Meghalaya’s closed economy

The closure of Swiggy a food ordering and delivery company that provides food service on call and is linked to the restaurants of the city is a killjoy for the people of Shillong. Many had learnt to rely on this service when visitors would suddenly drop by and decide to stay back for lunch or dinner and there is not enough time to cook a meal. It is actually a win-win situation for the service provider, the client and the restaurant owners. To bring every online service delivery under the ambit of the “Trading by non-tribal Section” of the Sixth Schedule is to stretch the Schedule too far. Meghalaya is not a state belonging only to the Khasi, Jaintia and Garo tribes. Even before it became a full-fledged state it had a substantial chunk of non-tribal residents, many of whom have been here for several generations. Do they need to prove their citizenship to the state of Meghalaya again and again? The children of the permanent non-tribal residents of Meghalaya cannot be treated as pariah forever. At some point the state has to concede them certain rights under the Indian Constitution. It is a different matter that this constituency has not yet knocked the doors of the courts for justice.

Let’s understand one thing. The market is an open and competitive space and it is unconstitutional to drag the idea of ‘reservation’ into this space. At least in the online business let there be a level playing field. What does the KHADC have to say about hordes of tribals buying stuff online at the cost of the tribal retailers? Will Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra etc., also be asked to have trading licenses or cease to operate? It is bad enough that we do not have the Uber or Ola model of online transportation network companies that are easy on the pocket and that can be called at any time of the day; even early morning or after midnight. Instead, we allow local taxis to fleece passengers when they reserve them because drivers decide the rates and passengers have no say at all. In Meghalaya everything is tilted towards the seller; the buyer is squeezed no end and no institution comes forward to moderate the rates. And just when the consumer enjoys the ease of ordering food to their doorstep, in steps the KHADC to put an end to the business.

By freezing a section of the population into a corner we are creating conditions for people to seek justice the legal way. This will one day curtail whatever legitimate powers the District Councils enjoy today. It is erroneous to forget that the Sixth Schedule is subservient to the Constitution of India which believes in justice and equity to all citizens.

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