Analysis - Meghalaya’s UDP stays quiet on the issues of its own ministers, but for how long?

More than a year later after the cabinet was reshuffled, the Home Ministry is with UDP’s Lakhmen Rymbui. And yet, reports of illegal coal mining and transportation keep on surfacing even today. 

By Daiaphira Kharsati


A year ago, when civil society raised concerns about erstwhile Home Minister James K. Sangma of National People’s Party (NPP) with regards to his handling of illegal coal mining, NPP’s regional ally United Democratic Party (UDP) was at the forefront of demanding the immediate removal of James. 

More than a year later after the cabinet was reshuffled, the Home Ministry is with UDP’s Lakhmen Rymbui. And yet, reports of illegal coal mining and transportation keep on surfacing even today. 

The only difference in both the instances is that UDP is silent this time around, taking an all-is-well approach.

The UDP’s differential approach has now taken centre stage, with opposition leaders and civil society members questioning the party’s silent stance on the recently alleged food scam in the Social Welfare Department, headed by UDP’s minister Kyrmen Shylla.

“Why is the UDP silent even though it has an adverse bearing on the livelihoods of people? As for the utilisation of rice and how it is done, the UDP has to come clean as it is the party that is holding the portfolio,” Congress parliamentarian Vincent Pala had recently questioned senior UDP leaders Jemino Mawthoh and Metbah Lyngdoh.

Pala added that even with regards to the Power Department, where UDP was once again vocal for removal of present Power Minister James Sangma, the party wrote countless letters highlighting irregularities. However, it was silent when the buck fell on its own party.

Opposition leader Mukul Sangma also criticised the lack of responsibility that the UDP was shouldering.

However, UDP only came out to mention that “something was wrong” with Pala and that the parliamentarian had no understanding of the issue due to a lack of facts.

For that matter, UDP’s Social Welfare minister Kyrmen Shylla stayed away from the light of the press and simply issued a press release on late June 17, talking about the provisions of law through which the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) are normally enforced, and then drew a direct parallel to why a scam was not possible, without any logical explanation.

On the food scam, civil society member Angela Rangad highlighted that the Social Welfare Department was conveniently interpreting the law to hide the fact that backdoor entry was being given to private contractors and manufacturers.

“The question is, why should (the contract) be garnered by the tainted company Continental Milkose. The intention of the Integrated Child Development Scheme is to provide nutritious food and local groups can meet this by involving local producers, fruit and vegetable farmers, poultry farmers and others,” she had said, adding that Continental Milkose was a contractor which had numerous defaults in its records in the past, including lower-than-notified nutritional content.

Not only this, president of the Civil Society Women's Organization (CSWO) Agnes Kharshiing told The Northeast Today (TNT) that the Social Welfare Department had not shown any concern for the welfare of women in the state as they failed to appoint a Women’s Commission in the tenure of Kyrmen Shylla being a minister.

“Why have they not appointed the Women’s Commission? That itself shows that they are not clean?” she said.

The Social Welfare Department is however in the news only recently, after its historical wrongs are getting dug up only now. UDP’s ministers have also come under the scanner for mishandling important portfolios such as Education, but have not evoked any party response.

In a recent report of the central government, Meghalaya featured as the worst performer in school education in the entire country.

Not only this, last year 10 schools in the Garo Hills region of the state had a zero pass percentage in the Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC) examinations.

Education minister, Lakhmen Rymbui only came out and said that the report of the central government was an “eye-opener” and that the state had apparently been improving.

“We should have people who are educated so that they can teach children in the right way. We were the hub of education and now our standards have simply gone down,” Kharshiing told The Northeast Today (TNT), highlighting that the Education Department was neither creating incentive-based mechanisms nor offering good pay for teachers to find the motivation to teach.

But even as civil society, members of the public, and the opposition leaders continue to point out the flaws of UDP-led ministries and the respective legislators, the party as a whole continues to remain silent even today.

With the 2023 elections fast approaching, the question is, how long will the party choose to play safe?

ALSO READ: Exclusive: UDP says “something wrong with” Pala, after Cong MP questions party’s silence on alleged food scam

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