Meghalaya @ 50: In Retrospect

Today is a day for celebration. Celebration of 50 years of self-rule of and by the tribes but a rule that is inclusive of all who are citizens of this state. While enumerating the milestones, the people of Meghalaya ought also to do a reality check about how the state is being run and who is actually controlling the fate of 34 lakh Meghalayans today. It is part of Meghalaya’s checkered history that in 1979 those running the state could not prevent a communal outrage against a section of the community which was suddenly called the “other” and was under attack. Such incidents of communal violence were repeated in 1982, 87, 92 and they occur as isolated incidents in parts of the state even today. These do not bode well for a state that is still on the way to progress and is in need of creating windows of opportunity for its youth population. Violence, uncertainty and the absence of the rule of law, are the biggest impediments to economic progress. Government’s brief is to enable job creation through entrepreneurship and industries that make judicious use of local resources keeping in mind the fragile ecology of this hill state. That these goal posts were not earmarked in the early days of statehood reflects the lack of vision of those that fought long and hard for a separate state. It is a matter of regret today that attaining a separate state became an end in itself and even Meghalaya’s contentious boundaries have remained areas of contestation with Assam from which the state was carved out. Priorities should have been set right at the beginning when Meghalaya became a reality.
Hopefully the thorny boundary issue is set to be resolved by the MDA Government through consensus building with neighbouring Assam. However, it is also a fact that previous governments holding the reins of governance in Meghalaya have done precious little to develop the border areas and to make the residents there the stakeholders that would zealously guard those borders. On the contrary Assam has done more in terms of providing last mile connectivity for the border residents so that they are able to improve their livelihoods and enjoy the fruits of governance. Because border residents find the Assam Government to be more attentive to their needs, they have made their preferences clear about opting to be with Assam. The administrative machinery of Meghalaya has been amiss with such overtures.
On Meghalaya’s 50th year will we see a closure to the border battles between Assam and Meghalaya? We wait and watch and hope that the state achieves this one important milestone!

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