Arunachal Assembly adopts resolution seeking special constitutional protection

Naharlagun: Aware of the loopholes in the State of Arunachal Pradesh Act, 1986, that granted statehood to the then union territory, the state assembly on Saturday unanimously passed an amended resolution directing the state government to move the Centre for constitutional amendment with provision for special protection for the state.

Arunachal was granted statehood on 20th February 1987 as a gift by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi which has turned sore for the state as was evident during the discussion after Takar Marde moved a private member’s resolution seeking special protection to protect the rights of the Arunachalees like that of Mizoram, Nagaland and Meghalaya.

After a threadbare discussion, Speaker Wanglin Lowangdong read out the amended resolution – The house unanimously resolves to urge the Union government to expeditiously amend Article 371H of the Constitution of India to bring it at par with the provision of Article 371A (1) (a) with a view to provide special constitutional protection to the people of Arunachal Pradesh in respect of religious and social practices, customary laws and rights of ownership and transfer of land and its resources – before it was passed.

It was intriguing that Arunachal attained statehood along with Mizoram the same day, but Mizoram was protected by 371G by Constitution (53rd amendment) Act, 1986 and Arunachal was not given the same provision, he said.

Supporting his plea, Marde said Arunachal with 81.4 percent forest coverage and one of the 18 biodiversity hotspots of the world boasts of its eco-system services valued at USD 1,870 billion per year.

But mobilising funds has been reversed following the Supreme Court ban on forest activities which has caused a total loss of over Rs.59,000 crore so far.

The state also lost Rs.50 crore following suspension of coal mining since May 9, 2012.

While 133.65 hectares were leased out to state PSU APMDTC and in the first phase 39.02 hectare in the central block was taken up for operation that yielded Rs 985.73 lakh profit to the corporation, Rs.1900 lakh to the GoAP while the state lost Rs 50 crore.

Therefore, the union coal ministry may allow the state for open cast mining in the entire remaining 133.65 hectares other than the existing coal project, Marde argued.

Articles 371A & 371G of the Constitution protect the above three states while Arunachal Pradesh has been deprived of its genuine rights while the Article 371H has given special power to Arunachal governor which should be repealed, Marde added.

Chief Minister Nabam Tuki, taking part in the discussion, informed that the state chief minister made repeated attempts urging New Delhi, including Prime Ministers including H D Devegowda and I K Gujral and various national forums for a constitutional amendment for this purpose while a resolution to this effect was passed by the Assembly in 1994 which was examined by the GoI. There has been no response from the GoI and the issue was still pending, he said.

Admitting loss of huge revenue and problems in taking up development as a resource-crunched state, the CM suggested that the issue either could be taken up by the MPs or the house could authorise the Cabinet to pursue the matter seriously.

Nabam Rebia, Forest & Environment Parliamentary Secretary C T Mein, Laeta Umbrey, Phosum Khimhun, Tangor Tapak and Bamang Felix strongly supported the resolution, while Law Parliamentary Secretary J K Panggeng stated that the statehood was given in a hurry with political exigency which should have been deferred.

Opposing Deputy Speaker Jomde Kena’s observation following dilemma whether to pass the resolution, senior member Tako Dabi intervened to term the resolution historic, and advocated passing it before sending a ministerial team to pursue the state’s interest.

The house was adjourned for the day after passing the resolution. (ANI)