mention whatsoever of border trade, whereas in the beginning of 1972-73, during the initial signing of the agreement, there was some mention of border trade and there was arrangement for border trade but that was not implemented till now. So this Government should take up the question of opening of such border trade where head-loads can be carried by the people of the two countries. With these few words, Sir, I resume my seat.
(Mr. Jackman Marak and Mr. P.R. Kyndiah stood up)
Shri P.R. Kyndiah (Jaiaw S.T.) :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, do I get the priority?
Mr. Deputy Speaker :- Mr. Jackman Marak stood first. Anyway, you will get your time.
Mr. P.R. Kyndiah :- Thank you, Sir.
Shri Jackman Marak (Chokpot S.T) :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I rise to speak about the condition of the people in the border areas for which I am extremely sorry. The condition of the border people is known to all. This year especially, their condition is worse and I cannot imagine what would be their lot next year. We have hoped this year to get good results in paddy cultivation but in place of getting good results, the amount of cultivated paddy is very low. Of course, all of us know that this year's heavy rainfall has affected paddy cultivation very badly, especially in the border areas. So, Sir, I would request the Government, through you, to supply essential commodities to the border people, not only this year, by giving test relief works, but by allowing the people to earn from these works so that they can purchase the essential commodities. Moreover, Sir, I would like to say, in this august House, about the border road. I have seen that this year rice cannot be supplied properly to many centres, specially the centres under my area, like Chokpot. It is a big centre but rice cannot be supplied properly due to bad communication. Of course, there is a road, Sir, but for 3 or 4 months in a year trucks cannot go to Chokpot. So, the retailers who have taken the allotment of rice from the whole-salers cannot take them because of bad communication. The condition on the 12th Mile of Chokpot, that means, Tura-Dalu Road from Dalu to Chokpot is not good. Mr. Speaker, Sir, I would request the Government, through you to improve this road immediately not only for the benefit of the people of that area also for the benefit of the Government of Meghalaya.
Mr. Deputy Speaker :- Mr. Marak, which part of the road do you mean to say because there are so many roads in the border areas and even in your Constituency also you must say which road you want improvement on, otherwise, your request will not be clear.
Shri Jackman Marak :- Yes, Sir, I am speaking about the Tura-Dalu Public Work Department Road from 12th mile to Chokpot. Last year the Government had promised to improve it and also to make it a pucca road. But, Sir, I am sorry to say that uptil now no improvement work has been done and unless and until Government improves this road, the essential commodities cannot be supplied to this big centre. There are more than 12 retail shops which we can rice and atta from this centre.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I shall now speak about the border markets. The present border markets during the period from November-December, can be called good markets. But there are so many diseases Sir, I can say that we can cure these diseases only for two months then these diseases will come again to the border areas from the month of January to the end of November. Sir, the border people cannot move an inch towards Bangladesh. In the previous days, Sir, the people of the border areas were very happy, they could bring many things from Bangladesh but why not this time. Sir. What I have said just now, the people of the border areas cannot move an inch of the land now. The people cannot grow any fruit due to absence of markets. There are so many fruits on the border areas like pine apples, bananas tezpatta and other things. Why the people cannot send these fruits to markets Sir, because there is no border truck. Of course we have seen some border trucks provided by the Government for this purpose but I have not seen these trucks being used by the people. We think that these trucks cannot be used because of the shortage of spare parts, tyres and the high price of petrol. So Sir, I would like to say that these trucks should be used by the border people for marketing their local produces. Therefore, Sir, I would request the Government, through you, to instruct the officers in charge of the border areas to look into this matter. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, the hon. Members have spoken here about the test relief works and the crash programmes and other things and I want to say something about the Block Development Officer of my area, I have seen schemes which were given by the Government to the Block for implementation which the Government has sanctioned so much of money. But this money could nto be used properly because the officers are doing things according to their own will. For example, Sir, in the Block meeting, sometimes when I was the Chairman of the Block Development Committee we had decided certain schemes to be taken up first. But unfortunately these schemes which have been decided in the meeting of the Block Development committee were not taken up by the Block Development Officers. They took up schemes of their own will. So Sir, I would like to say that officers of the Garo Hills District should have coordination with the public representative in all developmental schemes, Sir, last year the Government had sanctioned more than four lakhs of rupees for the road from Mitapgiri-Sibbari via Rongrikimgiri, but I heard that Rs.3,60,000 had been transferred to another road. Why this money had been transferred in this way as this could have been avoided if the officers have co-ordination with the representatives of the people. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I would like to suggest to the Government through you, to look into these things, otherwise in future all these schemes given to areas district wise will not be implemented properly. So until and unless there is coordination of the officers with the public representatives all schemes will be fruitless and the money sanctioned by the Government will be infructuous. With these few words, I resume my seat. Thank you.
