Why do you think people in Meghalaya should vote for Congress? And even if people vote for Congress, do you feel Congress can emerge as the single largest party?
We have every reason to believe that people are looking for change, a change that can make difference. The past few years of our governance has obviously reflected that Congress is capable of looking up to the expectation of people in its effort to make a difference. Therefore, I am confident that people are willing to join Congress to make difference. I not only think, but believe, and I am confident that for the first time after the Assembly election, people of Meghalaya will give a clear mandate to Congress.
How do you see the three years plus rule of yours? Do you feel that you have a reason to smile since you gave Congress stability in leadership? Would you differ that there are too many lobbies in Congress, and it is harming the Congress’ prospects in this poll?
It is about to be three years that our focus is on the development agenda, and on the first day itself, friends from media had asked me that when there were instances of instability in the past, how it would be possible now to have much confidence. This is the most common question I come across. Our focus is on development. I am optimist and always maintain when our focus is to address the issue of backwardness and poverty, and when we are to focus on various development agendas, to address them there is no question on instability. That is exactly what we have proven. Therefore with all the creative and new developmental programmes that we have embarked upon, we have tried to reach out through various ways and means which is quite innovative. We have structured them in such a way that people don’t have to come to the district capital. They will get the benefit in their area only. That will address the issue of poverty. The Government tried to address the issues of backwardness and poverty, so that there will not be any scope for instability. The Congress-led Government in last few years tried to scale up the programmes for livelihood, security beside upscaling investment in the infrastructure sector.
The opposition claims that as a Chief Minister you are busy only laying foundation stones of different projects for publicity?
Is it not important for people to know what the Government has sanctioned? The scope for corruption comes in when people do not know what government has sanctioned. Today when I go to the different blocks, I see that though the programmes are there, and although the numbers of targets are fixed for respective blocks; still the people who are supposed to be the recipient of these blocks have not come forward. This is because there hasn’t been enough publicity or sensitization of the programme by government to department at those levels. So it is necessary for people to know if they are embarking upon some programme that people should know and come forward to, and find out if they are eligible, or not. Therefore, it is important to have foundation, it is important to have a befitting launching of various programmes, so that it reach out to the people from whom we have received thousands of applications. People come to know about it and any vested interest cannot take advantage. I have laid many foundation stones and I have cut many ribbons, but I can tell you I have cut more ribbon and inaugurated more programmes than laying foundation stone.
These days a large number of businessmen are joining politics in Meghalaya – is this not going to create more instability?
People would judge with what intent these businessmen joined politics. The beauty of democracy is that it is open for everybody and you can’t stop any businessman. Therefore, you see many businessman and corporate leaders are trying to join the fray. It is the question of intent and why these people are joining the fray. Are they people-centric? Or are they coming with self-centric. These are important things and will be judged by people, as I think people are enlightened and capable enough to decide whom they choose. Enough is enough, Meghalaya has only once mandated a single party majority and that is in the first Assembly election. It is time now for people to give clear majority to any political party, but what I can see around us is irrespective of what opposition say, people are with the party; what the common man says is more important.
One of the biggest challenges in Meghalaya is that it remains in insurgency. Why have the governments failed so miserably in containing it?
The root cause of militancy needs to be addressed and the government was trying to address this menace through its developmental programmes. All these are off shoot of the Achik National Volunteers’ Council (ANVC). We have already taken the peace parleys with ANVC to a very advanced stage, and there is breakaway faction of ANVC, while counter insurgency operations are on. The dynamics are complex, so we have approached it in a holistic way. And it is not like militancy started in Meghalaya in my regime. It has been there, so what I want to say that as the settlement with ANVC is on the cards, one has to see the outcome.
Meghalaya’s natural and forest resources are its treasures – the state government has passed the mining policy , but there is no clear word on the rampant rat hole mining in Meghalaya which is an open secret in the state. Why as a forward looking CM, you chose to remain silent in this issue?
I always like criticism, but just not for the heck of it. This mining policy has been adopted after giving enough opportunity to every stake holder to pick up their issues and almost every grey area has been covered. I can tell you that while policy says when you want to resort to mining you will have to get all clearances, all forest and environmental issues have been taken care of. As for rat hole mining, it is only for small size miners, not for big mining, this is not large scale mining as media projects. In the past, Meghalaya mining activities were small scale economic activities; today scales have gone up, mining is huge industry in the state, so we felt the need of a proper policy to regulate and encourage scientific mining, and any policy can be amended. I agree, there might have been loose end which easily can be tied.
Purbasha Bhattacharjee is a Journalist based in Shillong.