Meghalaya Budget Session: Live Updates


Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma presents budget with fiscal deficit of Rs 1570 crore, which is around 4.07 percent of the GSDP.

FOCUS ON SUSTAINABILITY: "We are implementing several sustainability focussed programmes and projects. These include the ongoing IFAD funded Megha-LAMP project, the World Bank-funded CMP Project and the JICA funded Project for Community-Based Forest Management and Livelihood Improvement," says Sangma. "For the implementation of all these externally aided projects focussing on environment and sustainability, I have budgeted Rs. 217 crore. Green funds such as Meghalaya Environment Protection and Restoration Fund amounting to Rs. 445 crore, CAMPA funds amounting Rs 163 crore and Meghalaya Minor Minerals Reclamation Fund amounting Rs 90 crore will be used for restoration and improvement of the environment comprehensively." "I am allocating Rs. 10 crore for the construction of small multipurpose reservoirs (SMR). A project for eco-restoration of Sohra area is also being conceptualised and I have allocated Rs 25 crore for the same," he says.

CM turns his attention to the District Councils. "The three ADCs are important institutions delivering important public services at the grassroot level. I am pleased to announce that because of the State Government's persistent efforts, the 15th Finance Commission has allocated a grant of Rs 711 crore for the ADCs for 2021-26."

"For Rural Poverty Alleviation, I am proposing a total allotment of Rs 1,138 crore for 2021-2022. Under this, the State Government is targeting the construction of about 47,000 houses at an estimated cost of Rs 611 crore under PMAY-G. For 2021-22, I am proposing a total allotment of Rs 120 crore for PMAY-G."

CM addresses social security and welfare. "I am happy that ASHA, Anganwadi workers, muster roll and casual employees are now being paid on the first week of every month. The ongoing Chief Minister's Social Assistance Scheme for providing financial assistance to 1.1 lakh beneficiaries at the rate of Rs. 500 per month will continue to be implemented." "I am pleased to announce that the minimum wages have been revised to Rs. 343, Rs. 389, Rs. 435, and Rs. 480 per day for Unskilled, Semi-skilled, Skilled and Highly Skilled categories of workers respectively from October 1, 2020." "The construction of shelters for the urban homeless has been completed for Shillong, Jowai, Tura and Williamnagar," he says.

"I am allocating Rs 27 crore for the completion of the Shillong International Centre for Performing Arts and Culture (SICPAC). Beginning in April 2021, we will increase the frequency of direct flights from Shillong to Delhi to twice a week. I am allocating Rs 5 crore for the provision of viability gap funding for this project. I am allocating Rs 20 crore towards organising all the events related to the 50th anniversary of our Statehood."

ON PROMOTING ENTREPRENEURSHIP: "My govt has identified entrepreneurship as one of the six core pillars of the developmental paradigm for the State. Under the umbrella of the PRIME Programme, the Chief Minister's e-Championship 2.0 has already been launched. Three PRIME Hubs are already operational in Shillong, Tura and Songsak. We plan to construct 15 more PRIME Hubs in the next financial year and a total of 50 hubs by the end of 2022. I am budgeting Rs. 20 crore for this initiative," says Sangma. "I expect the PRIME Fund to grow to Rs. 125 crore over the next two years. We are taking steps to ensure that in 2021-22 we will be able to cover 90 per cent of our villages under banking services. We have launched a comprehensive programme that involves reaching out to the unbanked villages via Banking Correspondents. 500 more Banking Correspondents shall be deployed in 2020-22. I am allocating Rs. 10 crore for the next financial year for improving banking coverage."

Turning his attention to tourism, arts and culture, Sangma says, "For Tourism, I am allocating Rs 100 crore for 2021-22. Under this, allocation of Rs 30 crore for setting up of the Shillong Peak ropeway. Rs 5 crore for a new scheme for construction of homestays, restaurants, cafes, and other related infra in convergence with the PMEGP." "Rs 5 crore to promote niche tourism products around arts, craft and music. Formulation of a systematic programme for engaging and supporting musicians and the music industry. Rs 5 crore for the beautification of our towns and Rs 114 crore for Tourism Infra creation through GoI's flagship programmes of Swadesh Darshan and PRASAD."

"I am proposing an overall development budget of Rs 2,461 crore for the Infrastructure Sector, including Rs 893 crore from the State's resources. Under this, Rs 1,080 crore for road and bridges sector in 2021-2022. Rs 802 crore for the Water Supply Sector for 2021-22. Allocation of Rs 50 crore for implementation of Meghalaya Power Distribution Sector Improvement Project next year. The State Government will allocate Rs 20 crore in 2021-2022 each for the construction of a helipad at New Shillong Township and establishing the Institute of Driving and Traffic Research. Rs 50 crore will be allocated for the development of Tura and Jowai as smart towns. Rs 9 crore has been earmarked for completion of the Technology Park at Umsawli in New Shillong Township.