Shri P.R. Kyndiah (Jaiaw S.T.) :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I am happily encouraged to find that many Members of the House have participated in the discussion of this very important motion and I think it is right that it has been so for the simple reason that the border areas of the State bordering Bangladesh are vast or comprising 8,150 square miles which is about 36 per cent of the area of the State and also populated by a lakh and 30,000 thousand people which is about 23 per cent of the total population of the State. So the importance of this area of the State needs hardly any emphasis. Besides that, I am also aware of the fact that we have a long border land about 5,000 kilometers right from Jaintia Hills to Mankachar-Mahendraganj in Garo Hills District. Therefore, I feel that whatever development takes placed in the State, this area has to obtain a priority. I remember in the old days before 1947, this area was a very prosperous area. It was indeed that golden era in Khasi Hills. There was a saying that time that the border people are so rich and well off that you can pluck gold out of the tree leaves, that is, the golden oranges. That time had gone with the coming of independence followed by partition. The suffering of the people had grown from that time onwards and right up to this year. The then Government of Assam and the present Government of Meghalaya had tried their mite to tackle this problem but somehow it has not been able to create the necessary impact and the necessary infrastructure because of the circumstance which is not within the domain of the Government. I am also fully aware of the fact that our people residing in this area we have been suffering mainly because of the hostilities that took place in previous years between India and the then Pakistan. I thought that with the emergence of Bangladesh as a new nation having in achieving the nationhood for Bangladesh and also the role that our people have contributed in the coming of the State; I had thought that perhaps with the coming of Bangladesh a new era will not come to pass. Our people in the border areas had continued to suffer and they are still continuing to suffer. If appropriate steps are not taken in appropriate manner, the problem will remain as it is today. But there is a silver lining in this darkness which engulfs this area of our beloved State. That is whatever suffering the people have suffered, whenever I had the occasion to meet them during my tour in the Border area, I have found out certain element of hope in so far as the people appreciated the nature of the problem and there is no loss of hope. The people in the border areas, despite the fact that economically they are very much hard hit, I must say, the morale is high and that is reflected also in the activities of the Government which of late have been so concerned about this problem and appreciated the problem in its full light by greeting the necessary administrative machinery to deal with the problem. Therefore, the decision of the Government to create the Border Area Development Department is a step in the right direction. We may have something to say about the implementation of various programmes and measures by the Departments. There may be loop-holes here and there, but given the goodwill of the Members, the cooperation of the people and the dedication on the part of the officer concerned, this problem could be solved I am sure about it.
Now coming to the nature of the problem that we fact in the border areas; I do not mean to take the time of the House by going into the details of the administration, I would only deal with the attitude that is necessary to go forward to tackle this very big problem of the border people. In the olden times, we had the tradition of trading in oranges, bettle nut, pan leaves and tezpatta and these were exported across the border and we in turn used to get fish, rice oil and so on from the other side. But things have changed today. It is no longer so. But I am happy that despite the reverse of the position there is a determination on the part of all of us to see that this problem gets its solution in the proper way. Now I am referring to certain statement made by some hon. Members who were discussing on the subject. In trying to help the border people, I think there are two or three ways of looking at it. One is that the areas needs to diversify trade channels, the second is to diversify the agricultural produces and the third one would be the need to think in terns of creating works which will create assets. I might be speaking in terms of creating works which will create assets. I might be speaking in terms or economics, but I think it is proper and right for us that we approach this problem in a scientific manner. I am very much happy about the statement made by some members belonging to the H.S.P.D.P. Group today who had made very clear statements that we should not go in for free distribution of foodstuff or nation. This is a very significant statement because it is pregnant with motivation not to make our people grant minded but rather we should strive to make our people strong and self-reliant. This is a very important factor in this whole scheme of things. Therefore, taking the cure from that, I would suggest that the problem has to be looked into from the long-term point of view. We had discussed about short-term measure like gratuitous relief, test relief or crash programme, but I fell that we have to approach this problem from a long-term angle in order to bring about his element of self-reliance on the people of the area. This is very important. Therefore, it is high time, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, that we should take up revolutionary thinking and revolutionary steps.
