Shillong, March 5: Meghalaya chief minister Mukul M. Sangma today made poverty and backwardness his twin targets as he assumed office for a second time.
Sangma, 47, who took oath in the name of god, was sworn in at the Raj Bhavan lawns by Governor R.S. Mooshahary this morning in front of hundreds of Congress supporters and newly elected legislators.
“As the mandate comes with huge expectations, I on behalf of my colleagues, make this solemn pledge that it will be our sincere and committed endeavour with utmost sense of dedication to implement all that we have promised in our manifesto,” the chief minister said in his first news conference after assuming office.
The Congress was voted back to power by winning 29 out of 60 Assembly constituencies. The yet-to-be-named government has the support of at least 11 Independents and two NCP members.
Stating that a humble beginning was made in the preceding years, Sangma said: “We have been able to impact the lives of people through our new development initiatives and there is visibility of development initiatives on the ground.”
The chief minister, who appeared certain that he would last the entire five-year term, however, said the focus of his government would be to ensure sustained and inclusive growth. He plans to do this by addressing the issues of backwardness and poverty, implementing people-centric schemes and building partnerships, entrepreneurship development, upscaling investment in social sectors and leveraging upon the vast human and natural resources.
“Unemployment of the youths is a major challenge before us,” he said while referring to the Congress poll manifesto that has promised 10,000 new jobs for the youths in government sector and 1,00,000 lakh new job opportunities in the non-government sector in the next five years.
Sangma also said that the state’s physical infrastructure would be upscaled “to keep pace with our ambitions and our changing lifestyle”.
“We will, therefore, focus on completion of large number of roads, rail, waterways, power, tourism and other infrastructure projects on which work has already begun. New projects are already being planned and these are urgently needed while it is important to rapidly finish what we began,” Sangma said.
“Women in Meghalaya hold up more than half the sky but we have continued to deny them a fair deal. It is time to change this decisively. The financial inclusion scheme for women launched by us earlier was only a start. It will be one of my top priorities in this term to ensure an environment for women which is safe and supportive for them to actualise their dreams and aspirations. The old and infirm, widows and differently-abled people — all will find a special space in our road to advancement.”
Sangma said the government would also have to tackle influx, militancy and the boundary row with Assam. He said peace is not simply about law and order or absence of crime, but should be understood in its broadest context.
“Tackling militancy requires building trust between communities and groups, a responsive and accountable government, to mention only a few. It is, therefore, about a holistic approach to a more humane society,” Sangma said.
The vexed border issue with Assam will also be the government’s priority, he said, adding that the long-pending problems should be solved amicably.
“With Bangladesh, with the help of the Centre, we will find a solution to our pending issues, thereby greatly encouraging border trade and commerce. This will benefit people living in the border areas of our state,” the chief minister said.
Sangma said influx into the state will be “combated with a more effective system of policing” where the central authorities guarding the borders will be strengthened.
A comprehensive and institutionalised mechanism with the involvement of all stakeholders shall be put in place to address influx, he added.
Sensing hitches from a strong Opposition, Sangma said: “It is our earnest appeal to our brothers in different political parties of Meghalaya as well as to NGOs to shake off their prejudices and animosity and work together with us to transmute our land into a shining example not only to the other northeastern states and India, but to the world as well. I, along with my colleagues in the government, seek your partnership in carrying forward this vision.
“We resolve not to let you down. We will all work together towards a bigger and brighter Meghalaya. We have made a solemn pledge to bring about a change and to be ready to participate in bringing this change — a change for a better life for every Meghalayan,” Sangma said.