Meghalaya CM welcome citizens to file RTI Credit: Representational image

Meghalaya chief minister Conrad K Sangma has asked citizens of the state to file an RTI if they want details on how Rs 399 crore was spent by the Meghalaya government to fight COVID-19.

Sangma’s response following a demand by a social organisation, Thma U Rangli-Juki (TUR), to make the expenses public.

Sangma said that in the RTI age, everything is open, so anybody can always look into the details and find out what is happening. There is nothing to hide.

“One needs to understand that as a government, it is our responsibility to take care of our people. We have given good quality food, and people have appreciated this aspect,” Sangma said. He added, “It is easy to sit down and look at every micro detail and analyse from this point and say why this is happening. But one has to understand that as a govt, we ensure that our people are taken care of, we ensure that testing continued.”

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Sangma informed that the testing facilities were provided even though it cost the government Rs 30 crores while other states were already charging the citizens.

“We went ahead and inquired the number of PPE kits and the different kind of equipments required, and at that point of time there was a shortage in the market. And we felt strongly that we couldn’t take a chance so yes there was shortage of PPE at that point of time, but today we have enough PPE kits to survive us till March,” Sangma said.

He further justified that the government did their best to ensure that the citizens got the best service and that it was easy for people to analyse and talk about this from the cost perspective and be critical about it.

Sangma once again emphasised that the fight against the pandemic is not the fight of the government alone and that it was every individual and the society’s fight too.

“We have done a lot of things where no other states have paid daily wage labourers when there was a regular lockdown. We were the only government that spent close to 51 crores for the labourers, and this has gone directly to the bank accounts the entire list is given. So if anybody has doubts, please file an RTI there is nothing to hide,” Sangma said.

On October 7, TUR organisation had written to the CM demanding the government should proactively within a week under section 4 of RTI Act as well as the Meghalaya Community Participation and Public Services Social Audit Act put the expenses in public domain. The organisation demanded for transparency and accountability on the Rs 399 crores spent by the government during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organisation mentioned that the breakup of the expenditure as released by the government and reported in the media raises questions about the funds spent.

The letter reads, “These numbers hide more than they reveal. For instance let us look at assistance to labourers, daily wage earners, BPL Families to the tune of Rs. 51 crores. If we take govt’s figure then approximately 2,42, 857 persons got a cash support of Rs. 2100 each in their bank account. TUR in a survey of unorganized sector workers in Shillong found that very few labourers, daily wage earners, BPL Families have got this cash support. Even if some have got this support, it has been mostly single installment of Rs. 700.”

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