Now I have been thinking very seriously about this matter. As you know very well, the problem is such that in Khasi Hills, in certain parts of the border areas, people have started to come out of their residing places and tried to find new places for settlement. This has been happening in Jaintia Hills and may be in Garo Hills also to some extent. This is certainly a dangerous trend. My point is that we have to take certain measures to see that these people depend on the landed properties and make a living out of their lands. Now, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I feel that it is high time that we initiate ideas in the minds of the people to go in for alternative kind of crops. We cannot depend on the tradition after 28 years now. We can go longer depend on the fickle mindedness of the markets from Bangladesh. We have to depend on our own markets. If at all the border market are opened on certain occasion - well that should be a supplementary income. We should base our whole economy on diversification on trade and agriculture with a view of meeting the demands from our own State, and even India. Perhaps that is a very strong statement but I feel in the circumstances today when the situation across the border is completely uncertain, it is high time that we think in that light. The other day, I met some of my friends from the border areas who were telling me about the pitiable conditions of our people there and happenings across the border where the price of salt has shot up to Rs.55/- per K.G., Mustard Oil Rs.135/- per K.G. and so on. The situation is undependable altogether. Therefore, we have to go for alternative crops-perhaps coffee crops which are fast growing but it is high time that we should not depend on the markets across the border. The other suggestion which I would like to place before the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, is that the Government initiates certain measures by which we create measures by which we create centres of economic industrial activity. If it were not for the establishment of the Cherra-Mawmluh Cements Ltd., I do not know what will be the fate of the people of Cherrapunjee. The establishment of the Cement Company at Cherrapunjee has made the people gravitated to Cherrapunjee and made it a centre. Now, belief that these industrial centres have to be pinpointed throughout the border areas right from Dalu-Baghmara to Dana-Malidhar. We have to pinpoint these areas in which we will have to create certain industries certain incentives so that the people will stay and live in these areas. These industrial centres are very important. Now, in building up the centres, the need to exploit the mineral resources that are abundantly available in our areas we have to be looked into. The establishment of the Komorrah Lime Stone Quarry may also be a step in the right direction. Perhaps with a little modification and adjustment, it could become a big centres. So this idea of having economic centres throughout the border area will make them self-sufficient units it will be a worthwhile idea to think of. Now, there has been a tendency on the part of the Government also to try to solve the problem of the border people by going in for a multi-pronged attach on animal husbandry, agriculture and so on. But, I think it will be right and proper that we select certain projects and on the economy of the border people. Now, for instance, in Garo Hills, we know the possibility and potentiality of piggery where we can go in for a piggery scheme in the border areas of Dalu or Baghmara Pigs have a good demand for markets in Khasi Hills. So I suggest that we can go in for pig projects in Garo Hills, Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills. This will have a diversified effect on the economy of the people. My third suggestion would be in the field of communications. I happened to go to Shella a few weeks ago when I cam upon a certain problem, of the people here. The Cherra-Shella road is still in a very bad state. This is really very sad because this road has been in existence for a very long time - I do not know in which year it was made but the condition of the road is very bad.
Mr. Deputy Speaker :- Kindly try to cut short your speech so that other Members could take part in the discussion.
Shri P.R. Kyndiah :- Yes, Sir, I will try to cut short my speech. Now communication I feel is a very important factor towards building up the economic development in the border areas. Apart from acting as an infra-structure to development, it is important for the economic rehabilitation of the people but most important of all is when there is good communication in the border areas, this will stand the country in good stead during the times of emergency. To day, we have a very friendly neighbour but the relations between the States are subjected to whims of international politics. Therefore, the border roads, border communications have to be always in State of preparedness so that in times of emergency we will not be taken unaware. This is very important. Therefore, it is my plea, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, that communication in the border areas should be given a priority in view of the reasons which I have just stated. Last of all, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I would like to make a suggestion that the Border Areas Department, which I believe is still in a state of infancy, has to be made more effective and stream-lined so as to enable it to be able to deliver the goods in full. I do not agree with the suggestion of having another Cell This will duplicate work. I feel that the Border Areas Department itself can take this work because it is headed by a very senior Officer of the rank of a Secretary. I, therefore, feel that it is important that this Department should be streamline so that this will improve the work more effectively. With these few words, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I resume my seat.
Mr. Deputy Speaker :- Mr. Koch, there is no more time. Kindly speak for two or three minutes.
Shri S.N. Koch (Mendipathar) :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, while discussing this important subject like border area economy, I rather got myself confused. I have been listening to the hon. Member who spoke before me and I came to the conclusion that atleast I am not an irrelevant M.L.A. in relation to the subject of the motion. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, so far as the situation in the border is concerned, I need not say anything more because most of the Members who have taken part in the discussion of this Motion clearly stated the economic difficulties that the people are suffering. On listening, only one thing I cannot understand as to whether it will be right if a man is found ailing, we should prescribe to administer some multi-vitamin injections or some tonic or something like that, without proper diagnosis. In my opinion, while dealing with the matter so delicate like border area economy first of all we should try to know what are the direct and indirect causes, those are responsible for the economic difficulties of the border areas. Some of the Members have touched in a nutshell that one of the reasons is due to the erstwhile Pakistan, subsequently Bangladesh, and the second is the International border for which the products of our country neither go to the erstwhile Pakistan nor anything can come from Pakistan or Bangladesh. This is no doubt one of the factors which is the immediate cause as it appears to me. While discussing about the suffering of the people of the border area, I must refer to the 1970-71 Bangladesh liberation war, during which period our border people were to lose lives and properties; which was reported to be compensated by the Government as war damage compensation to the victims and sufferer but till today, as the latest information is available our Government have done nothing in this respect to compensate the loss border people were to sustain. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, in this connection, I must say our Ministers think about their own comfort and luxury than the causes of the people. Very recently one of my friends showed me one interesting him with tea. I was shown a photo and in that photo there were two persons of opposite sex and one happened to be the Member of the Cabinet..............
