Friday, June 14, 2024

People’s Agenda for 2013


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By HH Mohrmen

The election is so near yet the parties are still so far from the people. Candidates have of course been busy campaigning in their respective constituencies but the parties are still nowhere to be seen. Maybe parties are still busy selecting ‘winnable’ candidates; hence they have no time to debate or brainstorm on the issues that are important for the state and its people. Parties of every hue are yet to come up with their manifestos to make the people of the state know what their agenda are for the term starting 2013 to 2018. Or perhaps like a journalist friend said manifestos are not of any use anymore, only “moneyfesto” (pun intended) is working these days. But going to the election without any manifesto is like building a house without a blue print or going on a journey without a road map. Perhaps the excuse of not coming up (till now) with a manifesto is also because the next government is also going to be a coalition government hence it is very difficult if not impossible to arrive at a consensus in a coalition government.

Whatever the case may be, parties should come up with a manifesto. It is also to the disadvantage of the people and the state if parties are to contest the election without a manifesto. Without manifestos voters of the state will not have any yardstick by which the parties’ performance is to be measure at the end of the five year term.

If there is any opportunity to change the name of the state, we should find another Sanskrit word and rename the state as the abode ‘on’ the cloud instead because the state was created without any boundary hence no proper border to demarcate the area of the state. It is only in space where the cloud floats that one can have a state without a border. Or maybe those responsible for naming the state are right; it is indeed ‘the abode of cloud’ because the shape and size of clouds change with time, hence Meghalaya has no need of proper demarcation of its boundary. It is a matter of shame for the present and the previous political leadership that even after 40 years of its existence, the state is yet to have a proper boundary with its neighbouring state and even with the country with which we share our border. To avoid more violence or repetition of Langpih incident or Pyrdiwah, Muktapur and Rhongkum like firing on the international border, one of the most important agenda for the new government after 2013 is to settle once and for all the boundary issue with Assam and the ‘land held in adverse position’ with Bangladesh.

This is no time to get into the blame game and find fault with the education system for huge backlog of educated unemployed youths in the state. The unemployment issue has time and again been brought up for discussion on various platforms, but the pertinent question is how is the government going to provide employment to hundreds and thousands of educated or semi-educated youths in the state? Perhaps the people of the state received the shock of a lifetime when it was recently reported that there are 1, 20, 000 applicants for a mere 1200 vacant posts in the police department. For many of us who prefer to be in our own comfort zones, we wish that the figures are a figment of someone’s imagination or that it is mere exaggeration. But fortunately or unfortunately, facts and figures do not lie. Informed sources state that there are more than 5000 educated employed youths registered with the office of the employment exchange in Jowai of West Jaintia Hills district. This is just the tip of the iceberg; unemployment is a major issue in the state and industrialization obviously did not help either. The cement plant which mushrooms in the elaka Narpuh at the cost of the environment has not created jobs for the locals; instead all the cement companies have their corporate offices established outside the state which create jobs elsewhere and not in Meghalaya. And the government is turning its blind eyes to this vital issue. Unemployment among the educated youths is like a ticking time bomb. Any government which comes to power after the elections should treat the matter as a top priority and address this issue urgently if it is to avoid any unnecessary consequences in the future.

It is ironic that in spite of the State having its own airport, the Chief Minister, his cabinet colleagues and top government officials still have to travel to Guwahati to fly outside the state. The trips to Guwahati to catch a flight are inconsequential until one calculates the number of hours wasted on such trips. For every flight outside the CM, his cabinet colleague or top bureaucrats has to spend at least two and half hours to travel to the Guwahati international airport and another two and half hours on the return journey. Now even if the CM is to travel only once a month outside the state, a minimum of five precious hours is being wasted in every journey, not to mention the expenditure on his convoy and fuel of cars used in the cavalcade. It might clarify matters if we put it this way, that for each travel outside the state by the CM, the Ministers and the top bureaucrats of the government the state is losing a minimum of five precious hours or two hours less of one full working day per trip. One can now estimate and generate the amount of precious time and resources wasted every time a government official takes a flight out and this is just because in spite of Meghalaya being one of the oldest state in the northeast India, it is yet to have a real airport where a big aircraft can land. For travelers from Jaintia hills, taxi fare to the airport costs a minimum of rupees four thousand. Ironically the taxi fare to the nearest airport is more expensive than the airfare to some of the destinations on their trip. For the benefit of the state and the people, another important agenda for the government in the coming assembly is to make Umroi and Baljek airport fully operational.

It is said that seventy per cent of Indians live in the villages, hence it is imperative to improve the economy of the State then the economy of the people of the rural areas should improve. And agriculture is still the dominant occupation of the people in the villages; hence another important program for the next government is to improve the economy of the rural areas and improve agriculture production in the state. By improving the economy of the rural areas, like the proverbial saying goes, “the state will kill two birds with one stone,” meaning that the rural economy will grow and urban migration will be controlled.

The state is gradually losing its glory of being the education hub of the northeast. The next government needs to pull up its socks and try to regain its lost glory by improving the education system in the state. A lot needs to be done on this front if Shillong in particular and Meghalaya in general is to regains its glory as the education hub of the northeast.

Improving health care and health care delivery in the rural areas by bringing healthcare closer to the people is another challenge for the government. Connecting all the villages to the district headquarters is also mandatory if the state is to develop and come at par with the other states of the country.

It is mandatory for all the political parties to come up with a manifesto which will serve as a scale by which voters will rate their government. Even in a coalition government manifestos are vital part of the election. It’s the only way by which the voters will be able to rate their government after five years time. Hence every voter should insist that parties come up with an election manifesto and the voters should keep the manifesto till the term ends and see if parties keep their promises.


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