Shillong: The Meghalaya Cabinet has decided to relocate “illegal settlers” of Punjabi Lane in Them Iew Mawlong area in Shillong based on the recommendations of the High Level Committee (HLC).

Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said the HLC has recommended the Urban Affairs department to find a suitable location for relocation of people who reside in the area. Those serving with the state government will be relocated to the official quarters of the departments concerned, the CM said.

“The Urban Affairs department has been asked to come up with a proposal and present it to the cabinet. After examining all those aspects… the government will take a call on that,” Sangma, who chaired the cabinet meeting on Thursday, told journalists.

On Thursday, the cabinet had held a meeting to discuss the recommendations by the HLC concerning the relocation.  

A presentation on the history and challenges of the case was made. Later, briefing the media, the CM had said the HCL had come up with three recommendations.

Firstly, there was always a confusion about who actually owns the land and has rights over it. The committee report stated that the process of signing an agreement and taking possession of the land by the state government and the Municipal Board from the Traditional head of the area (Syiem Hima Mylliem) has already started.

“The final procedure to take over the possession of the land should be completed within a week’s time,” the Chief Minister had said. This will bring a tripartite agreement between the Syiem Hima Mylliem, the Urban Affairs Department and the Municipal Board. 

The second recommendation was shifting the Municipal Office, which was originally built as a quarter complex, from Bishop Cotton Road to a temporary location that is across the street at the old MBDA office.

Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong headed HLC had on September 28 submitted a recommendation to the state government to shift the employees of the Shillong Municipal Board (SMB) and other departments from the disputed area in the city where illegal settlers have also made it their home.

Constituted to find a feasible solution for the relocation of the Sweeper’s Colony from Them Iew Mawlong following the 2018 violent protest at Motphran, the HLC had made a detailed presentation to the cabinet.

The chief minister said the next suggestion was to facilitate the movement of the permanent SMB employees who are staying in Sweeper’s Colony right now.

There are close to about 57 families and of these 50 per cent have already moved out from Sweeper’s Colony and gone to different locations. “We will request the remaining families to shift from the colony to the designated locations provided by the department,” the CM said.

Earlier, the inventory report submitted by the Shillong Municipal Board had stated that a total of 184 employees and their families have been identified as legal settlers. These include families of 128 employees of the SMB and 56 others who are working in various government departments.

The Harijan Panchayat Committee (HPC), claiming to be working for the benefit of the residents, has expressed opposition to relocating the residents.

On April 10, the Meghalaya High Court had ordered both the state government and the HPC to maintain status-quo with regards to the Sweeper Colony issue.The chief minister, however, said the state government will challenge the order.

Stating that resolving a long-pending issue such as the Sweeper’s Colony will take time, Sangma said, “It is a problem that has been there for a very long time so definitely everything takes time.”

“What is important for us to realise is that this is the first time that the government has actually taken this matter seriously. We are actually moving on this and are trying to find an amicable solution, so that we can find a way which we can settle this issue for once. It is not very simple, not very easy, otherwise it would have been done a long time back. It is a complicated procedure, but whatever the case may be, you are seeing that steps will be taken,” he added.

With PTI inputs

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