Wednesday, March 21, 2012

PIO Status for the Bangladeshi Khasi

By HH Mohrmen

They are the victims of political deals that India and Pakistan made after the two young countries gained independence and the second time around the community was not even taken into confidence when India and Bangladesh demarcated the boundaries of the two countries after the Bangladesh liberation war. They are minorities in the country of their choice and are not cared by their country of origin. The powers that be at different points of time decided the border of the two countries in the capitals of the countries far away from where they live and sealed the fates of the people in the borders. It reminds me of an incident, two decades ago in the International Students’ Center of Manchester University when I happened to meet an engineer from Bangladesh who was there for further studies in the University. When I introduced myself to him and told him that I was his neighbour from Meghalaya, the Bangladeshi engineer gave a blank expression. He had evidently never heard of the name Meghalaya but when I told him that I am a Khasia, he said, “Oh yes there are many Khasia in our country!”
The Khasi Pnar or as the Bangladeshi would call them- the Khasia has been living in what is now Bangladesh since time immemorial. When their ancestors first migrated to the land, it was under the Jaintia kingdom, later on it was under the British Empire, then it changed hands to East Pakistan after independence and now it is in Bangladesh. The Pnars in Jaintiapur are the descendants of the people who live in the area since the day of the Jaintia Kingdom said Pradip Lanong a senior citizen of the town and a retired school teacher. They trace their origin to villages like Nangbah, Nartiang, Shangpung and other villages of what is now known as Jaintia hills district. The 45 odd Pnar families in Jaintiapur speak Pnar and it is one of the very few Khasi villages where the medium of communication among the Khasi Pnar community is Pnar. The rest of the Khasi villages in Bangladesh use War Jaintia language as their medium of communication. Majority of the people of Khasi Pnar descendants who live in less than 50 Khasi villages in Bangladesh are people from Khasi and Jaintia hills but the majority of them belong to the War Jaintia community of Amlarem sub division. Some have been living in the many villages in Bangladesh since the day of the Jaintia raj and some live in new settlements as recent as few years ago.
One can hardly find an old Khasi village precisely because the people have no permanent settlement; they migrate from one place to another in search of forest land to farm. With pan leaves as the only crop which sustains their livelihoods, the Khasis are forced to migrate from one place to another in search of greener pastures once the fertility of the land starts to diminish. The system of land holding in the areas where Khasis live is another factor that makes the Khasis not to feel at home in Bangladesh. Because the Khasis lives in the forest areas and most of the time along the Bangladesh border with many north eastern states of India, the land does not belong to them. In most cases the land is either owned by tea companies or individuals and the companies then let it out to the Myntri (like a headman and a landlord rolled in one) who then sublets the land to the Khasi farmers. Except for few Khasi villages like Jafflong, Nohksiar and about four or five more villages, which are recognized by the government and where people have proper documents of all the land they own, the Khasis who live in the remaining villages don’t even have documents of the land they occupy and farm in. Jino Lamin Myntri of the Nerila village the largest Khasi village in Bangladesh also perhaps one of the wealthiest Khasi in Bangladesh has himself admitted that it is very difficult to be a poor Khasi in Bangladesh. Khasis are no doubt quite well off when compared to their neighbours the tea tribes of Bangladesh who in fact work for them, but the problem is they have no ownership of the land they use. The Khasis lives mostly in the forested area of Bangladesh and are not only neglected by their own government and lack basic necessities like proper roads, electricity, health care and schools, but they are even exploited by their own Myntri some of whom behave like despots. The schools most Khasi villages have is up to Lower Primary level and they provide their own electricity using solar energy but of all the problems that they are facing, that of not owning any land is what makes them feel aliens in their own land.
