Meghalaya | MDA completes three years in office: A look at the progress report & citizens' observations
By Ibankyntiew Mawrie | SHILLONG:
Governance. Political parties and politicians will indeed come and go but the process of governance is constant. And for a state to prosper, good governance and creative leadership are of utmost importance.
It has already been three years since the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA), led by the National People’s Party (NPP), took over the government following the fall of the mighty Congress in 2018.
This coalition government comprises the NPP, United Democratic Party (UDP), People’s Democratic Front (PDF), Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and Hill State People Democratic Party (HSPDP) with NPP president Conrad K Sangma as its Chief Minister.
For a coalition government, complications and differences between political parties are inevitable. And it is hard to overlook the kind of impact these political clashes have on governance. But despite all that, governance does not cease to exist.
Recently, the MDA government released its progress report, listing a series of achievements made in the past three years.
However, citizens of the state are not very happy with the performance of the government. But before we analyse the achievements and lapses, let us first take a look at the report.
** Despite COVID-19 the State ranked 2nd in India with 90% of immunization during 2020-21.
** Telemedicine and Tele-consultation services were launched for the first time in the State.
** The State has successfully conducted a dental surgery in Garo Hills with the expert supervision of a medical practitioner in the United States.
** The State topped the list in reducing Malaria cases by 59 per cent in the country as per the ‘World Malaria Report 2020’ of the World Health Organisation (WHO)
** 14,669 schools across the State are GIS mapped.
** 25 EMRS had been approved by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs during 2020-21 at an approximate cost of Rs 24.00 crore.
** During COVID-19 lockdown, an online initiative for interactive learning CR School has been launched, 36 schools have registered with 15,025 students and 894 teachers.
** E-scholar portal (https://niceinfotech.co.in) has been launched on a pilot basis to enable all Secondary School students to access study materials barring Modern Indian Language (MIL) as per the MBoSE syllabus.
** More than 4213 students throughout the State had registered with East Khasi Hills having the highest number of registration
** 279.50 lakh person-days was achieved up to January 2021.
** So far, 20 (twenty) C&RD Blocks have achieved 100% DBT in wage payment.
** “Business Correspondent Project” is launched in partnership with Meghalaya Rural Bank.
** One-Stop Centres have been established in all 11 District Headquarters which are linked to Women Helpline ‘181’ for support and services.
** A total number of 1,13,114 beneficiaries have been covered under the Chief Minister’s Social Assistance Scheme.
** Under the Accessible India Campaign, 73 Government buildings have been provided with ramps.
** Access Audit has been completed in 136 buildings across the State.
** The state’s first Youth Policy has been formulated and placed in the public domains for comments.
** Vision: ‘A sustainable, dynamic, secure, peaceful and prosperous future for our Youth’.
** The policy focuses on 8 thrust areas.
** The J.N.S Stadium Complex in Shillong has been accredited as a “Centre of Excellence” under the Sports Ministry’s flagship programme Khelo India.
** Under the scheme 3 Olympic sport disciplines (Boxing, Athletics, Archery) are being supported technically and financially with a grant of approximately INR 8.39 Crores over 4 years.
** Seven new seed testing laboratories are constructed in Shillong, Tura, Jowai, Nongstoin, Nongpoh, Williamnagar, Baghmara funded by NEC.
** A Project on mapping the extent of soil acidity in rice fields in the State using geo-spatial techniques and Soil Health Card is completed.
** Meghalaya Rice Information System (MeRIS), an online geoportal that provides district wise spatial information of the rice ecosystem and Kharif rice (Sali paddy) has been completed.
** A total of 1,80,113 farmers (as of 18th Feb. 2021) possessing land in the State have received the 1st instalment income support assistance of PM Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM KISAN), through DBT transfer directly to their bank account.
** The State launched a first of its kind online digital farmer’s “Identity Card” as an e-District service with the assistance of NIC Meghalaya, as a technology partner and CSC Rainbow Centres as the front-end service provider.
** The State Government announced that the year 2020-21 is the Year of the Farmer. The 1st Meghalaya Farmers’ Day was observed in collaboration with Hills Farmers’ Union on 4th December 2020 at Spring Valley Farm, Shillong.
