By Phrangsngi Pyrtuh
Official communication between the central and the state government is a normal feature of the federal arrangement. They do not usually attract public attention unless they are of exceptional circumstances. Unfortunately most of these communication remains outside the purview of RTI so one can only speculate their origin, nature and purposes. Last week an official communication between the Home Ministry through the Joint Secretary S. Singh and the MUA government have further exacerbated the fiasco that hangs in the state. Compare that and the recent statement of the Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde on the ILP (in response to a question from Shillong MP Vincent Pala) and we have a can of worms. One can only assume the intention of the MUA in its eagerness to bring to an end hurriedly (the impasses) without thinking through the consequences of its action. It has been made clear to the people of the state by the MUA government that the ILP is not within the state’s jurisdiction and that only the Central government is capable of enforcing it as a law. Barring the fact that this is false, a bigger question is how can the state government be so sure of the outcome if the ILP has not been taken up already with the central government?
The statement from Home Minister Shinde on the ILP and the position communicated through a letter in an earlier occasion from the Joint Secretary, S Singh has put the issue on a sticky wicket. Some of the murkier questions that have emerged from what seems to be a closed door collusive negotiations is adding fuel to the fire. Has there been an official communiqué from the state government soliciting or enquiring the enforceability of the ILP? Has there been any discussion in the union cabinet (as protocol would demand) before the aforementioned letter was sent? Why is this not made public? When was this done and if not how is that the Home Ministry through the secretary shot a letter to the state Government of its rejection of the same? Has the Home Ministry taken suo motu cognizance of the same or even disturbingly has the joint secretary of the Ministry acted alone without consulting the Home Minister? Why the two contradictory views from the Ministry on two separate occasions? The allegation of a political ploy by one of the regional parties – the UDP – seems credible. This is definitely not an open and shut case.
Now regarding the issue at hand (the ILP) and the alternative that one chooses to answer some very basic questions such as its constitutionality etc, legal redress is the only option to clarify its constitutionality and it is the most rational thing to do at the moment to break the ice and move forward. If it is unconstitutional how is it still operating in three north eastern states? If it is constitutional why is the state government not modest about it upon which it can build its argument for or against the desirability of ILP? Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh are under the Congress rule and so is Meghalaya. Why is that the ILP as far as the Congress is concerned anti-development for Meghalaya and not for the other states? These are some of the questions that need threadbare detailing and wide scale consultations before we can say yes or no to it. Otherwise the ILP is becoming a hot potato to be only raked up for political exploitation each time there is change in government.
There is confusion galore whether the ILP is constitutional or if it abrogates the constitution. There are many laws that are anti-development such as reservation in the private sector yet it is relentlessly pursued by the Union Government. I fail to see the logic in the argument that ILP is anti-development simply because there is no law that is pro-development (in the context of the north eastern states). The government of the day must therefore drop this side of the argument pronto and seek other justification for not favoring ILP. And this is where constitutional clarity would come handy. However the MUA government’s reluctance to seek legal and constitutional help has exposed its malafide intention on the same. There are many who await point for point clarification and valid rebuttal against the ILP. The thin sheet of ice will not hold for long the more these questions remain unanswered. One cannot decisively make a decision based on run of the mill emotions. On the contrary we observe the government’s cover up attempts which are nothing but spoofs each time the government fails to justify its vagaries and inconsistencies while everyone in town goes about shouting “liar, liar pants on fire”.
The ILP at this point is nothing but a speculation. Will it or will it not be is the question that is in everyone’s mind. Despite the government persistence on the ILP many still favors and want it while some others are skeptical. This is because they are not convinced with the government’s argument. How can you trust someone with two different voices? If the government wishes to take everybody on board, it must get over the platitudes and deceptive rhetoric. The ILP is all set to dominate the district council and parliamentary elections. Speculation and election is a deadly cocktail. The violence and mayhem that we have witnessed would be nothing compared to what is in store for us during the upcoming elections when emotion runs wild. This makes it all the more urgent to end the stalemate. If this is dictatorship Dr Mukul Sangma would have had his way with the pro-ILP groups but unfortunately for him this is a democracy and he is bound by the constitution in his capacity as the CM. As voice of reasonable people he should show magnanimity no matter the lackadaisical stance of the NGOs. There is a profound need to end the impasse from even the most fervent supporter of the ILP. Let the voice of reason prevail not the voice in the wilderness.
(The writer teaches economics in Shillong College)