Now why I refer to this, because it appears that our Ministers go from our State to Delhi on official tour or in the name of official at the cost of public money but as it appears such official business tours were misused by our Ministers in merry making and holidaying in the capital city.
(Voices : We cannot hear properly)
While listening to my previous speakers two hon. Members from the Treasury Bench gave opposite views. One said that one of the economic ailment of the border, the officers are not responsible and another said it is and cited examples such as diversification of Chokpot Road.
Shri Plansing Marak :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, may I intervene here? I have specifically mentioned the two Blocks I do not know about other Blocks. I was speaking of officers of these two Blocks only.
Shri S.N. Koch :- I am not bringing any charges, I am bringing it only as a submission Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, what I want to say is that one hon. Member of the Treasury Bench said that the officer are responsible for the economic ailments of the border area while the other said it is not and the third speakers of the Treasury Bench was saying that the factors which are responsible for the border areas are.................
Mr. Deputy Speaker :- What is your submission?
Shri S.N. Koch :- I am coming to that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, if I am interrupted in this way, I cannot finish my point. Why I raise this point is to find out the reason and the causes of the economic difficulties being faced by the people in the border areas. To overcome these difficulties the hon. Members who spoke earlier performed volume of suggestions. So, I do not like to add any more suggestion and I shall try my level best to restrain myself from giving any suggestions because I sympathise with the Minister-in-charge.
Shri D.D. Pugh (Minister of State, Education) :- You do not look very sympathetic.
Shri S.N. Koch :- My point, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, is that if the officers or the Government are responsible or can be treated as one of the factors for the economic difficulties which are being faced by the border people, my only question to the Minister in charge is whether he can make thick of these officers by bringing them into task as alleged by the hon. Members from the Treasury Bench. This I believe the Minister in charge or the Government can take stern action against the officers responsible for creating economic difficulties.
Shri B.B. Shallam :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I would like to seek clarification in regard to the speeches made by the hon. Member. He made a statement of the photo of the two opposite sex one of which is the Minister of this Cabinet. We would like to be cleared on this.
Shri S.N. Koch :- The clarification is that one is the Member of this Cabinet and one of course is a lady.
Shri P.R. Kyndiah :- May we know Sir, what has the this lead with the border problem.
Mr. Deputy Speaker :- Now I think there is no more time only 2 or 3 minutes I am to allow.
Shri S.N. Koch :- As I have already said, I do not like to repeat again. But since the member from the treasury bench has admitted that the difficult problems of the border people are due to the fault of the officers they should be taken to task in order to make it alright so that our people of the border area get relief. The border area economic difficulty is not confined to Bangladesh Border or international border but entire border areas people are not getting easy transport communication to transport themselves and their produces. The owners of the vehicles are not coming forward to place buses in the road because the price of spare parts, petrol, etc. I have gone up manifold while on the other hand the police harassment is mounting up day by day.
Mr. Deputy Speaker :- Sir, you are not keeping up to time limit. I will give time to the Minister in charge to reply.
Shri Williamson A. Sangma (Chief Minister) :- He has been given 5 minutes time but he has already taken 15 minutes.
Shri S.N. Koch :- Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, the point I would like to raise is that there are no buses plying in Garo Hills specially in border areas in the Permit issued by our State but the buses under the permit issued by other State with non-official permission by the officers concerned by the Regional Authority. This requires counter signature as soon as possible so as to help particular bus owners out of the hand of the Police.
Mr. Deputy Speaker :- Enough time has been spent on the discussion of this motion. I call upon the Minister in charge to reply.
Shri Williamson A. Sangma (Chief Minister) :- I just want to clarify a serious allegation brought forward by Mr. Hopingstone Lyngdoh.
Shri Hopingstone Lyngdoh informed the Deputy Inspector General, Deputy Commissioner and the Superintendent of Police that a certain gentleman of Laban was involved in smuggling to Bangladesh and also that on the night of 14th November 1974 he was allowed to return from the border area with a certain vehicle with Bangladesh currency. A police party under One Deputy Superintendent of Police kept watch on the road from the border to Shillong and another party waited and watched around the person's residence. Neither this gentleman nor this truck turned up in the night. Another information was in touch with the M.L.A who contacted the Superintendent of Police at night and informed that the gentleman had been noticed in his own house but on verification by a Deputy Superintendent of Police this was not found correct.
