Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma has said that the purpose of setting up of the autonomous district councils in Meghalaya has been accomplished and they need to be strengthened.
While many individuals have questioned the relevance of district councils, the Chief Minister said, “Individuals draw their conclusions seeing things on the surface, seeing the management and functioning of the district councils but I would like to say that the purpose of setting up the District Councils has been accomplished. They have managed to protect the identity of the tribal population and I believe in the coming years, we must strengthen them,” the Chief Minister said.
Speaking at the Outreach and Familiarization programme for Local Bodies of Meghalaya and the other North-Eastern States the Chief Minister spoke about the problems in the district councils and said fund crunch is one of the important challenges that the councils face.
Quoting Article 280, he said that the provision for funding are included for Panchayati Raj, Municipal bodies, however, district councils are not included.
Stating the example of the GHADC, the Chief Minister stressed, “The Garo Hills Autonomous District Council’s expenditure is more than the revenue it generates and this is because ADCs do not get much support from Government of India and the Finance Commission. Because of this, District Councils appear to be failing but if they are not getting the financial support and without financial inclusion, the performance of their duties is hampered”.
Touching on the absence of the Anti Defection Law or the Tenth Schedule, the Chief Minister said, “Because of the absence of the Tenth Schedule or the Anti Defection Law in District Councils, there is political instability. There is a lot of movement and instability in grassroots politics therefore, it is very important.”
Further the Chief Minister also spoke on the ‘Sixth Schedule Amendment Bill’ and hoped that the views and opinions submitted will strengthen the District Councils. He also suggested inclusion of Khasi and Garo language in the Eighth Schedule. “More than anything else, the integration of the country is most important and it starts from recognising our languages,” he said.
Lok Sabha Speaker Shri Om Birla stressed that autonomous district councils function as mini legislative bodies and they should ensure executive accountability through discussions and dialogue.
Birla observed that initiatives like “Vocal for Local” will boost local area development. He felt that Aatmanirbhara Bharat can only be possible when we opt for “Vocal for Local”.
He also called for extensive use of ICT and innovation tools in local bodies to make their administration more transparent, accountable and accessible. The Speaker further said that panchayati raj institutions and district councils should deliberate upon developmental programmes encompassing concepts of inclusive growth, co-operation and collectivism and address the issues facing people.