Govt-NGO meet ends in win-win situation

By Our Special Correspondent

 Shillong: After an interface lasting over an hour the agitating NGOs – the KSU, HNYF and FKJGP – on Tuesday agreed to the Government proposal for an institutionalised mechanism involving local resident institutions like the Dorbar Shnong, civil society and the District Returning Officer (DRO) to engage in a stringent filtering system to prevent dubious voters from getting enrolled, while at the same time facilitating the enrolment of bonafide Indian citizens.

In a one of its kind dialogue between the Government and the three pressure groups over the issue of enrolment of voters in the State and the NGOs’ contention that the enrolment process be kept in abeyance, Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma roped in senior members of the media as silent observers.

The NGOs demanded that each voter registration form be marked and serially numbered and that only one form be given to each individual. They also asked that the Assistant Electoral Registration Officers (AERO) and Electoral Registration Officers should strictly adhere to the above suggestion.

“Every prospective voter who lives within the Municipality and wishes to enrol should bring valid documents which should include a birth certificate from a Government recognised institution, a school/college/university certificate and also a certificate from the local Rangbah Shnong amongst others.” Emlang Lyttan of the FKJGP stated.

In the beginning the NGOs took an intransigent stance that the enrolment process be kept in abeyance until the all-party Committee looking into the contentious issue of dubious voters came up with valid suggestions. But Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma refused to bow down to what he said was an “unconstitutional demand.”

“We have to engage and work within the framework of the Constitution so please don’t make it difficult and embarrassing for the Government by making demands we cannot accede to because they are unconstitutional,” the astute Dr Sangma stated after having laid out all his cards on the table. He stressed the point that stopping the enrolment process is unconstitutional.

Stating that the Government cannot act like a non-government institution the Chief Minister said, “If the Government acts outside the ambit of the Constitution it is dangerous for democracy.”

Dr Sangma also pointed out that necessary mechanisms would be created at the Block level for registration of migrant workers which he said was a major cause for influx. “The Government has notified Labour Inspector posts for all 39 Blocks and also the necessary supporting staff to ensure that the process of registering migrant workers is in place. However, since we have multi-layered systems of governance these institutions too should play a pro-active role in identifying migrant workers who seek rented accommodation etc.,” Dr Sangma stated.

Earlier, opening the dialogue, KSU President Daniel Khyriem expressed solidarity with the chief minister on the loss of his niece Dana Sangma stating that the Union had taken up the issue with the North East Students’ Organisation (NESO) to ensure speedy justice.

Khyriem also lauded the Government for taking the ‘bold and courageous step’ of removing the voters’ facilitation cells in the district for which the Election Department had earlier cited Election Commission rules to say it could not be done.

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