The next day the truck concerned arrived at the residence of the person and on its being searched, nothing incriminating was found except some household goods.
The house of the person was also searched on the basis of the warrant issued by the Magistrate on 14th November 1974. Nothing worthwhile could be found.
The M.L.A. and the other informant were kept informed. We have alerted the police to be vigilant to deal with likely smugglers.
Shri S.D.D Nichols Roy (Minister, Border Areas) :- There is no doubt in the mind of the Members of the House including the Members of this side of the House that the discussion is an important one that has taken place an that one of the most serious problems that Meghalaya faced in the economic condition of the border people. The border I refer to is the one referred to by the mover which is the border of Meghalaya with Bangladesh. This border area runs laterally approximately 496 Kms. form Danna-Malidhar in Jaintia Hills right up to Mankachar in Garo Hills and for some extent to Mahendraganj. The total population living here according to 1971 Census is 2.3 lakhs and not 1.3 lakhs as incorrectly stated by the Member from Jaiaw. The area is about 5,000 Sq. Kms. according to the latest definition. These figures represent 23 per cent of the total population, and 22 per cent of the State's total area. These areas have traditionally grown certain cash crops, such as oranges, pan leaves, tespata leaf, pineapple, etc. These perishable produces were always sent to East Bengal which was subsequently made into East Pakistan and now Bangladesh in exchange for other crops, such as rice, fish, chickens, eggs, etc. The crux, of the problem is the creation of the new country and by the creation, the trade was stopped. Trade could certainly flow between the two separate countries as it flows in many parts of the world. But it so happened that because of certain conditions, the trade was stopped. As very rightly pointed out by the Member from Jaiaw, we did expect that with the emergence of a new country which is friendly with us, that the trade agreement could be signed and trade restarted. It was expected that our produces would be able to be sold across the border and other produces could come from that area which has a complementary agricultural pattern. However, except for the first year or so, right from the creation of Bangladesh, this has not taken place. The trade agreement which was first signed between the two Government of India and Bangladesh were of two types. One in which a regular trade would exist which permits import and export licences through the custom check-post and so on. The other is the one which is called "Border trade" which is now designated as "Frontier trade" would take place in the traditional markets of Meghalaya in which traders from the other side would come across the Borders and buy our produces or sell theirs in those markets without permits customs checks and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, due to no fault of our Government either at the State level or Central level, this Border trade agreement was discontinued after the first six months when it was up for review in October, 1972. From what I understand, it was discontinued because the Government of Bangladesh felt that the border trade in various parts of the country had resulted in smuggling of certain items which were not agreed to in that Agreement such as jute from Bangladesh to Bengal. Now, since this is the crux of the matter, as rightly pointed out by the Member from Nongtalang, I am dealing with it a little more elaborately. Requests had also been made by the Member from Mawkyrwat that Government should take up with the Government of India to re-opened border trade. As a matter of fact, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, the Government of Meghalaya had been taking up continuously with the Government of India at many levels-through personal intervention with the various ministers by the minister concerned also through telegrams and letters and through officers continuously on the question of re-opening of the border trade and border markets so that trade would start again. I am sorry to report that the response from the Government of Bangladesh has not been favourable to our approach either at the State or Central level. They have suggested that unless and until certain institutions and machineries are put into action , to make sure that smuggling does not take place, they will not agree to this border trade re-opening. From our side we have made categorical assurance that so far as Meghalaya is concerned, there was no smuggling on jute into our State. This item does not come to the border of Meghalaya State but it goes to other States. We have suggested therefore, that a separate agreement may be considered for Meghalaya Border between the Government of Bangladesh and the Government of India. However, uptil now, this has not taken place but discussions are still doing on at every opportunity, whether with the Minister of Commerce of the Union Cabinet or the Prime Minister or the various Ministers concerned, the External Affairs Ministry or the Commerce Ministry and various others concerned to suggest how best to solve this problem to re-open the border trade. We will leave no stone unturned-we have suggested a personal visit to our Ministers to Bangladesh. But they started that time was not opportune for us to visit and discuss this particular matter. Therefore, it is evident that at least for some time to come, we cannot expect the usual border trade to be re-opened between Bangladesh and Meghalaya. If any trade could take place, it is an informal, unofficial one but it will not be in the form of a regular singed agreement between the two countries. I may point out, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, during the days when Pakistan was incharge of the erstwhile Pakistan areas known as Bangladesh, it has a different situation. There were no trade agreement whatsoever. But when our State of Meghalaya come into being, our Government had taken steps that the border trade should be re-opened on our side alone. We have made certain arrangements that border trade from East Pakistan would come across the Border and go through the Border Security force's Check-post and marketing would be allowed only after scrutiny and checks by the B.S.F. They should check every entrant and record the name of the person coming to those markets and issue a metal ticket in the morning and the person should return this in the same afternoon on departure from markets. This was