Meghalaya: Conrad-led govt defeats No Confidence motion; House witnesses heated arguments (detailed)



The Conrad Sangma-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) defeated the No-Confidence (NC) Motion moved by the Opposition on the fourth day of the Autumn Session of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly on Wednesday.

The Speaker, Metbah Lyngdoh put the house to vote after the Opposition refused to withdraw the NC motion, after which the same was lost through a voice vote.

The No-Confidence motion took centre stage on Wednesday with the Opposition members listing a series of lapses in the functioning of the government. The members made special reference to the coal issue, COVID issue, law and order, education and others.

Leader of Opposition Dr Mukul Sangma attacked the government on several issues

Taking part in the No-Confidence Motion, Opposition Leader Mukul Sangma alleged that scripted modus operandi has managed to penetrate the corridors of power to loot the state.

Referring to the illegalities in the power sector, he said that the state government has awarded the contract for the implementation of the Saubhagya schemes to the firm from outside the state which is more than 50 per cent of the actual cost reflected as per the Schedule of Rates (SOR) which was based on the Detailed Project Report (DPR) prepared by the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited (MeECL).

Referring to the alleged illegal mining and transportation of coal, Sangma said that the state will continue to be looted and robbed if the present Government remains in power.

“The 32 lakh metric tonnes of extracted coal does not exist. The government closed its eyes and allowed the transportation of coal. Is it not necessary to find out the truth? These are not mere allegations for the sake of alleging the government. Complete the auctioning of the coal at one go, why are you delaying?” asked the Opposition leader.

“This government has to go. We need a new government,” he said.

Conrad Sangma replies

Chief Minister Conrad Sangma began his address by stating that the Opposition has always taken credit for something right and blaming the present government if something is wrong.

“When it comes to law and order, 66 militants were killed in 2015-2017 and three in 2018-2020, 36 civilians were killed in 2015-2017 and four in 2018-2020. Nine police personnel were killed in 2015-2017 and one was killed in 2018-2020,” Sangma said.

“Abduction cases were 210 in 2015-2017, whereas there were no abduction cases in 2018-2020. Crimes against women witnessed a 33 per cent drop in 2017-18 and POCSO cases dropped to 31 per cent in 2017-19,” he added.

Responding to the allegations of illegal coal mining and transportation, Sangma said, "All trucks and coal movement is taking place legally with proper procedures, valid documents and no illegal coal movement. The task forces are monitoring the process.”

“It may be reminded that in 2013-14 to 2017-18, audit report mention that illegal coal was being transported to the tune of 27.87 lakh metric tonnes and the state’s exchequer lost Rs 180 crore of revenue. The coal economy needs to be revived. It is our duty. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) imposed the ban in 2014, and the then government did not challenge the ban in the Supreme Court. Maybe there is match-fixing. It was only after we came to power that the ban was lifted,” Sangma said.

“Concerning the movement of trucks via the Dam in Umiam, the MeECL, Mining, Police and district administration have been instructed to monitor the movements,” he said.

The Chief Minister claimed that there is no illegal transportation of coal in the State adding the coal which is being transported consists of seized coal.

“In terms of health, Rs. 399 crore should be seen as the government’s commitment to ensure that people of the state are safe… Money was spent on the interest of the people,” he said.

Referring to entrepreneurship, he said the government has started by recognising young entrepreneurs. “We came up with the Meghalaya Entrepreneurs Award, E-Championship Award and incubation centres,” Sangma said.

“We are contemplating coming up with e-coupons to target all youths in the state. The intention is to become the first state in the country where every youth is skilled. The skill and hobby coupons are six-month courses to train these youths and local service providers,” he said.

The Chief Minister also informed that around Rs 30-50 crore is expected to be spent on this policy.

Turning his attention to infrastructure, the CM stated that the government is not trying to sideline old projects as it tried its best to come out with the money to fund these projects.

“We have agreed to sanction Rs 16 crore to complete the model schools that were started in 2011-2013 but stalled because of lack of funds.”

“In 2014, when the Ganol Hydel Power Project was tendered out, the estimated cost as per DPR was Rs 116 crore but when work was allotted, the amount went up to 248 crore. Maybe brilliant scripting was done at that time,” the Chief Minister said, hitting out at Mukul’s statement on “brilliant scripting” and “criminal minds”.