CM speaks about empowering youth skill development and sports. "The govt has formulated a comprehensive youth policy and has already placed it in the public domain. The biggest intervention that is proposed under the youth policy is a comprehensive programme called 'One Meghalaya', under which every youth of the State will be supported to take up one skill and one talent. The programme will cover about 50,000 youths in 2021-22 and I have allotted Rs 30 crore for this programme," he says. "I would also like to take this opportunity to declare the year 2021-22 as the year of the youth as I am allocating an additional Rs 10 crore for taking up various youth-related activities." "Another important facet of development and engagement is the promotion of sports. Mega sports infrastructure projects costing Rs.300 crore at Tura, Shillong and Wahiajer are at different stages of implementation. I am allocating Rs 120 crore for these projects for the next Financial year. We are also undertaking about 100 sports infrastructure projects in rural areas at a cost of Rs.70 crore." "Over 264 athletes from various disciplines like Archery, Football, Muay Thai, Jeet Kune Do, Karate-Do and Badminton have been identified and will be provided incentives in 2021-22." "I am allocating Rs 200 crore for sports and youth affairs for the next financial year," he says.

"The excise revenue for 2020-22 is expected to touch an all-time high of Rs. 350 crore, an increase of 27 per cent over last year. The lockdowns and the restrictions on movement have dramatically reduced the non-tax revenue collection. The non-tax revenue collection for this year is expected to be about Rs. 374 crore, a 29 per cent reduction from last year. The prospects for non-tax revenue collection for the year 2021-22 are, however, optimistic," says the CM. "The NGT committee had approved the auction of 2 lakh metric tonnes out of the 32 lakh metric tonnes of extracted coal. I am happy to announce that the e-auction process of extracted coal by Coal India Limited has begun." "Improving the infra of all the 659 health centres taken up under World Bank funded 'Meghalaya Health System Strengthening Project' with an investment of Rs 370 crore over the next three years. I am earmarking an amount of Rs 55 crore for 2021-2022. I am allocating Rs 820 crore for the Health sector in 2021-2022, an increase of 13 per cent over 2020-21. I am confident that the revenue collection of the State would improve significantly in the next financial year," says Sangma. "The State Government is allocating Rs 150 crore to improve educational infrastructure to upgrade the school buildings. Rs 980 crore has been allocated for the Education Sector in 2021-2022, out of which Rs 453 crore is from State resources. I have estimated Rs. 2,579 crore and Rs. 694 crore for tax and non-tax revenue collection respectively."

"I am allocating Rs 10 crore for taking continuing interventions under the Meghalaya State Aquaculture Mission. I am allocating Rs 10 crore for the implementation of the Muga Mission. I am allocating Rs 559 crore for the Agriculture and Allied sectors, including Rs 247 crore from the State's resources in 2021-22."

"The poultry Mission will be launched during the next Financial Year at a projected cost of Rs 121 crore. The State Government will spend Rs 50 crore on the Milk Mission in the next Financial Year as well."

"For the implementation of Lakadong Turmeric, Mushroom, Jackfruit and Aromatic Mission mode projects, I am allocating Rs 20 crore for the next Financial Year."

"For 2021-22, Govt is budgeting an amount of Rs 100 crore for the Chief Minister's Mobilisation Support Programme. I propose to subvent the full interest in KCC loans being paid by our farmers. For the next financial year, a corpus fund of Rs 10 crore will be set up to provide interest subvention to the standard or regular KCC borrowers of the State. We will spend another Rs 100 crore on the Piggery Mission in the next financial year."

"The budget of 2021-2022 provides for a detailed framework and the allocation of resources to achieve the vision. For the year 2020-21, the amount of tax transfers from the Union Govt has been reduced, owing to the economic impact of the pandemic. The budget estimates were Rs.5,999 crore, while the revised estimate was Rs. 4,207 crore, a shortfall of Rs. 1,792 crore," says Sangma.

"The Fifteenth Finance Commission submitted its final report to the Govt of India covering the five-year award period 2022-26. The commission has recommended a total amount of Rs. 39,012 crore for the State. This includes the share of central taxes of Rs. 32,43 crore, the revenue gap grant of Rs. 3,137 crore, the grants to Autonomous District Council of Rs. 711 crore, health grants of Rs. 311 crore and disaster management grants of Ra. 403 crore."