** Meg Spice Mini Processing unit was set up at Ginger Development Station, Umsning, Ri Bhoi District.
** 48 Water Harvesting units were constructed at strategic locations to cater to the needs of irrigating crops during the dry/lean season.
** The government of India has selected the State as an Agri Export Zone for Lakadong Turmeric under its agricultural export policy.
** Golden Spice goes International: Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma launched the famous ‘Lakadong’ turmeric in the US through video conferencing.
** 79 new Dairy Co-operatives Societies have been created.
** Milk Collection Centre in Upper Shillong was inaugurated.
** India’s largest Piggery Mission was launched by the Meghalaya Livestock Enterprises Advancement Society.
** Fish production has increased from 4,558 MT in 2010-11 to 14,128 MT in 2020-21.
** A turnover of Rs. 21.34 crore (approx.) has been generated with a sale of 710.33 MT of local fish by Meghalaya fish farmers during the pandemic early lockdown period (i.e. March 2020 - August 2020).
** Umden-Diwon Village in Ri-Bhoi district has been declared as Meghalaya’s First Eri Silk Village.
** As part of Mulberry Sector, 5 Kissan nurseries were established with plantation assistance (including rearing appliances and mounting halls) to 200 beneficiaries and 10 Chowki rearing houses were established.
** In the Eri Sector, 15 Kissan nurseries were established with plantation assistance and to 250 beneficiaries and rearing houses.
** Under the Muga sector, 5 Kissan nurseries were established with plantation assistance to 400 beneficiaries and 1 Muga seed infrastructure was assisted.
** Two National Highway projects being implemented under NHIDCL
** Under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, the Central Government has sanctioned a total of 971 schemes covering a length of 4,309.7 Km at Rs. 3,012.2 Cr and targeting to connect 608 habitations. As of January 2021, 441 habitations have been connected covering a length of 2,071.7 Km.
** The special focus is given to Jal Jeevan Mission - work is being done to finish the target of 100% household tap connection to 5,90,00 households by the end of 2022.
Key Water supply schemes being implemented:
** Greater Sohra Water Supply scheme (ongoing - 24.81 Crores)
** Laying of feeder Main of Tura phase I & II was completed on 30th June 2020
** Nongstoin water supply scheme (ongoing 133.94 crores)
** Greater Shillong water supply schemes (ongoing - 259.06 Crores)
** Greater Baghmara water supply schemes (ongoing - 63.5 Crores)
** Meghalaya Power Distribution Company Limited allowed availing a loan of Rs. 1346 Crore to clear all outstanding liabilities under Atma Nirbhar Bharat
** Implementation of ADB funded Meghalaya Power Distribution Sector project with Rs. 980 Crore started
** Re-Development of Polo Market has been completed and is now functional.
** The Shillong Smart City project is being implemented at Rs. 1,040 Crore.
** A new office of the Directorate of Information and Public Relation inaugurated and operational
** Work on the Shillong International Centre for Performing Arts & Culture (SICPAC) progressing at good space
** Renovation and up-gradation of District Auditorium Shillong are underway. The artistic Cultural Welcome Archhas have already been completed
** Sports infrastructure in various locations across the state-sanctioned with the cost of around 75 crores
** New ITI at Tura inaugurated
** Degree colleges at Baghmara, Sohra and Williamnagar sanctioned
** Work on IT park in new Shillong township is progressing well
** Top 50 entrepreneurs (age group 24-72) selected in the CM’s E-Champion Challenge 1.0 in 2019 have received mentoring support, technological support and access to high leverage market linkages.
** A total of 60 hours of capacity building/workshops, 320 hours of mentoring has been organised with 96% of resilience during cohort 1.0.
** 30 per cent of these entrepreneurs were women and 60 per cent are rural sector-based.
** 15 entrepreneurs have been facilitated with direct market access; 12 entrepreneurs could achieve a 100 per cent rise in the revenues in a year; 18 entrepreneurs secured funding up to 150 lakh in total.
** Launch of Project MAPnext, to promote entrepreneurship in the medicinal and aromatic plant sector.
** A total of 79 entrepreneurs have been awarded PRIME Entrepreneurship Awards in four categories: Ateliers, Mudra, NESFB and PRIME ID.
