It is as clear for all to see that the situation in the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC) is dire. However, how bad the financial situation is within the GHADC was pointed out through a recent presentation by its Secretary, Rikse Marak, which has been doing the rounds on social media.
As is well known, GHADC employees have remained unpaid for over two years now while the list of contractors whose bills have been cleared is as long. The situation has come to such that aggrieved employees have even taken the council to court over their dues with an unending spat between the powers that be and the employees association, led by NGEA.
Currently there are 17 different departments under the council including Forests, Land and Revenue, Justice and Civil Works, among others, which generate part of the revenue that is earned for the GHADC.
As per the presentation, as on January 2019, there were 2,300 employees of the GHADC with 1,126 staff being recruited between January 2009 to March 2018. However, the numbers reduced drastically when a roll call was done after that and came down to 1,780. There was a further reduction in numbers after many employees retired, while some took voluntary retirement and others were terminated for not reporting for duty.
Most of those who were recruited were allegedly not even qualified for their roles and position.
At present, the strength of the GHADC stands at 1,658. The reduction in staff only happened after the setting up of a Personnel Department in 2019 after the present Secretary took over. For salaries to be paid according to the Fourth Pay Commission, a total of around Rs 4 crore is required. The amount jumps to around Rs 6 crore if the Fifth Pay Commission is implemented.
Revenue from the GHADC comes in three tranches – from its own funds (royalty share and its own tax and revenues earned), Grant in Aid and lastly through Central Assistance Funds.
“The challenges faced by the GHADC include the 1,126 appointments between 2009-2018, most of which were unqualified, the difference between income and expenditure (average income is Rs 1.7 crore while expenditure is over Rs 4 crore), pending bills, creation of new departments (which will have additional costs), work order backlogs, dilapidated infrastructure, redundant (zero income) departments, no service rules and no financial rules, among others,” stated the presentation, which was endorsed by the Secretary herself.
According to Marak, since she took charge a total of 13 months salary out of 24 have been paid out. Furthermore, gratuity, leave backlogs and advances for children’s education have also been made with a total of Rs 55 crore being disbursed.
The presentation further added that a total of Rs 20 crore was received by the council between January 2019 and December 2020 from the state government’s Directorate of Mineral Resources and Transport Department.
Projects that have been initiated to try and stem the rot as well as fashion a workable system include the creation of a single window system, payroll setup, the revision of TNT rates and service rules that have been sent to the District Council Affairs Department for approval, among others.
The GHADC admittedly suffers from exorbitant expenses, the lack of income generating departments and a reliance on a manual system of revenue collection that allows for pilferage and entitlements to ex-members and officers, which have all hit the system extremely hard.
“We have been able to curb expenditure while trying to streamline the system. There has been a lot of resistance to change but we are doing our best to ensure the situation changes for the better. Hopefully GHADC will see better days,” said Marak when contacted on the matter.
She added that as a community, the Garos were extremely fortunate to get an autonomous body for self-governance without much struggle.
“It would be a shame to not be able to maintain that which is ours. All efforts have to be made to ensure the GHADC carries on for generations that come after. Its importance as an institution cannot be over stressed,” she added.