Key takeaways from Budget Session of Meghalaya Legislative Assembly
The budget session of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly, which began on March 5 and concluded on March 19, witnessed a myriad of issues raised and discussed amid debates on several other “repetitive” issues.
Let us start with the Governor’s address:
On the first day of the budget session, Meghalaya Governor Satya Pal Malik delivered his address whereby he mentioned the efforts and commitment of the government in bringing about growth and development in the state.
He spoke about law and order, implementation of various schemes and infrastructural projects in the state, improvement in the education sector, health and family welfare, Agriculture & Horticulture, Fisheries, Forest and Environment, Community and Rural Development, District Council Affairs, Public Works, Public Health Engineering, Transport, Power, Tourism, Sports & Youth Affairs, Mining & Geology, Commerce & Industries and Information Technology & Communication.
Debate on Governor’s address
Some issues raised by the Opposition included the interstate boundary disputes between Meghalaya and Assam, load shedding, the financial mess in the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited (MeECL), petrol and diesel price hike, the status of Inner Line Permit (ILP), problems faced by contractual teachers, unpaid salaries of teachers and employees of Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC), the New Education Policy, crimes against women and children and the status of various criminal cases, besides others.
CM’s reply to the debate on Governor’s address
Law and order:
“Militancy is no longer there. The kind of killings and kidnappings are no longer there. But incidents happen. That does not mean law and order is out of hand. It is a natural process that happens in society. Give us constructive criticism not make statements of law and order situation going through the roof,” he said.
MeECL financial mess:
“There are other things that took place that created a mess in MeECL. When unbundling took place, there was a condition as a terminal benefit to the employees to which the Government of Meghalaya agreed. The government did not pay this terminal benefit, but MeECL paid from their pocket,” he said.
Pending salaries in the GHADC and SSA teachers:
CM blamed the Congress-led EC between 2013 and 2015 for the current financial mess in the Council. “Teachers have been getting their salaries on time. Only the dues of one month will be cleared. Concerning arrears, there was pressure from SSA to clear the dues left by the then government. We are working on this. We have always ensured that the salary of muster rolls is cleared.”
“It seems to be a sense of negative look towards coal mining and industry in the state. This must change. This industry has been providing a livelihood to many people for decades. Suddenly a ban was imposed and from that day, what was okay for 200 years suddenly becomes an illegal business.”
The CM said a massive programme had been rolled out in which close to Rs 200 crore will be spent to help farmers, SHGs at the grass-root level. Close to four lakh will benefit from the programme.
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma presents the budget with a fiscal deficit of Rs 1,570 crore, which is around 4.07 per cent of the GSDP.
Discussion on Budget
These included the up-gradation of health centres, immediate repair of roads and bridges, extension of Aquaculture Mission to other catchment areas, issues revolving around health, education, rural livelihood, water and power supply, sports and arts & culture, construction of entry-exit points, strengthening the Autonomous District Councils (ADCs), the inclusion of Khasi and Garo languages in the 8th Schedule, price rise, increase in Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) and Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), better infrastructure in and around the Umroi (Shillong) Airport, besides others.
“Repetitive Issues” raised in the Assembly:
The current power supply and financial mess in the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited (MeECL) became one of the most talked about and discussed topics in the Assembly.
This topic dominated the proceedings of the House. If not in the question hour, the issue was raised during short duration discussions almost daily.
Breach of privilege motion against CM
The Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) signed between the then Congress government and the National Thermal Power Corporation of India (NTPC) in 2007 became the hot topic of discussion with the Opposition attacking the government for its “inability” to resolve the mess and the present government blaming the previous government for the current mess in MeECL.
Questions on implementing the One-Time Settlement (OTS) Scheme and Smart Meter project were raised several times.
Coal mining and Coke Industries:
Coal mining and Coke Industries were also discussed and debated during the budget session, though not as frequent as the power crisis.
Questions were raised on illegal transportation of coal, reports of fresh mining in several areas, the functioning of illegal coke factories, mining lease, death of miners, source of coal used in coke factories, auctioning of coal and others.
Other important issues raised in the Assembly
The progress of the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM), pending arrears for government employees, setting up of police outpost along the interstate and international borders, road connectivity, status of GSWSS supply scheme, unpaid salaries of teachers, the status of tourism sector post lockdown, up-gradation of Shillong Airport, construction works of Eklavya schools in Meghalaya, the financial status of the Meghalaya Cherra Cements Limited (MCCL), status of the report submitted to the government on cracks in uranium storage tanks at Nongbah Jynrin in South West Khasi Hills, reports of Khyndai Lad turning into “pickup point of sex workers”, traffic jam in Shillong, the status of the construction of Dwar Ksuid bridge, besides others.
Other noticeable incidents
“Do your homework” became a catchphrase during the budget session 2021 of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly.
Least participation from other ministers making Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma the spokesperson of the MDA government, taking all the bullets for his colleagues.
Call for expungement of a statement:
On March 17, Power Minister James Sangma requested for expungement of a statement made by Rangsakona legislator Zenith Sangma from the proceedings of the House.
Zenith had used the words “for the sake of replying” while reacting to a reply given by the Minister on an issue regarding the appointment of the Director of Finance in the MeECL.
“Whatever it is, it could (be) a letter or a noting, a copy should be placed because in the government; for the sake of replying, they are replying with no authentication,” Zenith said.
James reacted, “I do not understand what the member means by saying for the sake of replying. He is insinuating irresponsibility by the government.”