"Meghalaya's share in the divisible pool of taxes has increased from 0.645 per cent in the Fourteenth Finance Commission to 0.766 per cent for the period 2021-26. This increase is a result of consistent efforts of the Govt over the last two years through engaging with the Finance Commission presenting the need for increased resources."

"For 2021-22, the share of central taxes is estimated at Rs. 5,105 crore and the revenue gap grant is at Rs. 1,279 crore. The State has been taking steps to increase its own tax and non-tax revenue. For the current financial year, the own tax revenue of the State, including GST compensation, is expected to touch Rs. 2,213 crore, an 11 per cent increase over the financial year 2019-2020," he says.

"We will be celebrating the 75th year of Indian Independence and the 50th anniversary of Meghalaya's statehood. A series of programmes will be organised in the runup to January 21, 2022."

"This year alone, work on the renovation of 208 schools and 152 health facilities has been initiated."

"Several growth-boosting new projects have been launched. Critical road connectivity projects worth Rs 1,315 crore have already been taken up. About Rs 1,950 crore of PMGSY road projects are being constructed."

"Overall expenditure for the current financial year is expected to touch an all-time high."

"We set up over 3,800 additional beds in hospitals and Corona Care Centres, conducted 3.8 lakh tests, provided relief to over two lakh labourers and workers in unorganised sectors, provided provision kits to over 29,000 households and brought back about 6,000 of our stranded citizens home at the government's expenditure," says CM.

Chief Minister Conrad Sangma presents 2021-2022 Budget.

Electricity goes out during Assembly Session.

"We have noted down the suggestions of all members," says CM.

Concerning farmers' issue, a massive programme has been rolled out where close to Rs 200 crore will be spent to help farmers, SHGs at the grass-root level. Close to four lakh will benefit from this programme.

"The Governor laid down projects and schemes. The MDA Government realises that to be able to implement schemes we need to ensure the governance and administrative setup is strong, to take administration closer to the people. Detailed analysis is being done." "The State Govt also came up with a Health Policy. Initiatives are planned through this policy with the help of the World Bank," the chief minister says.

CM addresses the law and order situation in the State.

"Militancy is no longer there. The kind of killings and kidnappings are no longer there. But incidents do 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. Charge sheets were filed in cases concerning Ichamati, Umoid, the attack on Agnes Kharshiing, and other incidents. Action was taken against perpetrators. We will ensure that criminals will be taken to task," says Sangma.

CM addresses the power issue in the state

"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 own pocket," he says. "It is not in their hands to throw us out, but it is up to the MLAs. and the people should decide."

"The Opposition Congres needs to think carefully. Think about changing your leadership because looking at the mess created at MeECL, you may consider changing the leadership less you create a mess in your leadership."

Chief Minister addresses pending salaries in the GHADC.

"Let me give a background, the monthly revenue of the Council is Rs 01.2 crore and funds required for salary payment was over Rs 4 crore," he says.

CM blames Congress-led EC between 2013 and 2015 for the current financial mess in the Council.

"In 2011, there were approximately 1,300 employees and between 2013-15, 720 new appointments were made arbitrarily adding more financial burden on the Council. The pay scale was also not uniform. I don't understand how this was done. But now we are putting up a system to streamline the GHADC. The Council is a Constitutional body that has to create its own revenue," he says.

"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 are cleared. The old-age pension scheme is important. We are not here to stop the scheme of the past government. Our duty is to continue those schemes. We are improving it. We released the amounts three, four months in advance," says Sangma.

Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma replies to the debate on the Governor's address and expresses his thanks to the governor for giving the direction of the government in terms of priorities and vision of the State.

"Throughout the discussion held in the debate, many points came out. The Governor's address lays down the directions and aims of the government. There 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 has suddenly become an illegal business," he says.

"This perception must stop. In the last few years, whatever movement has taken place was done legally. Almost 3 lakh MT of coal has been auctioned and brought Rs 70 crore revenue to the state. 250 cases booked for illegal activities relating to coal mining. The MMDR Act was made applicable last year against those involved in illegal activities in coal mining," says Sangma.

"We were committed to lifting the NGT ban, and within one year and three months, we were able to lift the ban. The Opposition should do their homework. Coal mining is no longer banned. The SC has lifted the ban. The second step towards ensuring that we can give a mining lease was approved by the Government of India (GoI) and the Government of Meghalaya (GoM). For the first time in India, earlier mining leases auction out by GoI but now, through SOP finalised, private mines can be leased out," says CM Conrad Sangma.

