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Meghalaya Opposition lampoons government

Shillong, March 6: The failure of the Meghalaya government to tackle the rise in crimes against women and children, unemployment and absence of a policy for youths, including a suggestion to have a "manpower planning" to guide them, dominated the debate on the governor's address in the Assembly today.

The Opposition said the address prepared by the state government and delivered by governor Banwarilal Purohit in the House on Friday reflected not the "achievements" but the "shortcomings" of the Congress-led government.

Some members who participated in the debate did raise the issue of crimes against women and children in the state, but avoided making any reference to Mawhati legislator Julius Dorphang who is in jail after being arrested on January 7 in connection with the alleged sexual exploitation of a teenager.

Opposition leader Donkupar Roy, who initiated the debate on the second day of the budget session, said everyone expected that this year the governor's would be "one of the best" addresses in the last four years.

This budget session, in all probability, is the last session before the state goes to the polls next year.

"The government has failed on all fronts including failure to tackle crimes against women and children. In the governor's address, the government stated that it tried to fulfil its promises, but that happens only in a few selected areas," Roy said.

He was indirectly referring to focus on the areas represented by Congress MLAs.

Roy, who pointed out the "failures" of the government in various sectors, including failure to address the unemployment problem, said that schemes implemented by the government should be economically viable for the people. He was referring to the delay in chalking out a policy for the youths and the inability to implement the housing scheme.

"Our youths expect a lot from the government and its representatives. The state needs a youth policy. The unemployment rate is high in the state and the youths keep raising this problem wherever we go," he said.

Stating that Meghalaya should not wait for an Uttar Pradesh-like situation where doctorates and bachelor-degree holders in engineering apply for Grade IV jobs, Roy said: "We have to plan jobs for our youths. There should be manpower planning which will be the guiding principle for the youths. We have to prepare a policy for them; otherwise they will have no future."

He also criticised the government for lack of a policy to increase meat products and reduce import and called for a levy on import of such products to generate revenue and help people take up livestock farming.

On the border areas, Roy, who represents Shella Assembly constituency bordering Bangladesh, demanded construction of a national highway along the India-Bangladesh border, implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) scheme besides construction of bridges and setting up of schools in the border areas to provide quality education.

Asking the government to repair and construct roads according to specifications, Roy said engineers should not compromise on the quality of work. "There are cases where engineers do not dare to raise their voice against contractors because if they do so they may be transferred."

Roy also criticised the government for its "inability" to pay dues to contractors besides delay in completion of power projects.

He highlighted the need for installation of solar power plants across the state and take steps to get ban lifted on mining activities.

He also asked the government to ensure that its schools perform well and appoint teachers without transferring them, promote tourism and ensure safety of tourists.

The Opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) MLA, Jemino Mawthoh, pointed out that there is a huge gap between planning and execution of projects as the state government's action does not match with the ground realities which speak volume of the difficulties faced by the people.

"There is hopelessness everywhere among the youths, teachers, government servants and the poor. There are no clear-cut policies and this government has no clear vision. Many policies are only in drafting stage for many years," Mawthoh said while pointing out the delay to chalk out education and youth policies.

He said the government has failed to mention in the governor's address the rising crime graph against women and children unlike the governor's addresses in the past.

Mawthoh quoted a report that Shillong has turned into a city of "crimes and sex" where there are instances of drug addiction, and the government fails to regulate mushrooming of lodges and guesthouses.

He lambasted the state government on its flagship programme - Integrated Basin Development and Livelihood Promotion that has squeezed funds out of various departments.

"What achievements have been made through this programme? Why is there a shortfall in foodgrains, vegetables, meat and other products?" Mawthoh asked.

Welcoming the move to create new civil subdivisions and community and rural development blocks to bring the administration closer to the people, Mawthoh, however, wondered if the government could meet the infrastructure and manpower requirements due to a financial crunch.

"The government keeps on saying that the financial health of the state is stable, but real pictures show something else."

Mawthoh also pointed out the collapse of governance both in urban and rural areas as people cannot even get basic amenities such as drinking water, electricity and distribution of items under the public distribution system.


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