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Students as watchdog

Being the nurseries of leaderships, student unions have long influenced the fate of Meghalaya and voiced their opinion on every major act that concerns the overall development of the state. Be it the Khasi Students’ Union, Garo Students’ Union, Jaintia Students’ Union or the Federation of Khasi, Jaintia and Garo People, their active participation, though questioned on many occasions, has changed the fate of the state for the better.

The onset of a change post elections, be it good or bad, heralds the dawn of a new beginning. It has fundamentally remained a flawed idea that agitated protests are synonymous with these unions that represent the student community. Many a times they mirror the rage of a society.

“If you look at the current situation, the Opposition has not played any significant role and has just been interested in throwing the ruling party from the chair. This explains the instability and chaos we face today,” KSU president Daniel Khyriem said, adding that it has always been the civil society that has been instrumental in any valid opposition process.

Be it the Meghalaya mining policy or the Meghalaya community participation bill or the introduction of a railway line extending into the heart of the state, KSU has been on its toes, analysing loopholes and being the barrier that stops outside hands from exploiting and playing with the interests of the indigenous population. The debatable plan to mine uranium in the state to address the needs of the country’s nuclear industry has also run into protests.

“Policies have been cleared as drafts and recalled. Most of the times they have been passed without taking into consideration the people who would be directly or indirectly affected,” said Khyriem who believes that the new government should take the people into confidence so that “loopholes” are adequately analysed prior to a policy being implemented.

Asked if he saw a regional party doing justice as compared to a national party, Khyriem said, “We have seen both these parties rule the state and nothing productive has come about so far. If you look at the basic need of road connectivity, the roads are essentially funded by the Centre but maintained by the state government and now they only lead to the path we call deterioration.”

Voicing his opinion on unfulfilled promises, Khyriem urged candidates and parties not to use issues only to lure voters and come into power but to address the same when in chair.

“The political gimmicks of eradicating unemployment and developing constituencies can no longer be accepted if they don’t actually work to see the points addressed,” Khyriem said.

Even the GSU, a powerful union in Garo hills, has been instrumental in deciding the course of developments. From its earlier stiff opposition to a plain belt district demand to its latest stand on uranium mining, not to forget the implementation of inner-line permit, they have made their voice heard on more than a couple of occasions.

GSU president Tengsak G. Momin believes the outgoing government has failed big time to safeguard the indigenous communities in Garo hills who are, in his words, becoming a minority community in their own land thanks to largescale influx. “Our immediate demands from the new government include strict measures to curb the invasion of Bangladeshis and also speedy deportation following their arrest. Implementation of the ILP should also be an immediate priority of the government that comes to power.”

Momin, currently involved in the setting up of a permanent GSU headquarters at Duragre, said voters were aware of the problems, so they were not trying to educate them on choosing the right candidate. But they have made it clear that the new government must keep ample room for negotiation in all the policies that they seek to implement in future.

Both unions have a common string. Both have highlighted the need for development and demanded early solution to the problems afflicting the state.