“Important roads like the Nongstoin-Maweit road will be repaired. 53 villages will get new roads, thanks to the World Bank project… We are also working on a project to decongest Shillong city,” he said.

“As for the Meghalayan Age Company, it was a requirement to form the company and the authorised capital was Rs. 5 crore and paid-up capital was 1 crore.”

Issues raised by other members of the house

Congress legislator from Mawsynram: HM Shangpliang

Shangpliang began by stating that the people have been subjected to so much suffering that this could be the worst period in the history of the state.

"The government has failed to deliver and provide basic amenities to the people. I am not tired to remind the Chief Minister over and over again on the lack of banking facilities in the rural areas of Meghalaya. Set up more banks and ATMs. They are overcrowded, and COVID-19 protocols are violated every time people in rural areas line up to make withdrawals or deposits," Shangpliang said.

Shangpliang also brought forward the plight of farmers during the COVID-19 lockdown

"Farmers during lockdown suffered. But the Agriculture Department surrendered over Rs. 9 crore to the Finance Department on April 20, 2020, stating that it was not able to utilise the amount. This was in the middle of the COVID-19 lockdown. The money in the civil deposit was sanctioned to help the farmers of the state. This money could have been used to help farmers," he said.

"How could the Minister-in-Charge of Agriculture allow this to happen? How could he give away money that belonged to farmers? I urge the Chief Minister to give back the Rs. 9 crore to the farmers. It is their right to get back the money," he added.

Mukul attacks Conrad for being absent when the finance-related issue was raised

During the ongoing discussion, Opposition leader and former Chief Minister Mukul Sangma attacked Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, who also holds the Finance portfolio, for being absent while the discussion pertaining to finance was ongoing.

Continuing with the address, Shangpliang also accused the state government of being a mute spectator concerning the mushrooming of coke plants in West Khasi Hills.

Shangpliang also mentioned about the Meghalaya Age Limited - a company which was floated on June 17, 2020, by three senior officers of the government. The company showed an authorised capital of Rs. 50 crore and a paid-up capital of Rs. 10 crore, he stated.

“Where did so much money come from? Was it done by the knowledge of the cabinet? The company, which is involved in business activities, has shown Meghalaya House in New Delhi as the address. It appears the company was created to flout the rules and to bypass the scrutiny. This company should be scrapped,” he said.

NPP legislator from Phulbari: Estamur Mominin

Taking the stand on behalf of the ruling MDA government, Estamur Mominin expressed confidence by stating that the discussion would give people knowledge on how the state has developed under the leadership of Chief Minister Conrad Sangma and his Council of Ministers.

“Today’s discussion will give light on governance by the previous and present government,” Mominin said.

Congress legislator from East Shillong: Dr M. Ampareen Lyngdoh

Rising to support the NC, Lyngdoh said, “We stand to present criticisms with hopes that things will be right … past governments and future governments have one intention and that is to serve.”

“Exemption for Meghalaya because it is a scheduled area? Let us not open that pandora box. I will not talk about CAA. I will take platforms outside the House on CAA. I fear that CAA is a subject that is not closed yet,” she said.

She stated that of late, decisions taken by the Government of India in parliament and outside the parliament, “without consulting the state governments” is a dangerous trend.

Lyngdoh also criticised the way the COVID-19 situation was handled by the state government, accusing the government of stigmatising COVID positive patients.

“How many citizens warranted that kind of redressal; to lock them up and lock their gates - as if stigmatising them,” she said.

Congress MLA from Nongpoh: Mayralborn Syiem

Syiem raised issues relating to unemployment, water supply, housing schemes and others, while Rajabala MLA Azad Zaman raises issues on recruitment, non-fulfilment of vacancies, failure in C&RD Department and anomalies in NREGA implementation.

HSPDP legislator from Sohiong: Samlin Malngiang

Standing to oppose the NC, Malngiang said, “The present government under Chief Minister Conrad Sangma has done a lot of developmental activities in the state. When I was the PHE minister, I was surprised to find out that there were no schemes for the department in 2018. I met the CM to discuss the importance of PHE and for 2018, 2019 and 2020, we received a sanction of Rs. 500 crore to improve this department,” Malngiang said.

Congress MLA from Umroi: George B Lyngdoh

George Lyngdoh, in support of the NC, brought up the issue of illegal coal mining and transportation in the state.

