Thursday, July 25, 2024

State in a State of Disarray


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By Gary Marbaniang  

The current imbroglio over the Roster-Reservation issue has turned into a comedy of errors.Before the series of meetings last week,the Chief Minister spoke to the media like a wise old man with a magic wand when he said that a presentation has been prepared on the vexed issue,and once it is presented to all the stakeholders which include the citizens of the state, the confusion surrounding the issue will be cleared once and for all.So it all came to pass and the Chief Minister’s reassurance got a resounding approval from most of the major political parties except the VPP and the KHNAM; interestingly the UDP was tight-lipped on this pressing issue after the all party meeting; perhaps they’re just doing what they know best which is sitting on the fence. It was only yesterday that Jemino Mawthoh, one of the party leaders came out in support of a change in the Reservation policy and he also said that there is a need for dialogue and an amicable solution to the Roster issue. The leaders of the Congress, BJP and the Trinamool Congress on the other hand spoke to the press to express their satisfaction with the government’s presentation.

Meanwhile HM Shangpliang,the spokesperson of the BJP acted like the oversmart kid in the class when he said that he was the first person who raised the question of whether the roster system will be implemented retrospectively and he also said that he asked whether it will result in the removal of some employees who are already employed presumably those from the Khasi Jaintia community to which the Chief Minister replied in the negative; basically he’s giving himself a pat on the back for raising such a smart question but to the understanding of many lay people and intellectuals alike, the roster system if implemented retrospectively will not result in the termination of those already in government service; it will result in reduced job opportunities in the government sector for youths from the Khasi Jaintia community for no faults of theirs since the backlog if the roster system is implemented retrospectively will be carried over to fresh recruitments.

Coming to the massive rally organized by the VPP on the May 19, ‘2023 at the parking lot near the additional secretariat,it ended in an anticlimax and many people went back to their homes disappointed.The leaders of the VPP who attended the all party meeting staged a walkout and when asked by the media their reason for doing so they simply said that they attended the meeting hoping that the government will also address the reservation policy but the issue was not on the agenda,so that’s the reason for the walkout.The Chief Minister had already said before the all party meet that the only agenda of the all party meet was the Roster system so it baffled me that they feigned ignorance on the matter.As far as my opinion is concerned,they should have sat through the entire meeting and take note of the key points from the meeting because they made a massive crowd wait for the outcome of the meeting but the leaders came back empty handed not knowing what was discussed in the meeting leaving the crowd disappointed.The VPP stand on the matter is that the reservation policy must be changed first then they will be ready to discuss on the roster system but I choose to differ; first the party must unitedly oppose the implementation of the roster system retrospectively and if they come out victorious on the roster system, it will give the party an impetus to take the fight to the government on the Reservation policy.

The only person according to me who spoke wisely on the outcome of the all party meeting was the KHNAM president,Mr Thomas Passah. Mr Passah who staged a walkout after he had fully grasped the decision of the government said that in some departments,a roster has been prepared from 1972,so the Roster system according to him will be implemented retrospectively.I guess we will have just to wait for the presentation to be made public before we can all know what the real decision of the government is. The government initially tried to wash it’s dirty hands of the matter by saying that it was the High Court that directed it to implement the Roster system retrospectively but the High Court put the ball back in the government’s court when it stated that it has left the date of implementation of the roster system to the good judgment of the government.As far as some job vacancies that were released last year after the high court judgment on the preparation of a Roster is concerned,it seems that the government had decided to implement the roster system retrospectively.The increased disillusionment in the Khasi and Jaintia hills is what made the government take a softened stand on the issue hence the all party meeting and the presentation but the real decision of the government will be known once the so called presentation is made public.

Enough of my views on the Roster- Reservation issue.For the youths of the state,the bigger question is, “Where will we go if we don’t get government jobs?”.Suppose next year, there will be 5000 vacancies in various State Government departments and let’s say that for those 5000 jobs, 40,000 youths will apply. The question is where will the 35,000 youths who will not be selected go.This problem is like the elephant in the room and no one wants to discuss it.I guess majority of the people who elected MLA’s belonging to the NPP have forgotten or maybe they don’t know in the first place that the Chief Minister before the election,made a promise that if the NPP party comes to power it will create 5 lakh jobs.People with half a brain will know that such a promise is empty rhetoric.I think the Chief Minister was just trying to outpromise the Trinamool Congress and Congress respectively whose poll promises were 3 lakh jobs and a job for each family respectively.For people who voted for the NPP,the majority of whom resides in Garo Hills,if the Roster system is implemented retrospectively,it will give them a false sense of hope and security and make them forget about the promise of 5 lakh jobs but at the end of the day,majority of the youths of the state from both the Khasi-Jaintia and Garo community will be left high and dry without any kind of job security.I think the Chief Minister has played his cards right, knowing all too well the weakness of the electorate to fall for empty promises before every election; just like Mr Prestone Tynsong said,”We entice the electorate every five years and the electorate fall for it every five years”.

The way ahead is promoting homegrown micro, small and medium enterprises that will make our unique traditional products and service stands out in a global market flooded with goods and services stamped with the latest modern technology. Entrepreneurship and Labour is useless without Land and Capital. Since the family is the building block of society, giving each and every child a share of the property will be a good start to invigorate the entrepreneurial spirit. Many people will say why the need to rake up this issue when there are a lot of families in Khasi society that don’t have any property to distribute; such an opinion sounds right but looking from the larger perspective of economic growth, even if only a small percentage of families have property to distribute, it can have a multiplier effect on society at large;the people who will inherit wealth and property because of equitable distribution could become entrepreneurs creating job opportunities for the less privileged members of society. However, making equitable distribution of property binding on parents through a law could break families apart and create a spirit of animosity and hostility among family members. A change in distribution of property in the family and societal structure should only happen spontaneously if it really does happen.

The world is now in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution and many people will be left behind if they don’t brace themselves for the economic and technological transformation that is happening right before our eyes. The result of the Secondary School Leaving Certificate came out on Friday and as usual people are going gaga over those students who managed to get into the Top 20 position. What about those who failed and in all certainty the majority of whom will give up their pursuit of education? The sad reality is that no one gives a damn about them. The pass percentage in Garo Hills is just over 30 percent while the pass percentage in South West Khasi Hills is only 50 percent. Where will the students who didn’t make it go? It`s a scary thought and scenario for the future prospects of the State and its people.

The basic idea of development is to give everyone a platform and an opportunity to grow irrespective of their educational qualification, background and performance. The current education system based on rote learning has become redundant and it is no longer serving the needs and demands of the modern world. The need of the hour is to increase the number of educational institutions which impart vocational and technical education.Meghalaya is at the crossroads; we either choose to move with the times or we choose to remain stuck in the past. Unfortunately at the moment, there is a dearth of leadership with a vision to take us to move with the times. The economic potential of the state is boundless but ironically, right now we`re demanding our pound of flesh where the flesh is just a scrap!.The fight over the Reservation policy is a perfect example of fighting for scraps. If only we have leaders with the wisdom and the vision who could lead us into the “Promise Land” by fully tapping the vast potential of the state and its people.


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