In a morass

Leader of Opposition Dr. Mukul Sangma has stated that nepotism has become ingrained in the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council after decades of staff appointments through unfair means. Because of these malpractices, the staff strength of the council has swelled to over 2000 making payment of their salaries an uphill task for the council. As per what Sangma said on the floor of the House during this Budget Session, there is an urgent need to correct this problem if the ADC is to be strengthened. Sangma admitted that there was no regulation followed in the recruitment of staff in the council and stressed the need for this to be put to a stop immediately. As of now, the employees of the council have not been paid for the last 30 months and they have even approached the Meghalaya High Court seeking redressal of their woes. Even the Meghalaya Human Rights Commission has taken note of the plight of the employees who claim that some of their colleagues have lost their lives simply because they were unable to avail medical attention for various ailments as they have not been paid their dues for such a prolonged period of time.

The state government, meanwhile, has proposed to abolish a number of posts in the council once the incumbent employees holding these retire. This is a long-term measure to address the problem in the GHADC and does little to tackle it now. The employees of the council have banded together under the Non Gazetted Employees Association (NGEA) and had resorted to a ‘no-work’ strike until their dues were paid. To counter this, the executive committee of the council had offered to clear one month’s salary as a stop-gap measure which, however, had to takers. Interestingly, the agitating employees were allegedly asked to submit in writing their opposition to this move following which they would have to be re-interviewed to assess their capabilities to hold the posts they are holding. Although this is an underhanded tactic, the fact that this threat was used shows that many of the council staff may have something to lose if such a measure is resorted to. It perhaps indicates that many of them are actually not equipped to hold the positions they are holding, and this vindicates Sangma and his allegation of gross nepotism in the process of staff appointment in the GHADC.

As it stands right now, the GHADC is severely crippled and is unable to fulfil its mandated duty of protecting the indigenous Garo people of the state. The oxymoron here is that the council, which should be the custodian of Garo rights, is unable to perform its duty not because of some external pressure but because of its own doing or rather the actions of some people in the halls of power who do not have the foresight to understand the harm that they are doing to their own people.