Meghalaya has miles to go

Meghalaya is turning 50 on Friday and it is befitting to celebrate this milestone. But what happens the day after? People living in Shillong often live in a bubble and they include MLAs. It does not occur to them that life beyond the state capital is a daily grind. Till date the rural populace of Meghalaya struggle to bring their farm/orchard products to the markets simply because there are no roads. There are many villages that have not seen their MLA visiting them since he/she was elected. People rue that MLAs only respond to people of those villages that vote for them. This is the standard complaint of people across Meghalaya. If all MLAs take an active interest in the development of their constituencies, in 50 years all villages would have been connected to the district headquarters and to the district markets if not the state capital.
These days, it is observed that buyers come directly to the farm gate to buy agricultural produce from the growers; that is if those villages have motorable roads. In Meghalaya, last mile connectivity is still a distant dream. Unfortunately, people have not yet understood their power as voters. They are yet to mobilise themselves effectively to speak up against unequal development because of which they stuck in the rut of poverty. On this 50th year of statehood can the MDA Government do an audit of all the villages that are yet to be connected to the nearest Block/District headquarter and make this a priority in the next one year? Road connectivity is the basis for economic empowerment of people.
Another malaise affecting the growth of Meghalaya is the data vacuum. On the health front data on maternal and child mortality and nutrition was earlier not available. The state and other researchers had to rely on the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO). Even data on people living below poverty line (BPL) is skewed. The data that claims Meghalaya’s farmers to be richer than those in Punjab and other states is laughable. Yet this is what the country believes. And unless this is countered by the State the data generated by national agencies will continue to be bandied about and affect resource allocation by the Centre. Most statistical data on health, education, economic growth among others is generated by the NSSO and now the NITI Aayog. Such agencies hardly understand the nuances of tribal societies and their land holding systems which are starkly different from the rest of the country. Local universities both public funded and private ones are today well placed to gather accurate data which is integral to governance interventions. As Meghalaya turns 50 can we expect robust data collection and strengthening of the Department of Economics and Statistics?

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