a very effective and simple method that had made this trade to continue. It was only unilateral. Internationally, it was unofficial. On our side it was done to help our border people to establish border trade. Now, that Bangladesh has come as a friendly country and signed the agreement with us, that unofficial, unilateral arrangement therefore, could not take place. Therefore, the position is entirely changed now. I hope and trust that the Government of India will continue to take up the matter with the Government of Bangladesh so that border trade could be established on a regular basis. Now, since this position exists and we can not envisage re-opening of the border trade in the near future, the Government of Meghalaya and the Government of India should therefore, pay attention to what we could do to help the economic condition of the people living in the border areas. It is, therefore, within that context that we have taken the decision to set up a separate department to look after the Border development. A Secretary was appointed- one or two officers were appointed and certain funds were placed at the disposal fo the Border Areas Department to look after the special needs of the Border areas. In this connection meetings have been held with the representatives from the border areas to discuss the border areas development programmes and for the year 1974-75 an amount of Rs.50 lakhs has been set aside in addition to normal programme of the Government meant for the whole State. Now the programme which ahs been outlined- I will read out what has been decided.
( Bell rang )
Mr. Deputy Speaker :- Your time is up. Is it the sense of the House that the Minister-in-charge continues and that time be extended so that he can finish his reply?
Shri S.D. Khongwir :- May we know from the Minister how long will he take to finish his reply?
Shri S.D.D. Nichols Roy (Minister of Supply) :- I will take another half an hour.
(Voices: yes, yes.)
Mr. Deputy Speaker :- Sir, we have allocated the fund of Rs.50 lakhs to the different Departments like Agriculture, Horticulture, Minor Irrigation, Soil Conservation, Co-operation, P.W.D. as well as the Community Development for roads, Water Supply, Education and for certain other development schemes for border areas. Now this amount will continually be subject to revision depending on the special needs of the border areas. Recently we have heard form certain Members that it may be revised fore certain other schemes which may have an impact, as ahs been suggested by one of the Members on the floor of the House. In this connection, I would like to tell the House that we are aware of the situation and certainly revision of this amount will be made depending on the real needs of the border people on the basis of the suggestion made by the different Members and also of the experts in the field. For the next financial year an amount of Rs.91.71 lakhs has been proposed for the implementation of various schemes for border areas under different sectors. However, it is yet to be confirmed since the plan has to be finally approved by the Planning Commission. But certainly our Government is aware of and fully alive to the problem and it is trying its level best to see that something is really done to help the economic condition of the people living in the border areas. However, it may be mentioned here that the Department of Border Area Development is not an implementing Department. We are not going to create separate departments to look after agriculture, fishery, roads and so on and so forth. The present Department is only a co-ordination Department to find out the needs and distribute funds according to the need of the various Departments in consultation with the representatives, as I said earlier, and to supervise the development, call for reports from time to time and to see that the schemes are being implemented by the various Departments in the field. Now I would like to deal with some of the points raised by the Members in their discussion. Firstly, the Mover, the Member from Mawlai mentioned about unprecedented monsoon and damage of crops. I would inform the House that this has received attention of the Government and the Revenue and Agriculture Departments have taken certain steps to provide help in the form of test relief especially to the border areas where crops were damaged or carried away by flood. Money has been sanctioned and some of them arte in the process of implementation already. My colleague, the Minister-in-charge of Revenue, has already state the amount that has been sanctioned for test relief schemes and much of this amount is for the border areas. The hon. Member from Mawlai has made a suggestion that we should move the Government to re-open the trade with Bangladesh. I think I have already dealt with this question. Any-way we will continually move the Government of India to re-open trade with Bangladesh. As regards supply of essential commodities as has been suggested by many Members, as a matter of fact, the House will recall that at our instance the Government of India had been pleased to sanction the subsidy on essential commodities i.e., transport subsidy, so that the people living in the border areas can get their essential commodities through the fair price shops at the same rate as the people living at Tura, Jowai or Shillong are getting. However, Sir, in 1974 this subsidy had been discontinued by the Government of India but our Government had taken a decision to continue this and we have been requesting the Government of India to start the subsidy again. But in the meantime we have started giving subsidy out of our own fund and we shall have to continue this out of our own fund and we shall have to continue this out of our own fund until the Government of India comes forward to our assistance which I hope they will do. Now, much has been stated by two or three Members about heavy smuggling especially in salt, mustard oil, rice, sugar, etc., across the border. Well the information that we have received forms some public leaders that certain amount of salt, and not in truckloads, had been smuggled across the border, because the cost of salt was very high on the other side of the border. However, as soon as this information came to our notice, we have directed the police force, Border Security Force and village Defence Parties to assist in checking this smuggling. Now the Member from Mawlai raised a number of points regarding BDOs and levelled charges against the BDO of Mawsynram on the question of giving blank paper for signature. But no details of the allegation was given.
