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MLAs urge govt to ensure safety of border residents

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SHILLONG, Feb 20: The alleged oppression by the Assam government against residents of Meghalaya living along the disputed interstate boundary echoed in the Assembly on Tuesday with members of the House shedding their political differences to urge the state government to ensure their safety and security until a settlement is reached.
Moving a motion on the issue, Congress’ Mawhati MLA Charles Marngar highlighted the alleged high-handedness by the Assam police and collection of exorbitant taxes from broomstick farmers by the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC).
Reading out the high taxes collected from vehicles transporting broomsticks, he said the collection of the taxes has turned into a huge problem for the farmers.
“They charge Rs 15,000 from a bolero pick up carrying 2,000 kg of broomsticks, Rs 13,500 from a bolero 4×4 carrying 1,800 kg, Rs 90,000 from an LP truck carrying 12,000 kg and Rs 67,000 from a 909 truck carrying 9,000 kg,” he said.
“The Assam government through its forest department, Assam Police and KAAC are pursuing legal actions against the villagers and forcefully stopping developmental works and central schemes from being implemented by the state government,” Marngar alleged.
He lamented that the Assam government is pursuing the legal action even after a meeting was held between top police officials of the two states.
“After the meeting, the Meghalaya DGP met the villagers at Mawlasnai and told them that the Assam Police would not initiate legal action. However, the assurance seems to hold no value as the Assam government is pursuing legal action against our people,” he said.
He pointed out that a chargesheet was filed and warrants of arrest were issued against four border residents.
Marngar said even after Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma spoke to his Assam counterpart Himanta Biswa Sarma and provided all details, the Assam Police continued with patrolling in Meghalaya villages, thereby instilling a sense of insecurity. He requested the government to ensure the safety and security of the people.
The MLA reminded the House that this was the second time he had raised the issue. He requested Sangma to take the matter seriously and stop KAAC from collecting taxes from broomstick farmers of Meghalaya.
Joining in the discussion, VPP chief Ardent M Basaiawmoit said the problems being faced by the border residents are age-old. He said negotiation is the best way forward.
Pointing out that Assam Minister Atul Bora hurled an encroachment charge at Meghalaya even while the border talks are on, he said Meghalaya has to effectively deal with such mindset of Assam leaders.
UDP MLA Renikton Tongkhar described the high taxes collected by KAAC as “open loot”.
Stating that only a final settlement of the border dispute will mark an end to the troubles being faced by the border populace, he appealed to all legislators to put their heads together and rally under the banner of Meghalaya to find a solution to the problem.
NPP’s Jirang MLA Sosthenes Sohtun lauded the efforts of the state government to solve the boundary row. He said while talks are on, the Assam government is electrifying the houses in border areas. He asked the state government to ensure that development reaches the last mile.
According to him, officials of some Assam government departments come up to Byrnihat to detect vehicles parked in the jurisdiction of Meghalaya. He asked the state government to ensure Meghalaya has a strong presence of police personnel in the outpost and the police station on the border.
NPP’s Kharkutta MLA Rupert Momin said after many villages refused to be with Assam and the villagers surrendered their voter ID cards, the Assam government withdrew all schemes. Even the school teachers left, he said.
Momin said these villages need the attention of the Meghalaya government as they stand nowhere now.
UDP’s Nongpoh MLA Mayralborn Syiem requested the CM and the Home department to issue clear guidelines on the state and central governments schemes to be implemented in border areas so that developmental works are not hampered.
Pointing out that a sizeable fund has been earmarked under the interstate border area developmental programme, he said this programme should continue and the allocation of fund should be increased this financial year.
He said when attempts are made to bring back the villages under Assam, it must be ensured that the agricultural land is also included.
Independent MLA Remington Gabil Momin said five villages in his constituency, which came under Meghalaya, lack development as all Assam government schemes have been withdrawn from there.
He further said that there are a few more villages which want to be under Meghalaya. He said the people there are holding Meghalaya documents. He alleged that Assam’s Forest department and police are not allowing developmental work to take place there.
VPP’s Mawlai MLA Brightstarwell Marbaniang said it is high time that the legislators put themselves in the shoes of border residents.
Asking if the legislators really bother about the problems being faced by the people, he said no decision should be taken in a hasty manner as it is a protracted problem and it needs a lot of thinking.
Marbaniang said during his visit to one of the border villages, he learnt from the villagers that Meghalaya government is not carrying out any developmental activities. He said there are some 15 schools sponsored and run by the Assam government.
He said the Meghalaya government should take some steps to address the problems being faced by the locals in border areas, particularly concerning health and education.

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