"Land and minerals belong to the people and this was recognised by the GoI. This SOP will enable us to shorten the process of getting the license. The entire process will be streamlined with this SOP. It will open the gate for legal mining in the state. Eighteen locations will have high definition cameras and all high-end equipment in one location to track the entry of trucks entering the state. It will go a long way in plugging the loses and loopholes in the system. Within six months, hopefully, we will be able to put these integrated check gates," he says.

"Auctioning of Coal India Limited for 54,000 MT for EJH is at an advanced stage. Soon, we should be able to choose the buyer of this coal. Other districts will follow suit. The NGT has agreed to have a reserved price for coal auctioned is Rs 4,850 per metric tonnes."

Selsella MLA Ferlin CA Sangma supports the Governor's address and says, "Today we can witness changes as road connectivity has improved to a large extent. Not only highways but internal roads too.

The State Government is working to improve the standard of education in the state. Lower and Primary Schools are indeed in shambles, left unattended for many years, but this government is putting in the effort to improve the schools."

"I have one suggestion, and that is if the problems of the contractual LP School teachers can be taken care of. If all these teachers can come under one umbrella while giving the appointment," Sangma adds.

Rangsakona MLA Zenith Sangma supports the amendment to the Governor's address.

"In 2022, we are going to celebrate 50 years of statehood. We are also planning to host the National Games but the hosting of the Games was not mentioned in the address. What is the mind of the govt? Since it was approved by the cabinet, we have opposed taking the Atma Nibhar loan of Rs 1,345 crore, it will accumulate huge liabilities and MeECL will not be in a position to repay the loans. We had to pay more than Rs 100 crore every year and Rs 10 crore per month. It will be a huge burden for MeECL. It will bleed financially. The govt should take corrective measures on how to streamline and rescue the MeECL," he says.

"The blame game was seen yesterday," says Rangsakona MLA Zenith Sangma while referring to the agreement signed between Meghalaya and NTPC during the then Congress Government in 2007.

"Is CM shrugging off his responsibility? We want a copy of the agreement because it is a misleading statement made by the CM. He created misconceptions amongst people of the state. Back then, all states in NE signed the agreement. Even we fought against the high rate charged by NTPC. The problem started in 2019 when a new procedure was initiated in the purchase of power; what was the government doing then? Was it sleeping? We could have fought in the court. There is a big mess in the MeECL," he says.

"Water scarcity has become a global issue. The time has come that we should take concrete steps as far as preserving the water sources and catchment areas are concerned. And we should make use of technology of excavating the earth and refrain from using the traditional method as it has an impact on the environment," he adds.

"Nothing was mentioned in the Governor's address about rampant illegal mining and transportation of coal in the state and the recent deaths of six miners. Nothing was mentioned about the farm laws. No mention of unemployment in the state. Umkhrah and Umshyrpi rivers were not mentioned. They have become an eyesore. What is the government's plan? There was no mention of the Inner Line Permit. Many bills and acts passed by the ADCs like VAB, Land Bill, Lineage Bill are being sidelined," says North Shillong MLA Adelbert Nongrum.

Rongara Siju MLA Rakkam A Sangma supports the motion of thanks to the Governor's address and lauds the efforts of the State Government to bring about development while asking for the creation of Siju C&RD block. Sangma also emphasises the need to strengthen police presence and vigilance in the border areas and suggests setting up an Integrated check gate at Baghmara.

Mawphlang MLA S.K. Sunn speaks about the need to construct fencing at Muktapur area along the Indo-Bangladesh border.

Debate on Governor's address continues in the House

Congress legislator Ampareen Lyngdoh, the mover of the call to attention motion, says there are so many queries that have not been responded to. Excise Minister James Sangma agrees to provide answers.

House discusses issue relating to the fuel crisis in Meghalaya.

"There are doubts relating to all these prices that keep on fluctuating. Refrain from taxing the poor and look for other possibilities of levelling taxes. It affects everybody," says Mawsynram MLA H.M. Shangpliang.

"I received reports of crude oil coming out from the ground in Mawsynram. The government should enquire into this report as this could be beneficial for the state if it is true," says Shangpliang.

"Every citizen is affected whenever there is a change in fuel prices. The government has to think about farmers, students, entrepreneurs, children and homemakers. It also affects the government as office expenses go up. All of us know that the fuel price is fixed by oil companies; barring the basic crude oil prices, prices of fuel should be joint regulation of Central and State Government so that we can gauge the situation and minimise the impact," says Umroi MLA George Lyngdoh.