Shri S.D. Khongwir :- I have made no allegation against that particular Block Development Officer. I just said that in a meeting in Mawsynram some people told me. That is what I want to clarify.
Shri S.D.D. Nichols Roy (Minister, Supply) :- I do not need clarification on that. I already know it. It is an allegation made by the public and which is not give specifically by a person or persons. I would however, request the member from Mawlai to give us further details so that a through enquiry may be made. There was also a statement that plenty, the word "plenty" was used, of Bangladesh nationals who have infiltrated in the border but we have received no information. In the last six months a few have tried to come across but they have been pushed back and the officers, the police and Security Force have been alerted to keep in check and to see that the infiltrators, who come due to the economic difficulties in Bangladesh, should be pushed back to their own country. A suggestion has been made to give adequate medical supplies and facilities to the people in the border area and that officers should be deputed wherever there are no dispensaries. This will be examined and will be taken into consideration. This will depend however, on the condition of the area and whether medical officers are available and so on. Now a reference had been made to land which was under cultivation but which is now in Pakistan or Bangladesh, as the case may be. Unfortunately our Government has no hand in delimitation of the border and as the House is probably aware, the agreement was made on a map made many years before partition took place. The map relates to the are between Sylhet District and Khasi and Jaintia Hills District. Therefore, that land is no longer within our country. It is true that people used to grow food crops in these areas and cash crops on the slopes and such was their economy. One of the most important suggestions made, which has already received the attention of the Government, is to diversify agriculture. Some Members from both sides of the House has suggested this and the latest from the Member from Jaiaw. As a matter of fact, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, in the last two months I have visited the border areas and have clearly stated to the people that they should not depend on trade with Bangladesh any more. So far as those crops which cannot be sold in Bangladesh or in any other parts of India or elsewhere are concerned, we should try to diversify agriculture and start growing food crops in their place which the people know something about, like tapioca, millets, yams and so on. Agriculture Department is also assisting in training people and giving help in the form of subsidised seeds and so on. Now the Member from Pariong referred to the failure of the Supply Department in distributing rice and that the rice for border areas goes to Bangladesh or kept in Shillong. Some of the Members also stated that rice and food stuff never reached the people. It may be, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, due to the dishonesty and greed of certain wholesalers or retailers and t his may have happened here and there and I do not shirk the responsibility and the Supply Department will try to continue to inspect that food actually reaches the people. But a lot depends on the co-operation of the people concerned to make complaints quickly and to bring to the attention of the authorities any information they have of such things. But I do know, Sir, that much of the people and to say that no food ever reached there in an exaggeration. I have visited the border areas and I know that food has reached the people. We have set up Vigilance committees in each Fair Price Centre but whether they are functioning faithfully or not depends on the people themselves. We are educating the people in this line so that they may write to us immediately in case of complaints. They could do this through the Block Development Officer or through the Deputy Commissioner and so on. So a system has been set up with checks and counter checks in addition to the checking staff of the Supply Department. I appreciate the advice of the Member from Pariong who is the leader of the Hills State people Democratic Party group so far as supply of free rice is concerned. I have myself received petitions from people in the border areas saying; 'please give us free ration'. I have explained to them the consequence of such a move as it will involve huge financial implications which the State will not be able to bear. Free ration is never given in normal times and normal conditions and it may be pointed out that if Government start giving free rations then it may have to continue definitely which is nto at all possible. Free rations are given in special circumstances as in the case of floods and to give free ration continuously will not possible because there is no facilities and funds and it is also not good for the people. But I appreciate the sentiments and words expressed by the Member from Pariong. The Member from Pariong also mentioned that there are more difficulties now with Bangladesh than with Pakistan, but then we have agreements and we have to honour this agreement. Another Member suggested that Government should take up more plans and schemes. I have already stated that we have consulted and will continue to consult them if there are any new suggestions and if these are not adequate, we should change the allocation to some other departments or change the amount that we will certainly take into consideration. The Member from Mylliem had rightly stressed that it is a chronic condition which is going on from 1947 but it is difficult to solve the problem over night. I think a correct approach as expressed by some Members is to help the people to stand on their own legs and I appreciate some of the suggestions made by various Members such as the Member from Jaiaw who has pin-pointed them and suggested diversification of trade and agriculture and by creating economic growth centres. We are looking into all these. Now let me take for example the Kommorah Limestone Mining Company. Kommorah Lime Stone Mining Company was set up by our Government in order to supply lime-stone for manufacture of cement to Bangladesh Incidentally, it has been checked up and it has been found to be incorrect to state that the local people were not, as somebody stated, given a chance of employment or that no contracts have been given to the local people. No contracts have been given to outsiders, and as a matter of fact, the local people, mostly the people of that particular elaka as far as possible should be given employment by the company. Our instruction to that Company, which is run by the Meghalaya Industrial Development Corporation in the joint sector, are that as far as possible the local people of that particular elaka should be given employment. And the fact of the matter is that accordingly those local people are given employment except where technical people are not available from our own State. I myself visited that place twice last year and I have seen that situation there and it is certainly not at all bad. As a matter of fact we are quite pleased that the local people have come forward to take up employment even for mining labour and contract work, and various other works were given to them. This is the example where we have been the growth of economic improvement by the direct benefits spreading to other people who depend on the employees of the company. As some Member may know, project reports are being prepared by various Industrial ventures for the border areas and in other parts of the State as well. For instance at Siju we expect to start a large cement company for supply of clinker to Bangladesh. We also plan to set up a Thermal Station of Nangalbibra and we proposed to set up industries in Jaintia Hills taking all the mineral deposits available in that region and we hope this will accelerate the economic growth of the people and also improve the economic condition of the border people.
