The 21st century, Meghalaya has found itself at the crossroads in the process of globalisation susceptible to many changes and demands thus keeping pace with the entire region and nation. Turning towards the achievements and goals, much has been left undone and unresolved. The attainment of statehood has never helped in resolving major faults thereby hindering the pace of social stability, peace and development of Meghalaya. Inter-state and international border matters are unresolved issues. Land reforms that would usher in a degree of economic development are still complicated to settle; we also have a host of other issues like unemployment, rising prices of essential commodities, food and water security, rights of women and the disabled, environmental danger, a flawed industrial policy that gives license to companies to destroy our forests. In fact if I were to go on this article it would be inconclusive.
Every common individual who has been born and lived in this state ponders this question, ‘Why are we lagging behind in every sphere?’ Should we blame this lack on the attitude of politicians, bureaucrats, social pressure groups or our peculiar system of having too many administrative authorities or even the mindset of a common individual? Probably, it would or could include all the above rather than just some actors in the system since we all live under the same system and each one is interdependent on the other; so for the moment let us stop and question ourselves? How much have we achieved all the past 49 years?
All these past years can be gauged from the way numerous Central and State schemes that have been utilized have been actually allowed to go waste due to such prevailing selfish attitude. The reality here is that in every planning and implementation, there exists a particular group that hints at benefitting for itself rather than for the entire state; one that looks at the entire concept through a narrow view instead of a holistic one. We must realise that we do not have community responsibility and ownership towards any positive initiative that aims at uplifting those below.
Take the case of how the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has progressed benefitting our rural folks but not before much of the funds are siphoned off either at the village level or at the official level. The progress of the various road infrastructural projects or even the railhead for goods and essential commodities will give an understanding that we are way behind and if we were to take a microscopic look at the status between targets achieved and targets pending in various government departments, the story of 49 years will tell us a tale of their own. The saddest part here is though everything is done with a ‘good’ motive, but then the ‘goodness’ gets entangled in scams and scandals leaving everyone high and dry.
I was not surprised to read in an online magazine describing the health situation as ‘very poor’ in terms of infrastructure and delivery mechanism within the health department. But are we having any ears in the corridors of the state secretariat to listen? If yes, then a few noble ones would be prepared to find solutions and maybe address them at the nick of time. However, the unfortunate part in the entire history of Meghalaya is that corruption is committed with impunity; and all this after being called a “Christian” state where deeds and words go separately. Examples where public money is spent without accountability speaks volumes of mismanagement, instability and failing governance.
Incidentally organizations, who proclaim to uphold social values and protect the ‘Jaidbynriew’ from transgression and oppression, do rarely come out openly against such exploitive attitude by a ‘para Khasi’ upon another ‘Para Khasi’, sadly this term has been overused for various political and communal propaganda and continues to be used till today. During election time we tend to forgive and forget the past no matter if an ‘uncle’ or ‘aunt’ did anything wrong or failed to keep up with the promises spoken at the time of elections. The reason is that personal relationships are more important especially in times of death or illness. Such is the “bond” of politics in Meghalaya.
Coming to our politicians we occasionally hear them going abroad off and on to ‘promote’ and ‘learn’ innovative ways of governance and development. They should in fact learn from non-Congress ruled states where the real beneficiaries are the people. Experts from the Centre and elsewhere who come to our state are not at all impressed since they know everything first hand. In reality 38 years of statehood has been marked not by progress or development but by political instability and incompetence, and this is reflected right from the way the Assembly sessions are conducted to failed and unresolved issues.
MLAs are elected by the people to deliver their promises instead of handing out ‘doles’ like donating blankets, shawls, umbrellas, cooking wares, tubs to even opening a cow shed and what not, which portray a comical picture to the outside world. In fact such ‘generosity’ is the work of charitable organisations and if politicians were to indulge in such a profession then they should be running charity homes instead of joining politics. The notoriety of this is that they would add such acts as a ‘developmental’ achievement of their constituency in the government’s report. Would we take this as a development package? How sad it would be to swallow everything that is forced down our throats even when we know its taste. The need of the hour is for the State government to rev up its entire platform of experts and planners and start revitalising the rural sector which is abundant in resources but untapped due to factors best known to the respective departments.
The State Planning Board should have experts rather than accommodating every ex-MLA as another hibernation hub. I wonder if the SPB is toothless to ensure that the government implements its recommendations. Politically I would to a certain level agree with what a senior Congress leader like Luizenho Faleiro had stated; that our State politicians should start thinking of how to develop and change the face of the state, instead of thinking for their chair, and who should or should not lead the government. Very rightly said, and every right thinking person would agree with a view coming from a senior leader who himself knows that the crux of development lies not in lack of central funds but in instability, unaccountability and restless politics amongst various political members.
As long as our society has narrow inhibitions and self-centeredness the future will continue to inherit the past while others have progressed. Fortunately today the scale of progress was somewhat visible under the political leadership of Dr. Mukul Sangma with the Congress Party in full authority despite the ups and downs in governance. I would say, and many others would agree, that he stands out from all the other CMs we’ve had because he is in a hurry to deliver, unlike his predecessors.
The speedy delivery mechanism envisaged by the Congress government has seen a couple of positive results like the Shillong By-Pass, four lane outlay of the national highway, development of a medical college, expansion and upgradation of the Umroi airport, even development and research in promoting horticultural products. Today, we stand at the crossroads whether to accept systemic changes coming into our ‘tribal’ social fabric or to wait and watch till a certain period for things to happen while other communities have overtaken us and are on their way to economic prosperity and development. The future is for us to decide where we want to see our state a decade from now.
The writer was a recipient of the Avenues Youth Icon Award 2012 and a seasoned columnist. He is also a resource expert with an organisation based in Meghalaya. He can be contacted at [email protected]