For those of us who worry over the state of hopelessness that shrouds the conservation of our environment, its direct link on Global Warming and Climate Change, it is indeed a delight to read in the ST dated March 9, 2022 the formation of a Core Advisory Group to study and I hope make recommendations to The National Human Rights Commission ( NHRC), read Govt of India, concern over issues that determine the very existence or disappearance of life from earth itself. Of added pleasure is the appointment of Patricia Mukhim, a prominent citizen of our state; a strong advocate on all issues of Human Rights and an ardent campaigner on the urgent need to safeguard our environment. Meghalaya as is the case with the rest of the North East has serious problems involving the relationship between man and nature; of human greed that continues to gnaw at our natural resources; of political connivance with those indulging in the destruction of our surroundings and most important, the social indifference to the rapid loss of biodiversity of the region. It is hoped Kong Pat will be able to refocus national concern over what is going on in our part of the World.
The UN through its Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples has recognized that preservation of the tradition and culture of Indigenous peoples is also a Human Right. In view of the above it is hoped that Kong Pat can draw the attention of the core advisory group to a few issues that demand immediate rectifying if we are to be saved from whatever destruction we have brought upon ourselves. On a priority basis I would request the Advisory Group to please look at an issue that exemplifies as no other can, how the environment, the rich biodiversity and the Indigenous Rights of the people has been sacrificed to the greed and avarice of thoughtless individuals occupying seats of power.
9 cement plants were granted simultaneous licenses within a 10 sq km of land. No one knows why the need for them and if any DPR or study was done on the environmental impact these plants would have. Curiously hectic illegal rat hole mining of coal was also being carried out in the same area. The result is jaw-dropping for its unexpected horrific impact on the environment! The Lukha River in Jaintia Hills suddenly turned blue in colour and all life forms within it disappeared. Surrounding water bodies that supported human life and activities turned brackish. Studies were carried out but powerful lobbies both within the coal mafia and the cement mafia managed to confuse the findings by blaming each other. The area falls with the Narpuh sanctuary a renowned safe haven for wildlife. Today we find a reputed cement company, obtaining permission from the Centre to mine, up to the fringes of this sensitive biosphere reserve. This was done surreptitiously without environmental clearance from the State Govt or the communities living nearby. This is how our rights have been bartered away for money and an environmental disaster has already happened in Jaintia Hills. Who is responsible? Will the Advisory Body, like others before it ignore the guilty just because they are politically powerful and rich?
The death of not only the Lukha river mentioned above but of other water bodies; the whole-scale destruction of forests carried out with the tacit approval of our District Councils; the wanton and malicious quarrying of boulders and lime stone; the denial of the Government over nightly covert transportation of illegally mined coal are but a few of the criminally environmental activities of those whom we have elected to provide us with governance. Today the common man is confused as to where to turn to for justice. As a last ditch effort we turn to this Core Advisory Group on Environment, Climate Change and Human Rights to save our Environment and our identity as indigenous peoples of these Hills. There is total lack of concern, worry or interest in preserving the biosphere and environment in our state. We request the Advisory Group if it is within their TOR to provide and issue directions, regulations and procedures, not to the departments concerned but to the politicians of Meghalaya, both at the State and especially at the District Council level, on the need to preserve the environment. They need the awareness to appreciate that they are where they are to govern. They are there to take the state forward not hasten its demise. Otherwise, another 50 years of exploitation and we would have disappeared from the face of this earth.
Omission of Social Work from MCS Mains paper
Apropos of the advertisement published in the Kjatsngi newspaper( March 8, 2022) on the Meghalaya Civil Services (MCS) Examination, in which the last date for submitting of applications is March 11, 2022), I would like to draw attention to the fact that the professional course called Social Work has not been included as one of the optional papers. Other professional courses such as MBBS, MBA and LLB have been included that are as old as the profession of Social Work. As the subject “Masters of Social Work,” is a popular and most demanding qualification in today’s age of rapid development, this multi-disciplinary profession that deals with a number of psycho-social and socio- economic problems at the macro, mezzo and macro level, has been omitted from the optional papers, thereby eliminating many MSW graduates who aspire to sit for the State Civil Services exam. It’s a dream shattered for many. Also, a major section of the population is not aware that ‘Social Work’ is a profession in its own right and is often taken as a synonym of Sociology which is not a profession but a discipline in the Arts and Social Sciences field. Hence, I request the concerned authorities in the Meghalaya State Public Services Commission (MPSC) to kindly include the MSW paper for this upcoming MCS examination so that there is equal opportunity for all.
Name withheld on request,
Toying with EVMs
On March 8, 2022, Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party complained to the Election Commission of India (ECI) that EVMs were being transported on trucks, 36 hours before the counting day which is March 10, 2022. Following this, the UP Vanarasi Commissioner Deepak Agarwal in his explanation to Akhilesh appeared to have accepted that there was a lapse in protocols in the movement of voting machines. However, he insists the voting machines in question were for training purposes.
It is strange that 36 hours before the counting, some training is required. Why does the public fail to judge from the point of view of all advanced countries in the world that have stuck to ballot papers. If that is not enough, we should recall that before EVMs were sought to be used Mr LK Advani and Subramaniam Swamy objected to their being fool-proof.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, a retired DGP of Assam complained to the Presiding Officer that the verifiable voter paper audit trail (VVPAT) showed a completely different result from the one he had voted for. Interestingly, the Presiding Officer challenged the voter and asked him to pay Rs 10,000 for the challenged vote. But why would anyone risk shelling out Rs 10,000 when the EVM can be tampered? Similar cases were reported in Delhi too. The then Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi twice ordered the ECI to study the case. But, rather than study the matter the ECI suspected the complainants.
And think about the lakhs of voters in the country who lost their voting rights as no technician could rectify the faulty EVM throughout the polling day? In Jaintia Hills around 30 persons left the queue and returned home. But who cares? Toying with new inventions is dangerous. If progressive countries of the world had tried the EVMs and found them faulty it’s time for India to resort to ballot papers.
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