The hon. Member from Mylliem has suggested that Government should try to take up those items which Bangladesh people would like them such as pan-leaves and potato. We have already done that in an unofficial capacity. But we cannot suggest to stop sending limestone because the people who are working in these limestone quarries in the border like Komorrah, Shella, Ichamati and other places are getting benefit by the sale of limestone. But we are making efforts to persuade them also to take up pan-leaves through they are not bought by large consumers but are bought by smaller consumers whereas lime-stone can be sold to many large consumers.
Then the hon. Member from Nongtalang has suggested that Government should also take step in the trade of potato. But I would like to inform him that the Government is not trading in potato. Government stepped in just to facilitate the export of potato so that the varieties grown in Khasi Hills could be exported to Bangladesh as there is restriction to export than those varieties. But we could persuade the Government of India to relax that restriction and allow Khasi Hills varieties of potato to be exported to Bangladesh. We know, as pointed out by Mr. Pohshna, that the local people, who are poor and illiterate, cannot go in for the formalities of going to Calcutta getting Import and Export Licenses, etc. But it is expected that somebody from our State either from Shillong or Jowai or Tura should take somebody from our State either from Shillong or Jowai or Tura should take up the question of export and import and there must be traders to take up the work of export and import, because according to the Trade Agreement it is the eligible exporters and importers who are to do certain trade and certain trades are restricted to the State Trading Corporation. So in that context, I would suggest that the hon. Member instead should try to find out traders within our State who would take it up this works as some have already done in the case of oranges and tezpatta which have been exported to Bangladesh in a certain quantity. I hope one day they will take up the export of pan leaves and certainly we will continue to help exporters in future. It is our responsibility how we should help this trade.
Now the Member from Nongtalang has mentioned about border trucks and has asked some pertinent questions on them. Well, ten trucks were purchased from the funds available from the Border Areas Development Department and these trucks were placed at the disposal of the Agricultural Marketing Section of the Agriculture Department. Out of these, 5 trucks are in Khasi Hills, three in Jaintia Hills and two in Garo Hills - total is 10 trucks. Now out of these, 5 are in running conditions, 3 are off the road temporarily for want of tyres, and 2 are of the road for certain major repairs. The Member from Nongtalang has also mentioned about the BDOs who call the people to the headquarters to take small grants; the C.D. Department has counter mended that and small grants will be distributed at a lower level.
Then there was one statement made by the Member from Kherapara that assistance in the form of cash was being given pigs. We have checked up this an the officer-in-charge has stated very emphatically that subsidy was being given for piggery in kind and not in cash. Now Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, my time is up. But I appreciate the interest taken by the Member especially those who do not represent the border areas. I can assure the Member that we are very much concerned with the problem, and as a matter that we are very much concerned with the problem, and as a matter of fact, three Ministers are representing constituencies in the border areas. I myself represented the erstwhile Cherra Constituency including Dawki up to Maheshkola; we were acquainted with this problem and we will continue to accept good suggestions from any side of the House and from the experts because this is a very serious problem and we need co-operation from all sides of this House and from the whole State.
Mr. Deputy Speaker :- The motion which we could not take up today may be taken up on 13th December, 1974, if time permits. Now the House stands adjourned till 9 A.M. on Wednesday, the 11th December, 1974.
|The 10th December, 1974.||
Meghalaya Legislative Assembly.