I asked many Khasis especially the older generation, if their heart is in Bangladesh or in India. Except for the new generation in the age group of 16 to 20 who are now pursuing their education in cities like Dhaka and had never been to the land of their origin, the answer everyone gave is that their heart is in the hills. They long to go back home but Bangladesh is where their livelihood is. Most of the Khasis in Bangladesh have foreseen the uncertainty of their children’s future in Bangladesh. Most of the people I interviewed who can afford to send their kids to school, send them to schools and colleges in Meghalaya rather than in Bangladesh albeit illegally. Some families I met said that they send girls to school in India and boys in Bangladesh. When asked why they said at least in India the girls’ future is secure and boys can always find their way. It again reminded me of another incident many years ago when I met a young educated person from Bangladesh who is now working in a prominent IT company in Bangladesh and asked him whether he considered himself Indian or Bangladesh. He was lost for words for some time and later on answered, “I am a citizen of southeast Asia.” This is the dilemma that the Bangladeshi Khasis face. They cannot own land in their adopted country and do not feel at home in Bangladesh while India is a strange country. They do not belong here nor do they belong there. In a way they are the nowhere people of Southeast Asia.
Bearing in mind the above problems that our kith and kin face in our neighbouring countries, it is therefore imperative that the state government and our MP, finds ways and means of extending the ‘People of Indian Origin’ (PIO) status to the 30,000 (thirty thousand) Khasis in Bangladesh. If the same status can be given to people of Indian origin who live elsewhere in the world, the same should be extended to the Khasis of Bangladesh. By giving them the status, they can easily visit their kith and kin during times of joy and sorrow which is part of the Khasi value system ‘ka tip kur tip kha.’ And for the students who study in India, the degree that the young Khasi- Bangladeshi earns in the country can be legitimized and that will give them advantage over others in the job market. The opportunity to study in India will also open up prospects for the young Khasis to study in their native Khasi language which is currently not possible in Bangladesh. Until the PIO status is extended to the Bangladeshi Khasi, there will be opposition to fencing the Meghalaya portion of India-Bangladesh border, because the fence will not only divide people who used to be one but it will also be a barrier that separates people who share the same culture. It will be like a sea that cuts them from their roots.
(The writer is an environmental activist and a researcher)

n-regulated mining and MUA flagship programmes

Since the beginning of 2012 the Meghalaya United Alliance (MUA) is busy preparing for the 2013 general election. It is no surprise to see the Chief Minister introducing government’s own flagship programmes for the benefit of the people of the state. But the question is: are the initiatives of the government going to be just another
exercise to while away public time and waste scarce public resources? Or are the programmes going to be just an election year propaganda of the Congress party in the state? The much hyped flagship schemes which include the Meghalaya Aquaculture Mission and Integrated Meghalaya Basin and Livelihood Development Programme that the government has introduced with the intention of economically empowering the rural poor is not going to produce the desired results for several reasons.
The aquaculture mission with nine missions under its fold aims to create 60,000 entrepreneurs in 2012-13, and 4 lakhs by the end of the 12th five year plan period but the mission is inherently imperilled. The programme by which the government plans to eradicate poverty by 2020 is also expected to cover a total water area of 10,000 hectares; averaging around 20,000 fish ponds every year under the aquaculture project. This is good in paper only. It does not need an expert to forecast that the two schemes introduced by the present MUA government are not going to benefit the target group of certain areas. For starters the flagship programmes are destined to be a non-starter particularly for the people who live in the mining areas of the State and down stream of the mining areas.
The State Pollution Control Board has recently made its findings public on the status of the rivers in Jaintia hills and by doing so it has confirmed what the environmentalists in the Jaintia Hills district have been saying all along that all the rivers in Jaintia hills are polluted. Not only are the rivers in the mining areas dead but every available water body in the mining areas are contaminated from the acid mine drainage (AMD) that is produced from unscientific coal mining. It is like the water bodies in the whole of Jaintia hills are polluted when the rivers downstream of the mining areas are also being affected from the AMD produced from the rat hole mining. The Kupli and the Myntdu are the two cases in point where one cannot find a single aquatic life in the huge water bodies. In such cases where rivers and water bodies cannot hold any aquatic lives, what is the use of the two much talked about programmes of the MUA government?
