States Round Up Issue-01 July to September 2010 Index Page
Full version of the report

Meghalaya



I. Highlight: Illegal mining

During July to September 2010, Meghalaya was in the news for illegal mining and employment of children in mining projects. In July 2010, the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) told the Supreme Court that Lafarge Umiam Mining Private Limited (LUMPL) could resume limestone mining in Meghalaya under the revised Conservation Plan and it had to pay up to Rs 130 crores towards afforestation and development of tribal area which include health, education, economy, irrigation and agriculture in the project area solely for the local community and welfare of the tribals. [1] In its affidavit, the MoEF stated that it had cleared land for diversion of 116.589 hectares of Meghalaya forest land for mining limestone by Lafarge Umiam Mining Private Limited. [2]

Ironically, based on a report of the MoEF, the Supreme Court in February 2010 had stopped the LUMPL from carrying out mining of limestone at its mines in Meghalaya. In its report, MoEF had stated that the company was extracting minerals from the land falling in the forest area and the permission for extracting limestone, a key input for making cement, from the region of Shella village in East Khasi Hills district was allegedly obtained fraudulently by showing the forest land as barren land. [3]

Apart from the mining projects, the Ferro-alloy industries had denuded large forest cover in Meghalaya. The forests were being systemically cleaned up to provide trees for charcoal production. Information obtained under the Right to Information Act revealed that the 11 charcoal-based industries located at Byrnihat in Meghalaya had consumed 561,000 tonnes of charcoal up to August 2010. This had resulted in large-scale denudation of forest cover. [4]

II. Violations of civil and political rights

There were reports of violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The National Human Rights Commission recorded 14 cases of human rights violations in police custody and 3 cases in judicial custody from Meghalaya during 2009-2010 as of 28 February 2010. [5] 

On 4 September 2010, an army personnel was beaten up by the traffic police personnel near Ward’s Lake in Shillong. The victim and his pregnant wife were returning from a hospital riding a two-wheeler when the victim was intercepted for violating traffic rules. Following an argument, the victim was beaten up by traffic police personnel and later taken to Sadar police station leaving his pregnant wife crying on the road. [6]

III. Abuses by the AOGs

The armed opposition groups (AOGs) in Meghalaya including Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC) and Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) were responsible for committing abuses.

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, government of India, Meghalaya was the only state in the North East India which witnessed an increase in violence by AOGs in the first six months of 2010. According to the MHA statistics, there were 11 militant-related violence with killing of one civilian in the state from January to June 2010. [7]

On 30 September 2010, R. Syngkon, a transport official, and his driver were abducted allegedly by cadres of the Garo National Liberation Army from his house in Williamnagar in the Garo Hills. The official reportedly failed to comply with the extortion demands of Rs 60 lakh. [8]

IV. Violations of women’s rights

Violence against women, including rape, molestation and trafficking, increased considerably in Meghalaya. According to the Deputy Chief Minister Bindo Lanong, 276 cases of rape were recorded in the state in the last three years. [9] The Meghalaya Police recorded 194 cases of violence against women, including 92 rapes from January to August 2010. [10]

The Meghalaya State Commission for Women remained weak. On 25 August 2010, the Commission requested the state government to bring amendments to the Meghalaya State Commission for Women Act, 2005, for enforcing its orders which should be deemed as final and not to be challenged in the court of law. In its petition to the Chief Minister, the Commission among others proposed that “The commission must be given the power to enforce its orders whether it is consensus or otherwise” and setting up fast-track courts in all the seven districts of the state for speedy clearance of cases. [11]

V. Violations of the rights of the child

Coal mines in the Jaintia Hills district, often referred to as “rat holes” for the unscientific and life-threatening methods employed to extract coal, have been employing large number of child labourers. The children are required to go down at least 25m to extract coal with bare hands and primitive tools. [12]

