NONGPOH, Jan 27: The North Khasi Hills district unit of Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) has vowed not to allow the resumption of the Tetelia-Byrnihat railway project until a strong mechanism was in place.
This followed Deputy Chief Minister of Meghalaya Prestone Tynsong’s statement that the government would go ahead with the project stalled for more than three years now.
“As long as there is no strong mechanism like the Inner-Line Permit (ILP) under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulations, 1873, as well as completion of all entry-exit points in the state, we will neither let the railway project be resumed nor allow the Northeast Frontier Railway to survey for extension to Shillong,” the KSU unit’s president Ferdynald Kharkamni said on Wednesday.
He reminded the government of the union’s 2017 protest against the railway line at Ronghona in Ri Bhoi district, in which several KSU members were arrested and jailed.
Kharkamni said the railway line without the safeguards in place would add to the difficulties of checking the influx of illegal immigrants being experienced on the roads.
Leaders of the KSU unit met Ri-Bhoi Deputy Commissioner RM Kurbah to apprise her of their stand on the railway project as well as to get an update on the functioning of the entry point at Umling. The entry point functions primarily as a tourism and COVID-19 test centre.
The union demanded the setting up of a facilitation centre of the Labour Department at the entry point so that all migrant workers are properly registered under the Meghalaya Inter-State Migrant Workers Act and issued a certificate allowing them to work in the state for only 179 days.
Kharkamni urged the people not to confuse the Umling point with the exit point, which would be constructed either at Byrnihat or 13 Mile.
He also said that the Ri-Bhoi DC was asked to strengthen the district task forces under the Meghalaya Residents Safety and Security Act, 2016, for ensuring that the headmen mandatorily submit the details of migrant workers staying in their respective villages to the nearest police station or outpost.
“Those who do not comply with the provisions of the Act should be punished according to the relevant sections of law,” he said.
The DC, he said, assured the union that the matter would be taken up with the state government.
‘Will take stakeholders on board’
Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong today asserted that the state government will not move ahead with the railway project without taking all the stakeholders on board.
He informed that the project is now the responsibility of the Ri Bhoi district administration and the state government has entrusted the latter to sit down with concerned stakeholders to clear the air on the project.