Hence the Aquaculture Mission and the Integrated Basin and Livelihood Development Programme are going to be of no use for the people in the mining areas of Jaintia hills which comprises the entire Khliehriat Subdivision, part of the Saipung Block, part of the Amlarem block, part of the Thadlaskein block and part of Laskein development block where there are mining activities. It will neither benefit the people situated downstream because the rivers and the entire river basin has been affected by the AMD. One fails to understand how the government expects to economically empower the people from the above schemes which have to do with water bodies when the same government has done nothing to control and manage mining in the state? How can an intelligent chief minister fail to realize that mining and pollution are linked to each other? One cannot have unregulated mining and at the same time hope to have clean and safe water. Mining has to be regulated in order to be able to protect the environment and have clean and safe water. Perhaps Meghalaya is the only mining state which does not regulate mining. Yet the same government which has introduced the two programmes to economically empower the rural poor and improve their livelihoods with water as the main constituent of the project, is the same government which has decided to shelve the prepared Mining Policy and thereby consigned it to the back burner.
The MUA government in general and Bindo M Lanong the minister in charge of Mining  in particular has let the people of the state down by not being able to push through the Bill to manage and control mining in the state. Bindo Lanong has not only deceived the people of the state into believing that he is indeed going to introduce the mineral policy of the state in the present sitting of the house but he has also blatantly
lied to the people when during many of his press briefings he had asserted that the state mineral or mining policy is ready and will be introduced in the next sitting of the house. The credibility of the deputy chief minister is questionable when the fate of the Bill that he had prepared by consulting all the stake holders is now consigned to the rubbish bin of the state secretariat.
Lanong has also taken the stakeholders (he invited for the consultation) which included environmentalists, CEMs of the district councils and miners for a ride by not being able to prepare a bill to satisfy his cabinet colleagues. He has also wasted huge public resources by taking so long to prepare a document which was not even passed by the state cabinet. Lanong has missed the opportunity to set right the wrong that has been practiced in the State. By not being able to introduce the state mineral policy, he has failed to protect the environment for the future generation and more importantly he has proved that he is no different from his two non-matriculate predecessors who themselves have mining interests. In fact the state government need not waste public resources to prepare a Mining policy. If the government is serious about controlling and managing mining in the state, it can simply implement the relevant national forest act and mining regulations which are already exist.
But the question remains as to why the Mining Policy is pushed under the carpet? Is it because the strings of the kitty of the two parties in the MUA are now controlled by the coal mine owners and cement companies of the state? How else can one explain the incident in the august house when the Forest Minister threatens to shut down the Shillong Club for polluting Wards Lake while the same government remains silent about the pollution of rivers in Jaintia Hills? If the government is able to control and manage mining in the State it is not for the interest of Jaintia hills only. The district is a gone case anyway. For Jaintia hills the call is not to save the rivers but to reclaim the water bodies of the district again. The State Government should manage and control mining in the state for the sake of the new mining areas like the West Khasi Hills and Garo Hills Districts. The Government should try to save West Khasi and Garo Hills from the same fate that has befallen the Jaintia Hills.
The present Government should learn from the mistake of not regulating mining in Jaintia hills if it wants to save the water bodies of the other mining areas of the state. The government should regulate mining if the flagship programmes of the state are to succeed because if all the rivers are polluted neither the Meghalaya Aqua-culture Mission nor the Integrated Meghalaya Basin and Livelihood Development Programme will have any impact on the lives of the people.
The author is a research scholar and environmentalist and can be contacted at h.h.mohrmen

License to kill

By HH Mohrmen

This is one heading which is straight from the series of movies revolving around MI5 special agent 007 James Bond. However, the article is not about any of the recently declassified MI5 top secret files nor does it have any connection with Wikileaks. I tried to convince my friends the necessity to collect statistics from the various police outposts and police stations located on the National Highway to find out the number of motor accident cases on Jowai-Shillong portion of NH 44 but we are yet to act on it. I have a feeling that the data if collected would reveal the reckless attitude of not only the truck drivers but also the drivers of every kind of vehicles from two to 20 wheeler monsters which ply on this highway. Every commuter on this highway would confirm that accidents occur on this highway almost on a daily basis and in most cases it involves trucks. But there are accidents which have gone unreported, where parties settle their differences and the police are not involved. But in spite of that the truth remains that nowadays since we seldom have battles and wars traffic accidents are responsible for the largest numbers of deaths.
