Moily recommendation evokes mixed response

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Shillong, Apr 25 (UNI) The second Administrative Reform Commission's (ARC) report advocating abolishment of Meghalaya's three Autonomous District Councils has evoked contrasting reaction from various quarters here.

State minister in-charge, District Council, Paul Lyngdoh said the government will not accept the ARC recommendation as district councils are the means to strengthen the grassroots democracy in the state.

The District Councils in Meghalaya plays an important role in safeguarding the traditional laws of the indigenous people of the state, Mr Lyngdoh said.

The District Councils were created in 1952 when Meghalaya was under the composite state of Assam to protect their identity and interest of the indigenous Khasi, Jaintia and Garo people. The District councils are under the sixth schedule of the Indian Constitution and have authority to frame laws pertaining to forest, land revenue, minerals,trade etc.

Meghalaya Pradesh Congress Committee President O L Nongtdu said, ''The recommendation only shows ARC Chairman Veerappa Moily's ignorance about the functioning of district councils.'' However, political critics argue that with the achievement of statehood in 1972 and now the government being represented by tribal legislators the interest of the tribal population was ''well protected'' and so the Councils were now ''irrelevant''.

Moreover, they felt with the insertion of Para 12-A in the sixth schedule, which states: ''if the state legislature passes a law repugnant to the law passed by the District Council,the law of the council will become invalid,'' the Councils' authority has further diluted.

''The insertion of the Para 12-A in the sixth schedule of the Indian Constitution has further diminished the relevance of the district councils,'' Michael Syiem, convener of Mait Shaprang Movement, who spearheaded the abolishment of the Councils for nearly a decade said.

Mr Syiem said if Para 12-A is done away then there would be ''utter chaos and confusion,'' as law passed by both the state legislatures and the Councils would clash.

The establishment cost of each Councils is about one crore per month, which could be used for other developmental purposes,'' Syiem argued.

Former Meghalaya Chief Secretary J M Phira said the overriding effect of the state laws has rendered the Councils as subordinates to the state government and therefore infringes the autonomy of the Councils.

Former Karnataka Chief Minister Veerappa Moily, who headed the second ARC said there was an increasing clash of interests between the state government and the sixth schedule on which the councils rest.

'' The sixth schedule councils have been given more powers than the local governance bodies, in the rest of the country. While many areas under the schedule have seen turmoil and violence, it is generally agreed that the autonomy paradigm prescribed under it has brought a degree of equilibrium within tribal societies, particularly through formal dispute resolution under customary laws and through control of money-lending etc,'' Mr Moily said in his report.

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