ILP a deterrent to inclusive development in State: CM

Excerpts from the interview with Dr Mukul Sangma by our Special Correspondent in Delhi CKNayak at Meghalaya House on October 28 last:

ST: There seems to be no hope of respite from the agitation at least in near future. Why is the State Government is not talking to the agitators? Why this stalemate?

CM: Yes, there is a stalemate. But who is responsible for this? Definitely not my Government. In the first meeting itself the agitators made it a pre-condition that either implementation of ILP or we go( our way). For subsequent talks (also) they have made it conditional. They continue their violent activities which include all sorts of anti-national and anti-social activities including murder.

No government can talk with any person or group which indulges in such violent activities. We have been mandated by the people of the state across hills for (building)a prosperous and peaceful Meghalaya. We cannot do the reverse and go against the people’s wishes. Secondly, you cannot have talks with a sword hanging over your head. Look , even when the most powerful Naga rebels could hold talks with the government after they agreed to a ceasefire, gave up arms, and stopped all other activities (not conducive for peace).

If the NGOs and the pressure groups want to talk (for restoring peace and order) my government is willing (to sit for talks). But let them call off the bandhs and shun violence.

ST: But why is your Government not willing to implement ILP? It is supposed to curb influx into the hill state which is an issue?

CM: You are mixing up issues. First of all there is no major influx of outsider Indians or foreigners into Meghalaya unlike in some other states of the region. In fact, even Indians from other parts of the country cannot come and settle in Meghalaya because of the existing Land Transfer Act which prohibits transfer of land from tribals to non-tribals. Non-tribals, and that too mostly indigenous ones, can purchase land only in very limited pockets in Shillong . Now my Government is also introducing the Tenancy Bill which will make even taking a house on rent by (undesirable) outsiders very strict.

ILP by its very definition only gives permit to an outsider to enter into a particular region. How is it going to stop influx?

And in case ILP is implemented in Meghalaya thousands people passing through the hill state to neighbouring states will have to be issued permits. That is a futile and huge exercise. Imagine what will happen if people from parts of Assam (which incidentally were part of the same ILP law) start demanding ILP and citizens of Meghalaya will be subject to ILP because some group thinks it is necessary to curb influx.

The core issue is we have to think of influx in the context of our own state. Meghalaya, specially its capital Shillong was de facto capital of the British empire because of its beautiful location and salubrious climate. After Independence, Shillong became the capital of undivided Assam and then retained for Meghalaya. Over the years, the state and its capital which attracts people not only from the country but also from all over the world has assumed a cosmopolitan character like many other metros. Imagine if you impose a permit to enter into Delhi or Mumbai or for that matter Kolkata.

Now my Government is trying not only to make Meghalaya a developed state even opening up its borders with Bangladesh for trans-border trade and commerce. We have opened border haats which are running very successfully. Now a few want to restrict entry of all into the state and at times even within the state which is neither practicable nor desirable.

ST: But the high level committee under the then Deputy Chief Minister, Mr Bindo Lanong of your Government has recommended for implementation of ILP !

CM: Yes the committee did recommend implementation of ILP in Meghalaya. But the Government cannot implement all committee reports. It has to study the same and weigh the pros and cons, its practicality and many other things . A brief recommendation to implement ILP cannot be accepted by the Government in toto .

ST: But the indigenous tribals have been reduced to miniscule minority in states like Tripura.

CM: Tripura’s case was different. It is linked not only to partition of the country but also subsequent creation of Bangladesh. There was one way transfer of population in that state. But still Tripura even though (it is located) at the tail end of the region has not implemented ILP so far though there has been a demand (for it) long before that of Meghalaya.

ST: If Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram can have ILP, why not Meghalaya?

CM: These states are frontier states and not transit states. ILP is not there in five of the eight Northeastern states like Assam or Sikkim. The same has not been accepted in Manipur.

There is another interesting part. Restrictions like Restricted Area Permit, Protected Area Permit are there in some parts of region for foreigners. There is now a uniform demand to withdraw such permits to attract investments and tourists.

We want inclusive development of our State and our people and we cannot have archaic laws stonewalling our path to progress.

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