No shopping mall in the city please
Whatever shopping mall may come up, it must not be constructed in Proper Shillong. Construct it out of town. Shillong needs to decongest. And the sooner the better for all Shillongites. Barik is a wooded area. Let it be preserved and be the lungs of the city.
Jobs are important, but not at the expense of the environment. Furthermore, whenever the Government undertakes a real estate project, invariably the completion is never in sight. An example is the Crowborough Hotel which began in 1984. Let’s not go down that road again.
Hence if any shopping mall is to be constructed let it be a private enterprise. The Government must only govern and nothing else. When governance is good, Meghalaya has the potential to transform itself into a beautiful oasis.
Rethink the idea of a shopping mall
It was interesting to read the letter to the editor written by a certain Alvinson Process Syiem titled, “Shillong needs a shopping mall!” (ST Nov 23, 2020). In the letter, it is pertinent to note that the author made no mention of the proposed Barik Shopping Mall, so as readers it would be only reasonable to assume that he was speaking of shopping malls in general. The stand of the majority of right thinking citizens is clear on this issue, ie. Barik is not an ideal place to set up any commercial venture, that too at the scale of a mall that the government intends to create. Perhaps with the completion of the ISBT at Mawiong, the land of the Meghalaya Transport Corporation (MTC) at Khyndailad can be considered as a viable location for this proposed mega-mall. This is just one suggestion amongst many that others in positions of authority are far capable of giving to the government – options which are based on sound logic and acceptable to all sections of society. That having been said, as an informed citizen of this state, there are a few points in the Mr Syiem’s letter which I feel needs to rebutted, else it may encourage the Government to act further on their proposed plans.
Firstly, the author claimed in his letter that “setting up a shopping mall would boost the economy of the state, reduce corruption and prevent financial crisis”. Any informed citizen knows straightaway that such fantastic claims are not based on any empirical findings. One shopping mall even at the scale of a Phoenix Mall set up in the greater Shillong area would hardly contribute significantly to State’s overall GDP. If the State Government relies on setting up commercial ventures such as a mall for their income, then something must be terribly wrong with their management of the economy. As to claims that a shopping mall would reduce corruption or pull the State out of a financial crisis, well let’s just say that the inverse is bound to happen based on past experiences.
The author must consider whether stall allocation in the said mall will be free and fair and whether any lobbying for stalls will or will not exist. Besides this point, a shopping mall can also be used as a focal point for money laundering but that’s a debate for some other day. The idea of setting up a shopping mall is always a welcome idea for truly it would cater to the needs of the growing middle class sections of the state, but in perspective the Government should consider various other factors such as location, damage to the environment, pollution, traffic chaos, and above all, health in the process.
Let’s not forget that the proposed Barik Mall will hardly be a few metres away from the Civil Hospital, Shillong.
Drug menace going hi-tech
The drug menace is a serious concern of society now. Honestly speaking, it is eating into the very strength of the social fabric. The recent Bollywood cases should make all our parent fraternity more vigilant. I wish to bring to the attention of the Narcotics Department of the Police and the Defence authorities in the Cantonment areas, about the rampant drug abuse near the premises of Shiv temple of Madhav Khola, and other nearby “secluded” places.
On my recent visit to the temple, I noticed three boys smoking dope in the open. They were probably around 22 years of age. On my inquiry from persons around I got to know more inside details which sent a chill down my spine. Till about three months ago the periphery of the temple would look like a “mela” as several groups of junkies from outside would flock to the temple area and sit in a huddle to have their quota of dope. That lasted till midnight. But, thanks to the watchful eyes of the village people and the Headman, probably from Lawsohtun, who chased them away.
What I have learnt is that many groups of youths, including elderly people, from distant places, would converge at the vicinity of this sacred temple. Each individual group of youths would gather around to prepare their dope and such other narcotic substances – that would go several rounds. One group would leave and other groups would make an entry – thus this cycle would go on till late night. Some addicts from faraway places would come in their expensive vehicles to get a high. They would cause all kinds of noises disturbing the peaceful atmosphere of the holy place. It was never safe for women and children to visit the temple in the afternoon/evening. However, after repeated complaints by the residents around the Headman and the village youth members had driven those drug addicts away from the temple area. The Government should take note of this commendable initiative taken by the village community.
Here arises a million-dollar question. Where have those addicts gone? Have they given up doing drugs now? It’s totally immature to say so. Those addicts have moved to other hideouts — non-descript and untrodden spots. Jungles or any enclosed, hidden areas are their chosen places for such drug rendezvous these days. I was informed all this by an old addict who is now doing B.Sc. at a reputed college. Being an old sinner and a talented student, he made the point that it is the mobile phone that has become the best interface in such hush-hush drug abuses. The addicts themselves peddle the drugs which are mostly imported. Any new locations for the meeting/trading are fixed by SMS or on WhatsApp. Everything has become easy due to mobile phones. The boy further adds that wrong friendships and peer pressure also contribute towards the drug culture that has misled many youngsters these days.
One wonders what advanced gadgets will our police and narcotic departments come up with to crack down on the drug addicts/peddlers using sophisticated digital aids. Police can’t easily outsmart these “hopping” druggies. The more serious question is how so many narcotic substances are available in the State, and how are they so easily traded around? This calls for serious brainstorming. Have those illegal drugs not been brought in from various entry points? It clearly shows the laxity of our concerned departments. I think the government should consider passing a special ILP on drugs in the Assembly, no joking. We would need to have “robust check-gates” at every strategic point. Parental responsibility and vigilance is called for much more now than ever before. We can’t remain complacent when the younger generation is falling prey to dangerous drugs. “Availability” is one of the root causes of evil.