| Chief minister Mukul Sangma in Shillong on Thursday. Picture by UB Photos |
Shillong, March 15: Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma today assured the Assembly that a government committee would be formed involving legislators to pursue transfer of several stretches of defence land to the civil authorities.
The issue of defence authorities occupying vast areas of land in and around Shillong and lack of proactive steps to transfer them to the state government was discussed in the Assembly today.
According to the legislators, besides frequent harassment of civilians, the failure of the defence authorities to part with land has also resulted in the inability of the government to construct flyovers and widen the road to ease traffic congestion.
After the legislators took part in the debate, Speaker Charles Pyngrope cited examples of defence personnel who had in the past harassed civilians.
He said in the Mawshbuit area under his constituency, Sohryngkham, there was an instance of defence personnel not allowing even the passage of an ambulance from Shillong Civil Hospital carrying a corpse.
“The worst thing was another instance in Lapalang area also under Sohryngkham. A person who got permission to construct the house was disallowed by the defence personnel even after the land was registered with East Khasi Hills deputy commissioner,” the Speaker said.
Earlier, moving a resolution on the matter, Paul Lyngdoh (UDP) pointed out the urgent need to adopt a mechanism to transfer areas under different defence establishments to the civil authorities.
Former chief minister D.D. Lapang from the Congress suggested the need to form a committee to pursue the matter.
Others who took part in the discussion included Ardent Basaiawmoit, (UDP), H.S. Lyngdoh (HSPDP), P.W. Khongjee, R.V. Lyngdoh and Sayeedullah Nongrum (all from Congress), Metbah Lyngdoh (UDP), Manas Chaudhuri (Independent) and E.C. Bamon (NCP) among others.
In his reply, the chief minister said there is an urgent need to transfer a few small parcels of land by the defence establishments for undertaking very critically important infrastructure and development projects in the larger public interest.
Giving a reason for demanding the transfer of defence land, Sangma said the population of Shillong agglomeration had exceeded 3.54 lakh according to the 2011 census. “Similarly, the number of vehicles has increased tremendously. The hill city has one of the highest vehicles:population ratio,” Sangma said.
“In addition, Shillong forms part of an inter-state traffic of Surma Valley of Assam, Tripura and Mizoram. Traffic management has, therefore, become a major challenge to the city administration,” he said.
Sangma said unless flyovers at the two junctions — Rhino Point and the Civil Hospital Point — are constructed, traffic management would become impossible as these two areas had been fenced off by the cantonment authorities.
He said Garrison Ground in Shillong, which is under the cantonment, should be handed over to the state government for public meetings and rallies.
The chief minister reminded that the cantonment land at Umroi in Ri Bhoi measuring around 38 acres, is required to be handed over to the airport authorities for the expansion of runway as only small aircraft can land at Umroi at present.
Sangma said he had already taken up the issue with defence minister A.K. Antony through letters last year on two occasions and also in January this year.
“I had also sought the intervention of the Prime Minister. The defence minister had informed that he had asked the officials concerned in his ministry to examine the matter urgently,” Sangma said.
The chief minister said that he had been following up the matter through personal meetings with the Prime Minister as well as the defence minister.
“We have been very liberal in providing lands to the defence authorities in our state. In the vicinity of Shillong alone, defence forces are in occupation of about 2,096.12 acres.
Against this, the total area we have been asking for transfer works out to only about 97 acres, which constitutes only 4.58% of the area with the armed forces,” Sangma said.
He added that the defence personnel would earn immense goodwill if they agree to the transfer the lands on priority.