Thank you for your soul stirring piece, “When government becomes complacent” (ST Nov 13, 2020). I went through it at least thrice to absorb the multiple messages the write-up has brought home. Frankly, as an avid reader, after quite some time I found the subject matter of the article you have chosen to be simply compelling, relevant and thought provoking. Of the many things you have touched upon let me confine myself to only a couple.
First, the inability of the opposition to go the whole hog with its No-confidence Motion. Right from the beginning, it was becoming apparent that the Congress legislators were in two minds. The writing on the wall was pretty much clear about the fate of the Motion. With no cracks in the ruling MDA, there was no possibility of a political upheaval. Then, was the Motion for the gallery alone? Perhaps not! Congress MLAs are disenchanted with the political portents in the country and the state. The Modi juggernaut is simply unstoppable, while the Congress is on the brink of collapse. The oldest party is in such disarray that it can’t even find a leader! Against this backdrop, the Congress MLAs will be naturally wary about their future. They can’t rot in the opposition for eternity. They need to move on. If we view the situation from this perspective, it was a valiant attempt on the part of Leader of the Opposition Mukul Sangma to give the party MLAs a glimmer of hope. He needed to energise them. He needed to keep them bound by a common purpose. What better than a ‘No Confidence Motion’ which also was a test of their loyalty to the Party.
Going by the tone and intensity of the attack on the ruling side, I cannot say that all Congress legislators went out all guns blazing. Perhaps they could not do it because they have a “past”. Look at the areas of attack the Opposition confined itself to. The coal issue and corruption in ADCs were the main planks of their attack. The Opposition carefully avoided other issues that confront the state simply because those would recoil on them. Even on the coal issue, the ruling MLAs gave it back to the Congress, particularly Mukul Sangma for their inability to tackle the same when they were in power. And didn’t Conrad Sangma spiritedly pay the Opposition back in the same coin? I think morally, Congress has no right to complain about corruption and mismanagement. The story is the same today and it will remain so in the future too. Indeed, the pot cannot call the kettle black!
That brings me to the second point: You have rightly raised the point about, “Meghalaya is their family estate.” Over the past half a century, Meghalaya is continually degenerating into a muddled state. The political masters have no clear thoughts on their destination is. The ruling side which has completed half its term without a Common Minimum Programme, cannot be expected to deliver anything specific. After five years, they will have no account to give. They would simply nurture their constituencies for another crack at the lucre that politics provides. I totally agree with you that it has become a paying business to be in politics today. Gone are the days of W.A. Sangma, B.B. Lyngdoh, B. Pakem, D.D. Pugh and so many other proven public men who provided the base for the new state. And today, we are led by a set of visionless leaders who have only one objective – that of remaining ensconced in power! Much was expected of Conrad Sangma and his elder brother James both of whom are well educated and perfectly groomed by their illustrious father. But looking at the way they are compromising just to stay in power, I am quite disillusioned. I agree with you cent per cent: “Meghalaya needs a monumental shake-up.” I can bet my last penny that a revolution is going to happen someday soon and led by the tribals themselves who would realise that they did not get their slice of the cake which is being denied by their own community leaders. This exploitation of the fellow tribes is not going unnoticed. The day of reckoning will come for everybody, sooner than later.
Takeover by IAS/MCS
I refer to the various reports appearing in your newspaper regarding the whimsical transfer and postings of officers by Government of Meghalaya and particularly of junior officers being allowed to hold higher posts. It is learnt that similar moves are also on in the Urban Affairs Departments to bring in favourable people to hold important posts. Take the case of the Director. Although there is a qualified person to take charge of the post, yet MCS officers are being allowed to hold charge. Although the Department has a Service Rule which provides for the qualification and experience of personnel to hold the post yet officers from outside the cadre are being brought in from other services to hold the post of Director. To the extent that there is a now a move to amend the Service Rules to enable an IAS or a MCS officer to hold the post of Director. If this be the case, there is no reason why aspiring candidates should go for professional courses and work for donkey’s years only to see a person with general qualifications being allowed to hold the top post in the Department. This is happening not only in the Urban Affairs Department but across various departments. With Civil Services officers heading the Personnel Department, it is very convenient to tweak the Service Rules to bring in people of their ilk to hold important positions.
There is a substantial amount from the Government of India parked in the Urban Affairs Department and with land to be allotted in New Shillong Township, no wonder people of choice who are amenable to the powers that be, will find favour. Having captured huge tracts of prime land in New Shillong at a cost much lower than the acquisition cost, the Civil Services officers appear to be the most privileged lot in the state. Anybody travelling towards New Shillong will notice that palatial buildings are under construction there. All at the cost of poor citizens of the State! What a pillar of democracy!