On 13 August 2010, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) directed the state government to report on the number of child labourers working in the hazardous coal mines in the district and to rehabilitate them. Pursuant to the NHRC directions, the Jaintia Hills district administration conducted a survey and claimed to have found only 222 children working in unscientific coal mines. Of the 222 children, 153 were from Meghalaya and the rest were from Assam, Bihar, Nepal and Bangladesh. [13]

Apart from the child labourers in the coal mines, there were also reports of school children working under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). Under the NREGA, only adults, above 18 years, can take up jobs under the scheme. In July 2010, during a review meeting on the status of education and literacy in South Garo Hills district, it was revealed that a high number of child labourers were being involved in the NREGA project works. Due to lack of awareness, the parents encouraged their children to participate in the NREGA works since it brings in much needed extra cash to the family. As a result, many children were reluctant to attend schools. [14]

The government failed to take any corrective measures. While no action was taken to stop the employment of children under NREGA, with regard to the coal mines, the state government claimed that rehabilitation is not easy as the mines are not own by the state government. The mines are classified as cottage or small-scale mines and hence not covered under the Coal Mines (Nationalization) Act. [15]

VI. Violations of the ESCRs

a. Violations of the right of food

In August 2010, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma stated that the state government was in the process of identifying Below Poverty Line (BPL) families and the list is likely to be finalized in 2011. In 2002, the Community and Rural Department conducted a BPL census and found that there were 2,05,234 BPL families constituting 48.9 per cent of the population of the state. However, after allegations of manipulation the state government in 2009 asked the Community and Rural Department to conduct a fresh survey of BPL families. [16]

Earlier in June 2010, an NGO, Mait Shaphrang Movement sought the Prime Minister’s intervention against supply of substandard foodgrain to the poor in Meghalaya leading to a high infant and maternal mortality rate. The NGO stated that it received several complaints from the villagers of West Khasi Hills that foodgrain they received were of very poor quality and villagers fell sick after consumption of poor quality food. [17]

b. Violations of the right to work

Corruption and anomalies remained a hindrance for the proper implementation of the NREGA. At least 10 police cases were filed this year as on 3 September 2010 pertaining to misappropriation and non-payment of wages under the scheme. [18]

On 3 September 2010, 26 job card holders from Magurmari village in West Garo Hills filed a police complaint at Phulbari police station alleging that nine persons, including the President of Village Employment Council of Magurmari, Saha Zamal and its Secretary Abdul Mozid had forged thumb impressions in the muster roll register and misappropriated Rs 33 lakh of 277 job card holders. [19]

On 31 July 2010, one Proding Niang lodged a complaint with the Jowai police station alleging misappropriation of fund by the Mr Klip Pale, Chairman of Village Employment Council of Nongjngi-Ionglwit village in Jaintia Hills. In his complaint, Proding Niang alleged that the Chairman misappropriated funds worth Rs 26,34,330. Most of the names mentioned in the register of the Employment Council as beneficiaries of the scheme did not tally with that of the job card holders. Many job card holders did not receive the payments though the Council had maintained that money had already been paid to the card holders. Besides, fake names were used by the Council to buy raw materials, including sand stones for construction. [20]

Those who tried to expose the financial irregularities and corruption were punished.  On 12 August 2010, three women identified as Fatima Mynsong, Aquiline Songchan and Malinda Suting and their families were ostracized by the Dorban Shnong (Village Council) for exposing scam under the NREGA from Jongsha village in East Khasi Hills district. As per the RTI findings, the Village Headman Karmelin Rynjah, who was the chairperson of the NREGA project in the village along with others forged signatures of job cards holders of the villagers and kept them with him illegally and funds for the various NREGA projects were not accounted. [21]

c. Misuse of development fund in GHADC

Crores of government fund meant for implementing various schemes were misappropriated by officials and elected members of the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC).

