The state of affairs in the State
By HH Mohrmen
We are into one quarter of year and more than three years of the MDA government rule but the state of affairs in Meghalaya leaves nothing for the people of the state to be proud of. The state of a few government organisations is in a poor shape and the NPP-led government has done itself a disservice by performing very badly particularly in the important areas like Education, Healthcare and Law & Order.
The law and order situation in the state is in abysmal condition and the performance of the Home Department leaves much to be desired. The performance of the police is way below the mark as crime it seems is being perpetrated with impunity. Perhaps it is not out of place to mention that there were two unfortunate crimes against under-aged girls in the East Jañtia hills but the police are yet to find any leads on who is involved in the two heinous crimes. The crimes which shocked the society to its core is when two minor girls were raped and murdered in two different areas in the East Jañtia hills. The school going girls were not only raped but sadly also killed by the criminals. Unfortunately the police are yet to make any arrests and the perpetrator(s) of the crime are still roaming freely. The question the public are asking is why is this happening in the State?
The other crime which the police failed to crack is the assault case in the Golf Links area of Shillong which is an open public space. The case which the police initially described as a drunken brawl unfortunately took an ugly turn when one victim lost his life. Here too, the police have failed in their duty to nab the culprit. Till date the police have not been able to make any arrest or even find any lead in the investigation. In fact it is rather unfortunate that the police in the state capital had to reach out and appeal to the public to help them if they have any information which could lead them to the people involved in the crime. Of course it is not unusual for police to seek public help to solve the crime but this definitely will put the Department in a bad light.
The question that arises is whether criminals are smarter than the police now? Or is it because of the kind of training that is imparted that is not up to the mark hence the police are not able to apprehend the criminals. Because of the poor performance of the police, the other pertinent question that arises is – what kind of message is the Department sending to the public at large. Will it not show the Department in a poor light? Whatever the reason may be, the situation does not augur well for the reputation of the Police Department in particular and the Home Department in general.
The Police Department can claim in its defence that it is short of manpower which compels it to compromise on the service that it provides to the public, but the question is whether this is really true. How can the Department claim that it does have the required manpower when apart from the police station and outpost, the checkpoints all along the national highway are full of policemen? People who frequent the highway from Guwahati to Silchar or Agartala will confirm the fact that there are plenty of such stations, outposts or checkpoints all along the road with no dearth of police personnel to man these units in all the different locations. Obviously the state government have enough police personnel to man the many police stations, outposts and checkpoints ‘along the national highway’ but unfortunately they do not have enough personnel to investigate crimes committed against the citizens of the State.
The public now know where or what this Government’s priority is and it is of course where the money is. The failure of the Police Department to arrest those involved in the mentioned crimes does not only show the Department in bad light, but it will also open a Pandora’s box of problems for the Government. For instance the pressure groups have already threatened to organise protests if the Government fails to arrest the culprits involved in the Golf Links incident. And in such an eventuality the Government will have no one else but itself to blame for the consequences that will follow from the police failure to apprehend criminals. The state of affairs not only lowers the respect that the public had on the Police Department, which is not at all good to begin with, but more importantly it will affect the morale of the force.
Then the other problem that is plaguing the state is the MeECL imbroglio. Although much has been written about the Corporation and the Management of the organisation, but the recent development will only help add more fuel to the fire. The surprise visit made by the CMD of the Corporation to the industrial estate located at Byrnihat has only confirmed what the public had suspected for so long. Since the time the MeECL announced its first load shedding the question that the public have been asking is how can MeECL go bankrupt when the public have never defaulted on their payment of their respective electricity bills. If the consumer has duly paid their dues then how can MeECL not have money to pay the dues to Power Companies?
The surprise inspection the CMD made only confirms what the public has always suspected that the problem is not with the ordinary consumers but it lies somewhere else. The reason MeECL failed to pay its due to the different agencies is not the failure of the general consumers but the evasion in payment made by the different industries located at Byrnihat. The industries in connivance with some of the staff of the Corporation posted at Byrnihat are responsible for the revenue leak in the area. The staff that are supposed to monitor the power consumption of the industries have instead facilitated the electricity theft which bleeds the Corporation dry.
While it remains to be seen what action will be taken by the Corporation against those who are suspected to facilitate the electricity theft in the area, the question is also about the pending bills of the cement companies in the Narpuh area. How many of the cement plants in the area have defaulted in their payment of electricity bill to the MeECL? If industries at Byrnihat have been able to manipulate their electricity bills, how can the Government assure the public that the same thing had not happened with electricity bills of the cement plants?
It is rather sad that these same industries which have enjoyed all the subsidies offered by the Government in the industrial policy which includes power subsidy are now defaulters in paying their power bills. The other important point to note is that the Byrnihat episode should not eclipse the issue at hand which has been flagged by concerned citizens of the state. The allegations made by the Corporation’s workers’ union which includes union of engineers with regards to the alleged corruption in the implementation of the centrally sponsored Saubhagya scheme is very serious and needs to be investigated immediately. The Government needs to order police investigation into the alleged misappropriation of public fund by the staffs, or any officers of the Corporation.
Government should also clarify to the public with regards to the allegations against the proposed issue of installing smart meters at the residence of the consumers. The Government should come clear with regards to the two projects which are already cloaked in controversies. The pressure groups and the UDP should continue to pressurise the Government to ensure that the issue comes to a logical conclusion even if it has to be the resignation of the person who heads the Corporation because even if we at the end of the Holy Week the Power Minister unlike Pilate cannot wash his hands over what is happening in the Corporation.
It is sad that the image of these two important constituents of the Government has been damaged by the recent developments. The perception of the public on both the Police Department and MeECL has gone down in recent months. The sad part is not only because the state of affairs in these two agencies has taken a beating but their prospects too are not too bright. The need of the hour for the two Organisations is to embark on a quick image-rebuilding effort to regain public trust once again.
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