“There are 32 lakh metric tonnes of coal yet to be auctioned and legal mining has not started yet. Where did the transported coal come from? CM quoted the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation), MMDR Act, when I asked for the source. Is this the way to cover up the act? Why is there endless transportation of coal happening?” Lyngdoh asked.

Lyngdoh also stated that farmers are still waiting for the launch of the ginger mission.

“This is daylight robbery concerning limestone, coal and stones. People are calling this government the Meghalaya Dewiong (coal) Alliance (MDA). These are glaring examples of the government’s failure,” he said.

NCP legislator from Gambegre: Saleng A Sangma

Opposing the NC, Sangma asked the government to take matters seriously and not to carry over the existing problems to the next year.

Speaking on law and order, Sangma said, “Being one of the victims of militancy myself, at least this time, we are living freely without fear and tension. If any situation comes out, we should nip it in the bud.”

He also spoke on other issues relating to labour, education, health and governance.

Congress MLA from Mawlai: PT Sawkmie

Standing in support of the motion, Sawkmie said the intention of the NC is to push the government to do better. “In politics, there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies,” he said.

He raised issues relating to Smart City project, medical colleges, pending bills of contractors, non-functioning of the new municipal building, sweeper lane issue, and the progress of the construction of Crowborough building.

Congress MLA from Rangsakona: Zenith Sangma

Rising to support the NC, Sangma disagreed with the Gambegre MLA on the law and order statement. He stated that since 2018, there have many incidents like attacks on activists, Them Metor issue, Lawsohtun issue and Ichamati issue.

He was, however, disrupted when Gambegre MLA Saleng A Sangma who rose up to “correct” the statement made on law and order.

Verbal tussle breaks out between Saleng and Zenith

A heated argument between Congress MLA Zenith Sangma and NCP MLA from Gambegre Saleng Sangma broke out after the former “misquoted” him. Saleng asserted that he never said law and order situation is perfect.

This resulted in the NCP MLA banging on the table and uttering an expletive.

When the Deputy Speaker, Timothy Shira tried to intervene, Opposition leader Mukul Sangma stood up and said, ”I have been an MLA since 1993, but I have never seen this kind of unwarranted verbal exchanges in the House.”

This prompted the Deputy Speaker to take note of the matter as he requested all members to maintain decorum.

Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong, on his part, asked the Deputy Speaker to expunge the words uttered by Saleng Sangma.

PDF legislator from Sohra: Gavin Mylliemngap

Opposing the NC, Mylliemngap praised the state government over its achievement in several sectors, all-round development in all sectors and for the use of technology to make the system of governance more effective.

Congress legislator from West Shillong: Mohendro Rapsang

Supporting the NC, Rapsang raised issues concerning water supply, rusty pipelines, lighting infrastructure, maintenance of street lighting system, health system and the present condition of the 1,500 KW Sonapani Hydel Project.

“There is a lack of responsibility towards our assets, lack of parking areas in Shillong with an increase in the number of vehicles every year. There is no plan to ease traffic congestion in the city,” Rapsang said.

NPP legislator from Rongara Siju: Rakkam A Sangma

“How can the opposition that has failed, on many occasions, when it was in the ruling, advise the government on the same issues?” asked Sangma, in opposition to the NC.

“The glory and image of our state were restored under the leadership of Conrad Sangma,” he said.

UDP legislator from Mowkaiaw: Nujorki Sungoh

Opposing the NC, Sungoh listed down the number of schemes received from the present government in terms of roads and connectivity including the launch of many development projects such as the Lakadong mission and the current progress of schemes in the agricultural sector.

BJP legislator from South Shillong: Sanbor Shullai

Shullai expressed his opposition to the NC and spoke about COVID-19 related issues.

“Coordinate with the government to deal with this crisis till the end of the full term,” Shullai said.

Congress legislator from Nongthymmai: Charles Pyngrope and KHNAM legislator from North Shillong: Adelbert Nongrum

Pyngrope expressed his support for the NC along with North Shillong MLA Adelbert Nongrum.

The North Shillong legislator also posed the question on why police have failed to charge-sheet anyone on the Ichamati case.

“If they can’t, they should hand over the case to the CBI,” Nongrum said.

(By Andre Kongri and Ibankyntiew Mawrie)