Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma

Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma has announced the state government’s decision to come up with scientific mining licenses within this year.

Addressing the 73rd Republic Day celebrations at Shillong on January 26, Sangma reminded that the government had taken the decision to challenge the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ban and was also successful in lifting the ban.

“Now we are in the process of the just transition where we are ensuring that people are going to be able to mine in a scientific manner, respecting the environment, respecting the system and respecting the people,” he said.

“Therefore, you will see that within this year of our golden jubilee, we will come out with scientific mining licenses which are under process as we speak,” he announced.

Stating that the border issue has been very critical for Meghalaya and its people, Sangma said in the last 50 years after getting statehood, past governments were not able to resolve the boundary dispute with Assam.

“(This was despite) many governments have tried, many chief ministers have done their best and I do take this opportunity to thank each and every one of them for their efforts,” he added.

He said when the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) took over the government in 2018, it realized that in order to resolve this issue, there is a need to look through different lenses and accordingly the process was started.

“We started the process by telling Assam government, let us not come to the negotiating table with positions – saying this is Meghalaya or this is Assam as if you have already come with that mindset, then the discussion is over before we start,” the Meghalaya chief minister said adding: “Therefore, let us start looking at this issue from those lenses (which concerns) the interest of our state and the interest of our people. And that is how we have been looking at the entire process in a different manner, giving more flexibility to the discussion.”

The chief minister also expressed hope that in the next few weeks, the two-state governments will be able to come to a conclusion for resolving the first six areas of difference.

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“We have stuck with people’s will and what is it that the people in those areas want. People’s will is important and this has been one of the major principles on which we have moved forward in this discussion. Ethnicity of the people is important and it is with this mindset today, that we are close to solving six of the issues. And we will work to ensure that the rest of the six issues based on similar principles are also taken up,” he said.

Referring to the recent violent incidents, Sangma said to showcase one’s patriotism, one does not need to be communal.

“Therefore, it is up to us and the society to ensure that even these one or two stray incidents that are happening, is something that should not be allowed, should be condemned, and as a society, as different organizations, we should take the responsibility to ensure that we respect each other while we fight for our identity, while we fight for our rights, while we fight for our people and our community, we must respect others also,” the Meghalaya chief minister said.

On the farmers’ welfare, the chief minister informed that a new program called FOCUS has been taken up and over Rs 200 crore will be spent for the benefit of four and a half lakh farmer families.

“With these funds, the farmers are actually able to meet the basic requirements that they need during difficult times,” he said.

Stating that reducing the maternal mortality rate is one of the key areas of his government, Sangma said there is a need to empower women economically.

“Once they are economically active and empowered, they will not be having delivery or birth every one year or every two years, there will be a gap. These are all socially connected. Hence, we focused on the self-help group movement for women,” the Meghalaya chief minister said while informing that close to three and a half lakh women are part of the SHGs movement from where it was just thirty-thousand.

The chief minister further assured that connectivity will only keep increasing in the days to come. He said in 2018, there was not a single flight that came out of Shillong as there was a big challenge because the entire mountain had to be cut and huge investment had to be made.

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He added that the government took the bold decision to invest the money to ensure that connectivity improves to Shillong.

“And I’m happy to inform you that the decision we took today has led to over seven flights coming to Shillong from different cities. Over 300 passengers come in every day. Connectivity is very important for our region. Today, a distance of almost 20-24 hours by road, at a point in time to Imphal, is covered in less than 30 minutes directly from Shillong. This is the kind of connectivity that we require,” the Meghalaya chief minister said.

Admitting that the state is facing huge challenges in finance, Sangma said though the state has its own revenue of close to Rs 3,000 crore and central taxes of over Rs 5,000 crore coming in, additional funds are needed for infrastructure development and different economic growths.

“And that is the reason why we realized that we need to tap the external agencies. In 2018, there were Rs 2500 crore worth of projects going on under the externally aided projects. Today, after we have tapped the external agencies, we have been able to mobilise Rs 7500 crore from external agencies to do a huge number of projects in tourism, in water catchment areas, natural resource management, road construction, integrated transport system, early childhood development program, and many other programs under the externally aided projects,” he said.

Stating the 50 years of statehood celebrations will truly be special, Sangma said the Meghalaya government is going to inaugurate over 300 projects within this year.

These 300 projects also include the new Meghalaya assembly building, a project that has been pending for almost two decades. “I can assure you that in this year itself, in a few months from now, we will be inaugurating this project,” he said.

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