How did Meghalaya become an abode of blunders?
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The NPP-led state government claims to have fulfilled many promises but the citizens are still deprived of basic rights and services. In this column, I will focus mostly on the education sector, which has been left in the dark.

The Chief Minister of Meghalaya presented a budget in 2021 in the state assembly, which would focus on health and education. The Meghalaya government had allotted Rs 980 crore to the state’s education sector as part of its annual budget 2021-2022. The CM had promised to build new schools and colleges across the state and upgrade all educational institutions.

During the presentation of the budget, the CM, as per records, said that one of the key priorities of his government would be to ensure universal access to elementary and school education. The government said it would implement the ‘Early Childhood Development Mission’ to provide access to high-quality education and overall development to the children. But these promises remain unfulfilled until now, and we only see schools with poor infrastructure and many without adequate numbers of teachers. 

It was disheartening to see teachers coming out on the streets with demands to hike their salaries and develop the poor infrastructure of schools. In fact, we could see students of Pine Mount School of Shillong demanding better toilets and better infrastructure for their educational institute.

The Centre has provided funds, and we all know it, but where is the money going? And who is responsible for this fault in the system? The CM had also promised to commit Rs. 2000 crore to education every year. Did they receive these funds? If yes, then where has all the money gone? 

District Councils crying for help

The mismanagement is not just visible in one sector or department but the whole system of the state of Meghalaya is rigged. For instance, we take the case of the employees of the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council who have not been paid their salaries for over 32 months. They go to work every day hoping to receive their paycheck but in vain. This “pending salary” issue has been continuing since 2016. For instance, if the dues of these employees have been pending for 20 months in a particular session then they receive the paycheck for only 2-3 months, hence the remaining 18-17 months are collated with the rest of the months and this cycle continues.

This scenario has not only caused hindrances not just for the employees, but the families of these employees also face unwanted problems which could have been avoided if the government and leaders were to pay some heed and aid. My family and I are one of the many victims of this issue. We had to and we still are facing a lot of financial problems because my father, an employee of the GHADC, is the only breadwinner of our family.

The employees of GHADC have protested in the past, the most recent being the one held in the month of September 2021 when a silent picketing was held by the employees in and around the District Council building. They have also approached the Meghalaya High Court in February 2021. According to the Non-Gazetted Employees Association (NEGA), a sum of Rs 55 crore is still pending with the Meghalaya Government.

Recently we were also able to witness the indefinite protest staged by the SSA teachers of the state demanding the release of the pending salaries for over 5 months. The teachers held a sit-in demonstration without taking breaks and in fact spent the night outdoors, sleeping on the road in the cold weather.

There has also been a rise in inflation, especially in small towns like Tura. Goods are sold at a soaring high rate as compared to other cities and states. What is the cause behind this uncontrollable inflation? Well, there are various reasons but one can’t deny that the overall misuse of funds is the leading cause behind this grave situation that the common man has to face. 

The central government funds are misused by certain high-ranking officials of the government sectors or what we can say in simple terms is, the money goes into their pockets, henceforth development never takes place. These people do not have bargaining power and pay a small amount for the goods demanded by the traders which leads to a higher rate of goods and services as compared to other states. Traders, therefore, want to establish their business in Meghalaya because the profit margin is higher due to the inflation created by corrupt officials.

The whole system to run a state has been rigged and mismanaged in Meghalaya since the time of its inception. Extortion in the market hubs and bazaars is still prevalent. No major development has taken place in recent times. Communalism and corruption are two of the major key areas that have been continuing in the state since time immemorial. There are plenty of faults in the system that will be found if one may dig deeper. The common people are the ones that have to bear the brunt of the manhandling and mismanagement created by influential leaders and officials. 

These problems need to be addressed. These problems need to be fixed. There is no single person or group to be blamed for. This mismanagement is not created due to the presence or leadership of one political party, instead, this faulty system has been witnessed with the coming and going of different political parties running the state government and this cycle shall continue if we do not put an end towards it.

Views expressed are personal.

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