I don’t have to wait for the data from the police stations and outposts when I am called to conduct the funeral of a father who lost his life in a motor accident in the heart of Jowai town. I wonder if it is sheer coincidence that three families of the same locality in the same block living in houses a few hundred feet apart from each other would meet with the same tragedy of losing their loved ones in a motor accident on the 64 KM stretch of NH 44 and to be asked to conduct the funeral of the third tragedy the locality has experienced in the span of a year. It was indeed a challenge.
Naturally friends and relatives are shocked on knowing about the tragedies and the question on everyone’s lips when tragic accidents occur is, “How did it happen?” In my homily I said we are asking the wrong question. It is a wrong to ask how did it happen because it would not help provide us the answer to understand why accidents happen. I suggested that the question one should ask is not how the accident happened; but rather why did it happen? Why do accidents happen? Why did we have to lose three valuable lives of the locality in motor accidents in the first place? Then answers will start rolling down on us.
Accidents occur because the driver ( and I include myself in the list) is in a perpetual hurry. Our impatience is writ large on our faces when we have to wait for the traffic signals to change. Accidents happen because of reckless driving by young drivers who at times seems to have the impression that they are piloting a jetfighter and not a car. Accidents also happen because we have irresponsible people with driving license who in spite of being under the influence of alcohol are callous enough to sit on the driver’s seat not realizing that they not only put their lives in danger but also the lives of the passengers in the car and those on the road who could be killed because of the careless attitude of the drivers.
Accidents happen because of the kind of drivers on the road, underaged drivers, illiterate drivers who do not even any idea of any kind of traffic signals. Many of the drivers particularly truck drivers not only lack knowledge of proper traffic rules but they don’t even have the proper attitude required of a driver of a public vehicle. Why does this happen? Who helps put the illiterate and ignorant drivers on the road thereby endangering the lives of many who use the same highway? There are many players in this. It starts from every District Transport Office in the State. It is an open secret that license in these DTOs are up for sale if one only knows the right person to contact. The rate of the license varies upon the urgency of issuing one. The sooner one needs the license the higher the cost of the license. A driver who acquires a license using unfair means need not appear for any driving tests or any tests at all. He is issued a license pronto with no questions asked. What the staff in the DTO forget is that by doing so they are also issuing the person a license to kill. How else would one expect a driver who literally buys his driving license? At one point of time there were trucks drivers in Jaintia hills who had never set foot outside their village but they hold a driving license issued from South Garo Hills.
Then there are politicians and aspiring politicians who with good intentions of helping somebody acquire a license, take it upon themselves to visit the DTOs to get the license done. In the process these politicians and aspiring politicians too are helping someone get the license to kill without having to undergo the necessary driving test. Even doctors at times are also helping people to acquire a license to kill by not conducting a thorough medical check up of the candidate before signing on the dotted lines of the applicant’s driving license form. Our leaders are also to be blamed for every accident that takes place because the narrow roads that we have were not made to handle the kind of traffic that they now carry. In many instances the road is so narrow that is not even suitable to be called a national highway. Perhaps Meghalaya is the only state where heavy vehicles still have to ply through the towns and cities and this invariably causes traffic jams and road accidents.
Accidents can be avoided if only the drivers are careful in their driving and they respect their fellow drivers and the pedestrians walking on the footpath. Tragedies from accidents will decrease if we have drivers who really know how to drive and when not to drive. The staff of the DTO’s office can minimize accidents if they stop selling the license to kill to undeserving candidates, remembering that the same tragedy could visit them or their own families next time around.
Accidents also happen because motor cyclists do not care for their safety and ride their bikes without helmets. Even the pillion riders never wear helmets and they are never penalised. When we do not even care for our own safety, how can we expect to care for the safety of those riding with us? Police should be more stringent in enforcing traffic rules especially against two wheeler riders.
