| DD Lapang
Shillong, June 24: Caught between conflicting interests, the D.D. Lapang government today decided to fall back on the committee that was constituted last week to adjudicate the prolonged tug-of-war over the Meghalaya Board of School Education.
Lapang emerged from a marathon cabinet meeting to announce that the government would let the committee headed by chief secretary P.J. Bazeley “examine all the decisions that were taken on the board during the last few days”. He said the onus was on the panel to examine the feasibility of his own decision to appoint a “full-time chairman-cum-chief executive officer” of the board along with a secretary each and a reorganised team of officers in both Shillong and Tura.
The Khasi Students Union (KSU)’s initial statements indicated that it wanted the board, which is based at Tura in the Garo hills, to be bifurcated. It later amended its demand to a reorganisation of the set-up, including the appointment of a secretary in Shillong to manage the higher secondary wing.
The committee headed by the chief secretary was constituted on June 15 and given two months to submit its suggestions to restructure and strengthen the board. However, Lapang acceded to the KSU’s “core demands” five days later, causing heartburn within the Congress-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance. Deputy chief minister Mukul Sangma, who holds the education portfolio, openly questioned the decision taken in his absence. The Garo hills, too, responded to the move with bandhs and road blockades.
Lapang described his decision, announced on Monday, as an “offer” to the KSU in a bid to convince the organisation to call off its agitation. “It was for that very purpose, but since they (KSU) did not comply, we have to take a decision that is in everyone’s interest.”
The chief minister had ostensibly conceded the KSU’s demands on the advice of a committee led by Congress legislator R.G. Lyngdoh, who is also the chairman of the Meghalaya Economic Development Council.
Lapang said his decision on appointing a secretary each in Shillong and Tura had not been discarded yet, but did not rule out the possibility either. The cabinet, however, ruled out appointing a full-time chairman for the board.
Lapang said there was no provision in the relevant act to appoint a full-time chairman. The act only allows an officer of the rank of commissioner to function as the board’s chairman.
Justifying the cabinet’s stand, he said the idea was to go in for “a holistic examination” of all issues pertaining to the board. “This has been done for a sustainable reorganisation and restructuring of the board in Tura and its offices in Shillong and other district headquarters of the state,” he said.
The cabinet decided to include “four educationists/academicians of repute,” from the state in the committee that will examine the contentious issue. “The issue is a sensitive one, which is perhaps why previous governments could not take a decision. My government has openly taken up the issue and wants to solve the problem,” Lapang said.
He reiterated that “there will be no bifurcation or dislocation of the existing board structure” in Tura.