By Pradeep Kumar
ITANAGAR, Jan 11: The National People’s Party (NPP), presently ruling in Meghalaya and part of Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh Govts, is committed to make inroads into all NE states as a platform to raise voices of NE region (NER), its national president and Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma told media persons here on Friday.
The NPP plans to contest as many assembly seats possible while remaining partner of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), may be from all 60 seats and all 24 Lok Sabha seats in NE during ensuing elections so that it could raise the grievances of NE forcefully to be heard louder, he said just before addressing party leaders and workers of Arunachal Pradesh NPP unit executive meeting, also attended by delegates from all NE states.
Terming NEDA as a platform to plan for economic development, he said that all parties are free to maintain their respective identity which the NPP would do. That is why despite alliance with state’s ruling BJP Govt headed by Chief Minister Pema Khandu, the NPP would fight assembly seats alone. The way many leaders of various political parties believing in NPP ideologies have joined the party, the candidates for next elections would present different picture, he said with conviction.
Hinting at NPP desire to make the NER prosperous, he said that as he is holding finance portfolio would call a conclave of all NE finance minister to chart out strategy to achieve the goal. Close inter-state cooperation would immensely benefit the region including from border trade, he reasoned almost sounding the adage “united we stand, divided we fall”
Flanked by Manipur Deputy Chief Minister Yumnam Joykumar Singh, Meghalaya leaders including DyCM Prestone Tyson and MLA Thomas Sangma (Arunachal in-charge), APNPPLP leader Tanga Byaling and state NPP president Gicho Kabak, Sangma enlisted numerous issues to be discussed in the meeting to evolve strategies for next elections. Hinting that education, agriculture, IT, infrastructure development would be given top priority for value addition by taking advantage of topography and nature’s bounty of NE region, he said that the discussion would form the basis for evolving the party manifesto for aggressive campaign at grassroots level by involving women and youth.
Responding to volley of questions from scribes, he said that on the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, his Govt has not only adopted a resolution against it but had opposed when the Centre’s joint power committee had visited the state six months ago. When asked about NPP stand if the bill was passed by Rajya Sabha, he clarified that it would be decided in the meeting.
Responding to a question from this editor if the NPP would take steps to amend Arunachal Pradesh Statehood Act, 1986 presently under 5th Schedule to bring it under 6th Schedule to make Arunachalees land owners insread of present protectors with the Centre owning all mineral resources, he clarified that Meghalaya under 6th Schedule faces lot of complicacies with the Centre relating to mining. The 6th Schedule is not the panacea to Arunachal problems, but NPP would contemplate all steps that would benefit the state and its people.
On ongoing mining in his state, he said that that has been going on since British time illegally but NPP had termed it illegal and its state administration has taken bold steps to check it as 1,000 cases of illegal mining were registered during last two years.
Mining poses a herculean task in Meghalaya as the area is very large spreading five sqkm areas, he said, and referred to 17 miners were trapped under water while mining. He disclosed that two crore litres of water were pumped out by teams of NDRF, Coal India, Odisha, the Navy and the IAF by using 20 100HP pumps which were lifting 10 lakh litres a hour. However, the water depth was reduced by 150 feet but still it was a nightmare.
When told why not ban coal mining, he said it was not possible as people have been doing so since time immemorial. It should be regulated while ensuring environment protection and ensuring safety measures to not snatch away livelihood of the masses.
The leaders present included state’s NPP MLAs, NPP vice president Anok Wangsa, spokesman Sange Nima Saling.