At times pedestrian too are to be blamed for accidents; we cross traffic signals at our own whims and fancies; we do not wait for traffic signals to change before crossing and we even cross the busy traffic where no zebra crossing exists. It reminds me a of a story of two teams of business executives one from Japan and another from US who were in a hurry to cross the street to a restaurant nearby. Since there were no vehicles on the road, the Americans walked across in spite of the traffic signal saying otherwise while the Japanese waited till walk sign was on to cross the road. The Americans who had to wait for the Japaneses asked them why they didn’t they cross when there was no car in sight anyway? The Japanese replied, ‘What if there is a kid watching us? What kind of lesson do you think he will learn if we cross when the signal evidently says “Don’t cross” We need to remind ourselves that we need to obey traffic rules not only when the traffic warden is in sight but because the law says so. What a great lesson indeed! If only we had the same respect for the law!

Commissioning of Myntdu Leshka: Is there reason to cheer?

The first unit 1 of the 3 x 42 MW, Myntdu Leshka H.E. Project (MLHEP) was at long last inaugurated, but the question remains: iis there any reason for the people of the state to be happy about the commissioning of the project? It took over three decades since its inception for MeECL to complete the project and at a huge cost. The project which was initially estimated to cost the public exchequer 363.08 crores has escalated to 1173.13 crores and exceeded more than 400 percent from the original estimation.
The MLHE Project which has the capacity to generate 126 MW of hydroelectric power was surveyed and investigated in the year 1975-76, but it took the then MeSEB another 23 years to prepare a detailed project report and the same was sent to the Central Electric Authority for clearance in the year 1998. The foundation stone of the plant was laid by the then President of the Country Dr. Abdul Kalam in the year 2002 and the deadline for completion of the project was set to be within 5 years. In spite of the President’s caution against any delay in constructing the project, the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Ltd (MeECL) took another 10 years to complete Unit-1 of the project.
What does the commissioning of the first unit mean to the citizens of the state? One would hope that with additional 42 MW of power supply at its disposal, the MeECL would have been able to provide uninterrupted power supply to its consumers (at least in Jaintia hills). One also dares to hope that now the people of Meghalaya are finally free of frequent power cuts and have 24 hours of power supply without any load shedding, but that is not happening yet. Perhaps the people of the state will have to wait for the completion of the next two units to be able to enjoy uninterrupted power supply, but the question is; when is that going to happen?
Patricia Mukhim, editor, The Shillong Times has in one of her very recent weekly columns rightly said that with regard to implementing the Myntdu Leshka hydroelectric project, the Meghalaya Electric Corporation (MeECL) has let the state and its people down. The people of the state were eager to see the commissioning of this project. So the question is, why has the Corporation not been able to complete the project on time? And what are the reasons behind the huge escalation in the cost of building the project? MeECL is one of the largest employers in the state of Meghalaya and the people of that State have high hopes in the Corporation. In Jaintia hills, at one point of time, several NGOs had even demanded that the government not only allot the implementation of the Leshka stage 2 to MeECL, but had even demanded that the proposed Umngot project be allotted to the Corporation. After the Corporation repeatedly failed to commission the project in time and was not able to control the expenditures in project implementation I doubt if the same NGOs will ever support the MeECL for any other projects in the state. As Mukhim has rightly pointed out, who will pay for the time loss in the delay of executing the project and can we afford a more than four hundred percent difference in the cost of implementing this project?
One expects that after the successful implementation of the Myntdu-Leshka project the Corporation with its experience in construction such projects will be able to even bid for projects outside Meghalaya. Obviously that is not going to happen. After the Myntdu-Leshka project, MeECL will be a Corporation with no confidence to ever undertake such projects in future. Even our own state government will think twice before allowing the Corporation to implement new projects. That is unless the state government is ready to waste another three decades of precious time and thousands of crores of precious tax payers’ money for another hydroelectric project. Now who is to be blamed for this mess? Someone, somewhere is responsible for this and punitive action should be initiated against those responsible.