"Central taxes came down in February 2021, however, the Centre has increased cess and surcharge on petrol and diesel with minimum alteration of prices. It has left all state governments depleted of all resources, so they have snatched away the rights of the state. The federal structure has once again been breached. We should protest this as we will be pushed to bankruptcy," says Lyngdoh.

"We cannot be looted from one pocket and allow the Centre to boost its schemes when, in fact, it was not their money in the first place. These are sinister policies that will drive states towards bankruptcy. Our state government should not keep quiet, we should stand with our people," Lyngdoh adds.

"The utilisation of power by companies have to be regulated properly. Power theft should be tried seriously. Bills should reach on time, payment of bills should be decentralised at the village level and the one-time settlement scheme which could benefit the rural populace should be extended so that people can benefit from it," says Nongpoh MLA Mayralborn Syiem.

Mawlai MLA P.T. Sawkmie moves a Zero Hour Notice to discuss reports of indigenous Garo communities in Bangladesh being evicted from their ancestral land in the neighbouring country.

Sawkmie urges the Chief Minister to write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar to intervene in the matter.

Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma replies to Congress MLA Mohendro Rapsang's query and states that in July 2019, IIFCL Private Limited had conducted a detailed study and submitted a report which stated the background of the challenges faced by MCCL and the funds required to revive the cement plant. "Rs 192 crore is required to revive MCCL," says Sangma.

"The Mawmluh Cherra Cements Limited went out of production in March 2020," says Commerce & Industries Minister Sniawbhalang Dhar.

"The total number of livelihoods at stake is 306. There is no time frame to revive the unit," he says.

North Shillong legislator Adelbert Nongrum urges Home Department to take serious note of reports of Khyndai Lad becoming a pickup point for sex workers in Shillong.

Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui says he was not aware that such activities are going. “The area is known as a pickup point for passengers and commuters,” says Rymbui.

Nongrum responds by stating it is time the government acts fast “otherwise the matter can go out of control and the area will turn into a red light area.”

“It is unacceptable if such things are really happening at Khyndai Lad,” says Rymbui while advising Nongrum to contact the police if he comes across such reports. “This kind of crime should not happen to our society,” adds Rymbui.

Congress MLA Ampareen Lyngdoh expresses support for Nongrum’s suggestion to launch an investigation. “The Police department should investigate the matter within three to four days and send us a reply and see if there’s any truth in the submission,” she says.

Power Minister James Sangma informs the House that when the Ganol Small Hydro Power Project of 22.5 MW capacity was prepared in 2007, it was not a viable one. "The project was tendered out. When the DPR was prepared, the cost of Stage 1- 22.5 MW (May 2008) was Rs. 177.52 crore. Sixty-six per cent of the work is completed," he says.

"India as a country is not self-sufficient in terms of fuel production, it depends on import to make up for the shortfall. India is the third biggest crude oil importer in the world. There are many reasons that lead to the hike in fuel prices," says Excise Minister James Sangma in response to a statement made by Mawsynram MLA H.M. Shangpliang on the increase in fuel prices.

"A lot has been mentioned about instability in prices, one such factor that determines the prices to be paid by the consumer is the fluctuation of crude oil prices," says Sangma.

"The value of the Indian Rupee against the US dollar is another factor. It impacts the prices of crude oil. Rs 72.94 against one US dollar contributes to the fuel price hike. Meghalaya does not have a refinery or depot within the state therefore the oil is imported from other states. This additionally becomes part of the cost for our state. Based on the distance from the depot and retail outlet, fuel prices vary even within the state. It differs in different districts of the state," says Sangma.

"Meghalaya has the second-lowest tax rate in the northeast with 20.4 or Rs. 15 per litre for petrol, whichever is higher and for diesel, it is Rs. 12.24 or 9 per cent, whichever is higher," he says.

"The prices of petrol and diesel in the capital city of Shillong is Rs 87.33 for petrol and Rs 80.68 for diesel. Shillong is the second-lowest in the northeast after Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh where the price of petrol is Rs 84.49 and Rs 78 for diesel. Meghalaya offered the biggest relief by offering Rs 7 reduction with effect from February 15, 2021. The rise in fuel prices generally leads to inflation of other commodities. High fuel prices have a cascading effect on the economy of the state as a whole."

"Fuel tax contributes to 30 per cent to the state tax revenue hence it is difficult to reduce the tax drastically."

PHE Minister Renikton Tongkhar informs the House that the department has been trying to speed up the work under the Nongpoh Combined Water Supply Scheme, sanctioned since 1978 under the 15th Commission.

The Budget Session of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly entered the fourth day on Wednesday.