Kyrsoibor Pyrtuh, the independent candidate for North Shillong and pastor turned activist, is not afraid of taking unpopular stands if the issue is a matter of principle for him.
Pyrtuh is one of a trio of candidates running in the February 27 election under the KAM Meghalaya banner, though the three are also officially independents as KAM is not a registered political party.
Today, while unveiling the ‘People’s Action Plan for North Shillong and Solutions for Meghalaya’, Pyrtuh said that “Punjabi Line is not merely an election issue but a humanitarian issue for me.”
Punjabi Line is also known as Sweepers’ Colony and Them Ïewmawlong and is largely occupied by Dalit Sikhs, whose ancestors were brought here to work as manual scavengers. Their descendants from the 19th century continue to work for the Shillong Municipal Board. It was in 2018 that an altercation between residents and a tribal bus driver and conductor sparked a riot that resulted in meetings at the highest level of government about how to relocate the residents of the area.
Speaking to a few reporters, Pyrtuh said, “My stand is the same since we put out suggestions to the high-level committee, which was constituted in 2018. From Thma U Rangli-Juki (TUR), we submitted a memorandum that suggested that we also want to solve this problem. One is how to re-develop that area, and also to solve daily issues like petty crimes or big crimes that also happen sometimes.”
TUR suspected that the area, which is near the commercial centres of Ïewduh and Khyndailad, was coveted by “certain business interests”. The Sikhs there “are seen as socially marginalized and are one of the weakest sections of society when they were brought to Shillong,” TUR said in 2021. “And even now, they are seen as a group who are poor, backward, ostracized and powerless to do anything and therefore easy to relocate without their voices being heard.”
If he is elected, Pyrtuh said that he will spend up to six months looking into the area and how to redevelop it.
Careful not to alienate the tribal voters of North Shillong, he also said, however, that there have been cases of crimes being committed on people who simply pass through Them Ïewmawlong.
“These are serious issues but it was shocking to know that the Cantonment police station is just 100 or 200 metres away and those crimes could not be solved,” Pyrtuh added.
Meanwhile Pyrtuh said that the manifesto also focuses on a clear action plan for North Shillong and legislative solutions for Meghalaya.
It contains ethical commitments and action plans for the first 100 days as a legislator. He promised that he will disclose all information around the usage of MLA funds and other initiatives and he committed to be on the minimum wage of a labourer until welfare boards are set up for domestic workers, gig employees and platform workers (Rapido riders, Swiggy and Amazon delivery persons, etc).
Pyrtuh also promised to use government health facilities and never to use one of those hated red beacons.
The ‘People’s Action Plan’ laid out 50 projects, ranging from improving the quality of and accessibility of civic infrastructure, safety and security for all, rights of women and elderly, education, health and employment. Some of these plans include a participatory survey and budgetary exercise to determine where Rs 2.5 crore in MLA grants should be spent.
On the state front, he said he will work towards grievance redressal, accountability and transparency, fairness in awarding government contracts, social security and public transport.
On illegal coal mining, he reminded that when a citizens’ report on coal mining was prepared in 2019, it was astonishing to discover that Rs 1,000 crore of revenue was lost by the state exchequer because of illegal transportation of coal.
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