The last time some writer wrote against the sloppy implementation of the Myntdu-Leshka project, there was hue and cry from the MeECL engineers’ fraternity. There was a letter in the Shillong Times which found fault with the writer Barnes Mawrie for a small error like the slip-up in the name of the river, to which the pious priest tendered an apology. But the MeECL engineers failed to answer the very important question that the people of the state and all the tax payers in the country have the right to know. What are the causes for the delay and the escalation of the cost of constructing the Myntdu-Leshka project? The engineers ought to be ashamed that they have not only let the state down, they have also let the Corporation down. Instead of defending their incompetent colleague, the MeECL engineers should demand for an inquiry on the sad state of affairs of the project. If somebody is benefiting from the embarrassing situation, it should not be at the cost of the entire engineer fraternity or the MeECL. The staff of the MeECL should demand that those who have failed the Corporation should be punished and the name of the corporation should not be tarnished.
After receiving several complaints from young, skilled, local tribal youths that cement companies mistreated many of them and young Khasi Pnar inadvertently were compelled to resign from their jobs, I decided to find it out for myself and see if the allegations are true. On a visit to the cement companies in Jaintia hills few years ago, I talked to one in the management of a certain company and asked him why the local tribals do not last more than few years when working in the cement companies? Pat came the reply that the locals here do not have ‘the industrial culture’. Now, I do not entirely agree with him that the cause of local youths being fired at will from their jobs is because they don’t have what it takes to work in an industrial setup, but there is some element of truth in what he said. It is the same with the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Ltd. The Corporation is a corporate body only in name. The whole setup is still that of a semi government body. The babudom prevails in the Corporation, the engineers still behave like brown sahibs. The Corporation should start inculcating the industrial or corporate culture in its employees from the top down to the last staff. If the Corporation wishes to see any change it should start thinking like a Corporation and its staff should act like those working in a company otherwise the fate of the Corporation itself is at stake. The Government too should complete the process of corporatising the erstwhile MeSEB. It is high time that the government allows the Corporation be led by professional business executives or technocrats than the general IAS officers who are already busy with heavy government responsibilities.
Yes its time for the MeECL to put its house in order and make sure that the remaining two units of the project are commissioned soon. The Corporation should not bask in the false glory of being able to at least commission the first unit of the project. The people of Meghalaya have waited too long for the completion of the entire project. They would not accept the blame on natural calamity as an excuse and ‘better late than never’ as the answer. MeECL is a Corporation and it should act like one. “Hire and fire,” should be the manner of its operation so that it does not turn into a sick, loss making unit unless infused with government funds.

Lanong and his imaginary ‘green pastures’

Does it surprise anyone to see the news item in the Shillong Times (Wednesday February 22) which says ‘Lanong bats for cement cos?’ Well, I for one, am not. In fact anybody who follows the development of the allegations against the cement plants know for sure that there is more than what meets the eye when the Government which Bindo Lanong has co-led terms the findings of the High Level Committee which indicted the cement companies as inconclusive.
One wonders from where our honourable deputy chief minister got the information that there are grasslands in Narpuh? Everybody in Jaintia hills knows that Narpuh area is covered with dense forest and the area where the industrial activity is going on falls in the category of the un-classed forests in the records of the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council. If there are grasslands in the area, did Mr. Lanong happen to see any cattle, sheep or goats on his way to the cement company’s sites in the Lumchnong area? Well maybe because it is just one of trip so there is a very slim chance of him and his entourage seeing any herds of animals on the way. But in one visit to the area can the same Bindo Mathew Lanong concluded that the cement plants did not violate the Forest Act and did not pollute the Lukha River?