On 8 September 2010, the state government decided to extend Governor’s rule in the GHADC by six months and institute a judicial inquiry commission to probe the gross financial and appointment anomalies in the council. Earlier, several irregularities like fund diversion and anomalies in appointment and promotion of employees were detected during an investigation conducted by Sanjay Goyal, Deputy Commissioner, Tura. [22] According to the investigation report, an unspent amount of Rs 3.18 crore of the government funds received by GHADC since 2008 was not found in the Personal Ledger Account of the Council. A loan of Rs 1.8 lakh taken by the GHADC chairman in 2008-09 was not recovered, while GHADC’s money was spent on other personal grounds by the Chairman. The report further revealed that revenue collection of Rs 4.12 lakh by the Trade Regulation Office of the Council was not shown in the registers and fund were diverted in Land Reforms Department. An anomaly of Rs 10 lakh was also found in the Remittance Register record and the Cashier Cash Book of the Forest Department. [23]

d. Denial of affirmative action

The state government claimed that disabled persons are provided three per cent job reservation in Meghalaya. According to the 2001 census, there were 28,803 disabled persons in the state. Of these, 46.5 per cent were visually impaired. [24] However, the state government failed to implement the scheme in letter and spirit.
According to the Meghalaya Parents Association for Disabled, the three per cent job reservation for disabled persons is not being implemented and the state is yet to frame a rule as per decision of the central government. Funds meant for welfare of disabled persons were sent back to the Centre for lack of utilisation. Even the scholarships under the Right to Education Act could not reach disabled students of the State. [25]

Endnotes:
1. Govt OKs Lafarge mining in Meghalaya, The Times of India, 27 July 2010
2. MoEF clears land for Lafarge, The Indian Express, 27 July 2010
3. SC restrains Lafarge from carrying mining in Meghalaya, Zee News, 5 February 2010
4. Abetting forest loot, by Patricia Mukhim, The Statesman, 26 September 2010
5. Figures of Police Atrocities against prisoners reported to NHRC from 1 April 2006 to 28 February 2010, Lok Sabha, Unstarred Question No 2001 Answered on 09.03.2010
6. Complaint of Asian Centre for Human Rights to National Human Rights Commission, 6 September 2010
7. Militancy-related violence declines in NE, The Assam Tribune, 31 July 2010
8. ANVC offer rescue of hostage, The Nagaland Post, 7 October 2010
9. Unabated rise in crime against women and children, The Meghalaya Times, 22 September 2010
10. Crime statistics, Meghalaya Police, available at: http://meghpol.nic.in/Crime_Statistics/crm_month.htm
11. Women’s panel seeks more teeth, The Telegraph, 27 August 2010
12. 222 child miners in Meghalaya: Govt , The Hindustan Times, 8 September 2010
13. Ibid
14. Children skip schools to earn money, The Shillong Times, 7 July 2010
15. 222 child miners in Meghalaya: Govt , The Hindustan Times, 8 September 2010
16. Meghalaya tops 20-point plan-State ranks first in Northeast in implementing rural scheme, The Telegraph, 25 August 2010
17. Shillong NGO moves PM Scanner on quality of foodgrain - Shillong NGO moves PM, The Telegraph, 8 June 2010
18. Rural employment scheme funds being siphoned off Scam slur on job panels - Rural employment scheme funds being siphoned off, The Telegraph, 8 September 2010
19. Ibid
20. Swindler slur on headman. The Telegraph, 9 August 2010.
21. Dorbar ostracises three RTI applicants, The Shillong Times, 1 September 2010
22. Panel to probe financial irregularities in GHADC; NCP demands CM’s resignation, The Sentinel, 8 September 2010
23. Crores misappropriated in Garo Council, The Assam Tribune, 7 September 2010
24. Braille hope for RTI applicants-Booklets inform visually impaired of various clauses of information act, The Telegraph, 21 September 2010
25. 3 per cent jobs for disabled, yet to be implemented, IBN Live, 24 October 2010
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