** 22 individuals have received MUDRA loan and support through CM’s Small Business Relief.
** 9 entrepreneurs have been awarded PRIME ID Kickstart Grant; 4 entrepreneurs have been sanctioned PRIME ID Scaleup Innovation loan.
** 23 entrepreneurs have been granted Interest-Free Bank Loans from the North East Small Finance Bank (NESFB) for the food processing sector.
** 22 Ateliers have been granted Ateliers Meghalaya Grant of Rs. 5 lakh each for the setting of craft enterprises and studios.
** Master Planning of various key tourism sites completed- Umiam, Jakrem, Mawkyrwat, Nokrek and Shnongpdeng.
** Swadesh Darshan II projects for RS. 85 crore for development of new tourism circuits in Garo Hills, West Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills initiated.
** Prasad projects for the development of pilgrimage circuits for Rs. 29 Cr tendered.
** A comprehensive tourism app and website launched and fully functional.
** An externally aided project for the development of experiential ecotourism for Rs. 720 Cr (over five years) across the State being designed in collaboration with the New Development Bank. First set of projects ready to be tendered.
** About Rs 11 cr paid to hotels that were used as quarantine centres and accommodation for doctors and other health workers.
** Launch of In-Situ conservation of small cats and other mammals under Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats.
** Integrated Development of Wildlife habitats is launched in the State for an outlay of 384.24 lakhs over 4 years.
** Launch of Project for Recovery of Clouded Leopard in Narpuh-Saipung, Nongkhyllem and Balpakramlandscapes.
** Project for recovery of clouded leopard for an outlay of 36 crores over 6 years in the Narpuh-Saipung, Nongkhyllem and Balpakram landscapes is launched in the State.
** CM Dashboard: It will reflect the government’s performance and achievements and enables the government to do real-time monitoring of key areas that need intervention.
** The State’s share of Central Taxes and Revenue Gap Grant has increased with the recommendations of the 15th Finance Commission.
** Meghalaya’s share in the Inter Shares of States has been pegged at 0.767 per cent.
** This is a marginal increase from the 2020-21 levels of 0.765 per cent and a significant improvement from the 2019-20 levels of 0.642 per cent.
** World Health Organization (WHO) lauded the efforts of the State Government in containing the COVID pandemic.
** Over 29,000 Provision Kits were distributed among Quarantined Households
** Over 9,000 stranded citizens of Meghalaya were brought back to the State via Government requisitioned trains, buses and other vehicles. The entire expense was borne by the State Government.
** 45 Ambulances and 3 Biomedical vans were purchased to ramp up the State’s capacity.
** Monetary assistance was provided to over 6.5 lakhs citizens to help them tide through the pandemic.
** Activation of the 1917 iTeams outreach for Covid-19 aid.
The progress report of the MDA government evoked a mixed response from citizens. While some have appreciated the effort of the government to bring in development, others were, however, not pleased with the progress so far even as they observed that the government needs to come up with more innovative and original ideas that are in tune with the culture, tradition, social and the topography of the state, rather than copying everything from the Centre.
Former IAS officer Toki Blah expressed disappointment over the performance of the MDA government in the last three years.
“This government has invited more controversies than achievements. And there are many controversies over several issues like the coal scam, MeECL crisis and now the Umngot power project,” he said.
Blah also pointed out that the performance of the ministers is not up to the mark.
“We see lots of coalition indifferences. The ministers are laid back. The only people who speak out are the chief minister and the deputy chief minister. We don’t hear anything from other departments. What kind of confidence are you giving to the people?” he asked.
“When we look at law and order, many incidents like the Sweeper Lane issue could have been handled in a better manner. I don’t understand why the government is allowing these NGOs to take over. We don’t see the performance of the government because the NGOs are taking the shots. I am very disappointed in this government,” Blah added.
When we look at the COVID crisis, it is good that the government has a plan of action to tackle the situation, provided we follow the plan, he pointed out.
The ex-IAS officer said there has to be some sort of pro-active reaction from the government.
“Both the ruling and opposition need to come together to work for the betterment of the state. They should talk and discuss. It is time for politicians to forget their differences and work on plans to take Meghalaya forward,” he advised.
Social activist Agnes Kharshiing observed that Meghalaya is being ravaged by multiple scams and greed.