If all it takes is one visit to the area by the Deputy Chief Minister to gather all the necessary information to conclude the case, then I must salute our man for being a superman. Well, I borrowed this from a young net-savvy Meghalayan who made this remark on facebook when the statement of the same Bindo Lanong after his one day trip to Sohkymphor was made public. Bindo declared that the cracks in the village market is not due mining and there is nothing to worry about. The young man commented that may be our deputy CM is having those x-ray visions similar to that of superman to see what lies beneath the ground. If in just one trip and using only his God-given five senses, Lanong can declare what others in his position would sophisticated remote sensing before they arrive at any conclusion, it makes one suspect if the MUA government is really serious in its efforts to the protect the environment. If Lanong would have called for satellite imagery of the area taken before the cement companies started to pitch their tents in the area, he would certainly not make those off-the-cuff remarks in the press. But again who knows? Perhaps the forests in the images will change to grasslands you’ll never know. Or if only Bindo Lanong would request for a copy of the RTI and other information collected by the Movement for Right to information, he would have gained a lot more information about the area. But then again it depends if he is really interested in having the right information to make his conclusions.
If one would only use one’s sense of sight, one would see that areas like Syndai, Nongtalang, Saipung and Narpuh where there are huge limestone deposits, no grass grows in the area except broom stick which was planted after clearing the forests. And from the textbooks we studied in school, we learned that the area is covered with sub-tropical forest and not grassland. The problem is Bindo visited the places many years after the cement companies have started production and what did he expect to see? It is an open secret that the modus operandi that the forest department of the JHADC and the cement companies used before they surveyed the mining site for issuing NOC, is to ask the land owner to clear whatever trees were present in the area before the inspection. Another question that begs the answer is, is it true that while the entire area around the mines and the plant site are forested only the mine site and the site where the cement plants situated are grassland? May be MUA’s definition of forest is different from what was defined in the National Forest Act. In that case I rest my case honourable counsel. But if Meghalaya is still part of India and is governed by the same act, then the government is duty bound to make the findings of the High level Committee public and make sure that the cement companies follow all the relevant national laws to the dot.
Again if one trip is all it takes for our deputy chief minister without conducting any test whatsoever to conclude that the cement plants are not in any way responsible for polluting Lukha river, the question that begs the answer is, do we really need machines to conduct any tests anymore? And if Bindo Lanong is quoting the outdated and unreliable findings of the Meghalaya State Pollution Control board done after the first mass death of fish in the Lukha river, then may I also add that a scientist from the North Eastern Hills University has in a seminar held at Kiang Nangbah College, Jowai made public that he was not convinced by the findings in the report.
If one would walk from Sunapyrdi upstream to the confluence of the river Lukha and Lunar one would find that the river bed of the Lukha river is gradually being covered with layers of fine mud and this is not found in other dead rivers like Myntdu, Kupli, Waikhyrwi, Thlumuwi etc. Again unlike Lukha, once the rivers are polluted due to coal mining there is no annual reappearance of fishes, because the river is as dead as the dodo. Lukha is a different case study altogether. There is an annual mass death of fishes with the first rains before the monsoon and the last rain of the rainy season. If our deputy CM is really into physically examining the situation, one would only wish that he takes a boat ride from Sunapyrdi to the confluence of the Lukha and the Lunar to see where from the fine mud particles originate.
The Hon’ble Dy CM in his final statement has also stated that even local people and headmen (he forgot the dallois) welcome the industrial activities in the area since it has improved their economic condition. Using the same argument can we then mister deputy chief minister say that if selling drugs improves the economic activities of the people then the MUA government will support the people who sell drugs and turn Meghalaya to Columbia or Mexico? The debate is on the legality of the industrial activities. Using the same argument we can also say that there is no point of having the mining or mineral policy because coal mining and limestone mining has improved the economic condition of many people?
There are two things I have learnt from this episode. The UDP is no different from the Congress and all the politicians are the same and like my friend Richard Ford of Clark University said, they must have all been to the same school somewhere. Now what is so regional about the UDP? Does it really represent the tribal aspiration of preserving the culture and ethos of the indigenous people? I hope people will give their answer in 2013. Or is the Lumchnong area fast becoming the ‘biblical green pasture’ for everybody (proverbial sheep) from the headman, the dalloi, the NGOs, the churches to the parties and the government? Perhaps that is the sort of metaphorical grassland that our deputy chief minister has in mind.