Friday, May 31, 2024
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Elections 2024: Issues before the electorate

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By VK Lyngdoh

The editorial “Lok Sabha election sans noise” (ST April 4, 2024) has raised many pertinent and crucial issues as to what will be the stand of various parties. In a huge House of Commons (Lok Sabha) with 543 central legislators it is not going to be an easy task for the MPs of small states in the North East like Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura unless they are aligned to NDA or INDIA. To stand alone is next to impossible to drive home their views especially when the cognitive power and energy of an MP is not powerful enough given the present scenario in the country where the Bharatiya Janata Party or for that matter the NDA is surely going to dominate Lok Sabha given their numerical strength. If you are in power then only you can implement your ideas. But if you are not in power, how will you implement your ideas? The editorial has rightly concluded that “electorate must vote with their brains, not with their emotions”. However, the upcoming Lok Sabha election in 1 Shillong Parliamentary and 2 Tura Parliamentary Constituencies is significant for the people of Meghalaya. The key issue that are likely to shape the contest are:
1. Infrastructure and connectivity: People in Meghalaya suffer from poor and bad road conditions and connectivity. Improving connectivity in rural Meghalaya where the bulk of the population (27.2 Lakhs or 85% of the population) reside and work remains crucial as people expect roads, bridges, foot bridges and transportation facilities.
2. Unemployment and Economic opportunities: Creating job opportunities for the youth is essential as Meghalaya faces unemployment challenges, especially among its educated youth. According to the RBI Report November 19th 2022, 7 out of 1000 persons are unemployed in rural and 71 out 1000 persons in urban Meghalaya. Hence encouraging diverse economic activities beyond traditional sectors like agriculture and tourism is vital.
3. Healthcare and Education; Strengthening health care facilities, especially in rural areas is a priority. As far as education is concerned the Annual Report on Periodic Labour Force Survey July 2022 – June 2023 of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation shows youth who are 15 years and above by highest level of education successfully completed out of 100 persons in rural areas as 6.4 are not literate, literate and up to primary is 40.1, Middle class is 32.7, Secondary 9.9, Higher Secondary 6.4, Diploma/ Certificate holder 0.6, Graduate 3.8, Post-Graduate and above 0.7 and Secondary and above is 20.8 percent respectively. The corresponding figure for the urban areas is 2.7, 14.3, 20.6, 13.7, 18.3, 0.3, 23.1, 7.0 and 62.4 percent respectively. Given these kinds of educational statistics there is an urgent need for skill development programs, vocational training and better educational institutions that ensures employability of such persons.
4. Tribal rights and identity: Protecting tribal rights, languages and cultural heritage is crucial if we talk about preserving the culture of the tribe. Addressing land ownership issues and ensuring forest rights for indigenous communities are significant concerns.
5. Environment and Sustainable Development: For balancing growth and conservation electors want sustainable development without compromising the environment. Addressing water scarcity and ensuring clean water supply are critical issues when we talk about water management.
6. Tourism and livelihood: Meghalaya’s natural beauty and salubrious climate attracts tourists. Therefore, if we talk of promoting tourism, enhancing tourism infrastructure is a must to boost livelihoods. Supporting farmers and promoting agro-based industries is essential for the development of agriculture and livestock.
7. Law and Order: Security and safety is the most important aspect of existence and electors expect effective law enforcement, especially in border areas. As far as insurgency and Militancy is concerned addressing security threats must be a top most priority.
8. Political accountability and Transparency: When we talk of accountable governance, electors want transparency, efficient administration and responsive leaders. Addressing corruption and ensuring accountable governance are key concerns.
Remember that these issues resonate differently across regions within both 1 Shillong Parliamentary Constituency and 2 Tura Parliamentary Constituency. Candidates’ ability to address these concerns effectively will influence voters’ decisions.
Meghalaya faces challenges related to poverty. Approximately 49% of the population in rural Meghalaya lives below the poverty line. Seventy percent of individuals in rural areas are engaged in agriculture and allied activities. 69.2 percent lack access to cooking fuel, and 23.60% do not have access to drinking water. 55.90% of rural households lack proper housing facilities. 29.88 % of the population is deprived of assets and 9.10% do not have a bank account. The urban population in Meghalaya faces similar challenges. 37.79 % of the urban population remains below the poverty line. 8.10% of the urban population lacks electricity connection. 31.70% of women in urban areas are deprived of maternal healthcare facilities. Overall, 32.67 % of the entire population in Meghalaya is multidimensionally poor, according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) data. The state ranks as the third poorest in India and the poorest in the North Eastern Region. Therefore, it is crucial for the government to address these challenges and bridge the implementation gaps in welfare schemes to uplift the vulnerable sections of society.

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