“In these three years, they made buildings for their political parties, illegal rat-hole mining continues, illegal transportation of coal is on the rise, the rule of law has collapsed and, prices of essential commodities continue to rise,” she said.
She also pointed out that while there is an economic crisis for many, people in the government are buying land and constructing buildings for their respective parties.
“And in name of COVID-19, they control the poor while those in power are blasting in coal and sand mining with no concerns for security for the common man,” Kharshiing added.
She also stated that corruption should be uprooted and the government should curtail the price of essential commodities, stop the destruction of the environment and ensure that the fear does not dictate the lives of the public.
Shillong-based lawyer Lurshaphrang Shongwan observed that when it comes to the health sector, the government is lacking on many fronts.
Meghalaya needs a fully equipped cardiology department as cases are on the rise in the state, a cancer institute and TB hospital at the earliest because patients cannot always afford to travel outside the state to get treatment.
On the education front, the government need to come up with a better road map to tackle the urban and rural divide. It should also ensure that the teachers are getting paid regularly because “if the feeder is not looked after, how will you expect quality education.”
“My suggestion to the government is that it should start acting on the promises and assurances made to the public,” Shongwan said.
NEHU professor (Philosophy Department) Dr Prasenjit Biswas observed that the overall performance of this government is “good”.
“The basic services are not worse than the neighbouring states or bigger states of the country. They can deliver social services in health and education sectors,” he said.
In last three years, they have improved the services in these sectors although there were certain demands like increase in pay of teachers or better facilities for doctors and paramedical but these demands arise when services keep improving – If the demands are more it would mean that this service sector is doing well, he observed.
However, in the mining and transportation of coal, this government has failed to impress the public, he said.
“I wouldn’t say they have gone entirely wrong but they could not do good enough and, there are a lot of places where the government could have done better but did not do a critical review of themselves. They should engage in a more critical review of how they are delivering and functioning on a day to day basis,” Biswas said.
As far as economic management is concerned, we see the burden of loan. “But most of the Indian states have this problem because they are borrowing money from the market and GST or the Finance Commission money is not timely given by Centre to states,” he said.
He stated that this crisis is not entirely due to the MDA government but more of a structural crisis, in which the MDA government did well by creating smaller jobs, innovative routes and developing entrepreneurship, especially in the Garo and Jaintia Hills.
“What is good about this government is its ability to handle the crisis. Whenever there is a crisis, this government responded with a lot of sagacity. And the best part is its capability to enter into a dialogue and conversation,” he said.
The NEHU professor suggested the government focus more on the environment.
“The government has to protect the ecosystem of Meghalaya because it is a very fragile ecosystem. While for building dams or any other projects, the government must be cautious and exercise a lot of restrains,” he said.
Marbamonlang Rani, a student of St. Anthony's College, Shillong, felt that there has been a considerable amount of growth and turmoil. From the Them Metor issue, illegal coal mining, Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) uproar to the ongoing pandemic, and many crises in between, everyone has been through a lot.
"The government has made efforts but has not been able to surpass most of the major issues yet. My personal remark is that I see the bond between the citizens and the MDA government being hardly intact. There is much tension between the two parties. And I think that is the greatest hurdle that has kept the state from progressing," she said.
"But from a student standpoint, and on behalf of other pupils, I would say that ever since 2018, the digital tablets that were distributed to the students of 10+2 during the past years on Gandhi Jayanti, have been stopped. The devices that many other students had availed of in recent years for educational purposes have not been distributed since the MDA government came to power," she added.
- Interstate boundary dispute between Meghalaya and Assam
- Inner Line Permit status
- Inclusion of Khasi and Garo languages in 8th Schedule
- Completion of the decades-long construction of Crowborough Hotel
- Sweeper Lane/Them Iew Mawlong issue
- Uranium mining issue
As seen in the report, efforts were made to drive the state forward. However, unless the pending issues are resolved, it will hard for people to assess the performance of the government.
Unless political leaders (both at the ruling and opposition) learn to work together and provide constructive criticisms, we can't expect a change.
Unless corruption is nipped in the bud, the state's economy will continue to suffer.
With Meghalaya preparing to celebrate 50 years of statehood, these past 49 years will serve as a lesson for state leaders and citizens to fix our mistakes and improve on our strengths.
But until then, we can only hope for a better and prosperous state.
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