Sunday, July 14, 2024

Ampareen mulls tweaking civic Act to facilitate polls


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By Our Reporter

SHILLONG: Newly appointed Municipal Administration Minister Ampareen Lyngdoh said she would try to address the issue of putting in place an effective urban governance with an open mind.

“I do not have any pre-conceived notions of finding an acceptable solution to this long pending issue. I am totally aware about the controversies surrounding the issue of holding municipal elections,” Ampareen told reporters after her review meeting a day after taking over charge of her new assignment on Thursday.

She however informed that the first major step she would take towards this end is to see if the word ‘election’ could be redefined taking into account the Meghalaya perspective.

“I don’t think there is a body like the Election Commission when it comes to holding of municipal elections. It is the respective Deputy

Commissioner who has been assigned the task of conducting the municipal polls,” Ampareen said. Elections can be conducted in whatever manner depending on the needs and requirements which suit the interests of the people of the State, she said. “We know there is a practice in place where people elect the Rangbah Shnong through voice vote. There is another practice where people elect the Rangbah Shnong through an informal secret ballot,” Ampareen said.

She said these are options which the Government could deliberate upon but a final call on this would taken only after consultation with the various stakeholders including the Government machinery. “We can even think in terms of appointing the Rangbah Shnong as the ‘ward commissioner’. But we need to ensure that he has the mandate of the people of the entire locality,” the Municipal Administration Minister said.

But the major hurdle in appointing the Rangbah Shnong as the Ward Commissioner is that there would be confusion on the issue of equitable gender representation in the Municipal Board, she said. Ampareen said, “We know that in majority of the localities women are not part and parcel of the Dorbar Shnong”.

The Municipal Minister however admits the dire need to have an elected body which would look after the civic amenities. “I am also aware that the traditional institutions are demanding for a separate State Municipal Act before holding the civic polls. All these things can be sorted out through dialogue,” Ampareen said while maintaining that she is not totally averse to the demands made by the traditional institution. She however stated that there is need for proper discussion on this whole issue before redefining the existing Municipal Act

. “ During the course of the discussion, there might be an agreement to only modify the existing Municipal Act,” she said. Ampareen informed that she has constituted a Sub-Committee which would study whether there can be a synthesis of the various suggestions and proposals given by the different organisations.

She also informed that the Shillong Bench of the Gauhati High Court has recently directed the State Government to hold the elections to the four municipal boards in Garo hills by September this year. It may be mentioned that the court order was based on a petition filed by All Garo Hills Civic Poll Candidates’ Forum against the decision to call off the elections at the eleventh hour due to escalation of violence in certain areas following protests by various groups.

Before initiating steps for holding of municipal election in Garo Hills, she has sought the findings of the inquiry which was set up after the municipal election was called off due to the oppositions from various corners. “I would like to know what follow up action has been taken as per the findings of the inquiry. We cannot set aside the findings of the inquiry on this very critical issue,” Ampareen added.


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