ON NARROW  OUTLOOK  AND UNDERRATED   PRIORITIES

 By K L Tariang

   The  lengthy uproar over the proposed  second amendment   in  the  Khasi Social Custom of Lineage Bill 2018  appears to have  simmered  down now . The proposal did raise  public sentiments as it touched a sensitive matter up to  the point that it  became contentious too. The KHADC  promptly   recalled the Bill  after the uproar without leaving it on the government table long enough  for scrutiny. This  could   be   because of the many  expressive negative opinions on  it  in the print media which  the Council  could  finally  not simply overlook though  these many opinions also   overruled   the claim that  the   opposition was  made   only by  the “few”  with  personal reasons behind such opposition.  This  decision  to recall the Bill would  also   confirm  the    conclusion all along  that  the  Bill with the proposal must have been   hastily passed  without much of  in-depth assessment , consultations  and deliberations by  those whom we have chosen to prudently   make laws on our behalf. Conversely ,  the uproar over  the Bill  also pointed out  to  the  preference  for issues that we choose  to be more  emotionally involved  with when it   concerns the future of the “ Jaitbynriew” (community) while  probably    underestimating   other issues   which otherwise  could be of concern too.

There  were  certainly many explicit opinions against the  proposal  which were  brought out  in scripts and  published   in the Shillong Times, the most read English Newspaper in the state and with  a national and international reach and such opinions  were  comprehensible  enough   to generate influence far and wide.  Strangely  it seems that were no point by point  written disproof of  such  opinions  from   the  proponents  of  the proposal  which for sure the newspaper would have published if these were  brought forward. Since open debates or panel discussions  do not give scope for much ground to be covered on the subject , such written disproof  would otherwise  give  more clarity   as to  the reason for the   vehement support  for  the proposal,  and, could likely  persuade   even  its opponents   to lean  towards it. However, raising  sentiments  to gain support  on  intricate people’s  issues  merely through  rhetorical  expressions without sufficient substantiation could  be deceiving or manipulative instead  and with possible negative effects  since what is   proclaimed    may  not always have strong foothold  in reality or provide   legitimacy  when necessary. In fact , self proclaimed saviours of the people would aim to influence the mass with   narrow  discernment through  such  rhetorical  statements  and such leaders will  stand firm  for everything that they think others will fall for, regardless of the possible negative consequence.

     What was  brought up  in  the proposal  did become highly emotional because from both angle  of  the arguments  the concern is whether what is  proposed   would be   the main  means to the end to ensure survival of the  Jaitbynriew. However,  in the midst of  the row  over  this issue  it led  one to  ponder  as to whether  there could be  other significant   issues  other  than  the one under debate which  are also  of much   concern  for the future of the  Jaitbynriew. In this connection  a small news item “High Court queries  on oily substance  in drinking water, “ appeared in the Shillong Times recently  amid  the  dominant  reports  about the controversy over  the Bill.  What was reported  in the  news item did  not  evoke any response  from  the public thereafter  as this   was  probably considered as insignificant. However the  likely presence of oil in our drinking water is a matter of concern as it poses  a serious threat to the  health of the people whether  infant, young or old alike with detrimental  consequence therefore to the “Jaitbynriew”. Likewise if more than often there are  shortcomings  long enough  in  vital public services such as those in  education ,health .power, water supply, road connectivity ,etc  then    the Jaitbynriew would  be  deprived of quality education and  a  better quality of life  as well which  would therefore make it weak  to  face  challenges  and likely to be   overwhelmed later. On the other side, the indiscriminate activities which destroy   our natural   resources or the other unique gifts of nature  our region  possesses  for immediate gains of the few, have  adversely affected  the environment and  the well established  or  intended livelihoods of  many of our very own  local people around and such activities are  therefore a threat to their survival. Other critical  issues  which  can   have serious repercussions  on    the   future of the jaitbynriew  cannot be overlooked  either.

  Close on the heels of the  KHADC Bill controversy  came  the strong emotional demand  by pressure groups  for bringing in the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the state because of  the fear of huge infiltration  of  other communities or race of people from outside,  into our  region, if left unchecked  and where their acumen and  manipulative ability  could  threaten  the economic and social status of the jaitbynriew as well as its identity  and ultimately  its survival. Again along with  the dominant news  reports about the NRC issue  a   news item  “NGT ban a blessing for state post NRC Draft “  brought out in the Shillong Times recently  might be worthy of a second look .The report   was based  on a statement of  a former leader of a pressure group  who stated that because of the NGT ban  on coal mining , illegal migrants can no longer take shelter in the remote coal fields of  Jaintia Hills in the guise of being labourers as otherwise thousands of  illegal Assam residents not listed in the final NRC draft would have come to East Jaintia Hills for shelter and income.

  The statement of the  former pressure group leader  assumes significance since  coal mining  does bring  in large  influx of  labourers  or other workers  from outside to the  coal mining areas  in the state  and  this could   have an adverse impact on the jaitbynriew as feared. Whether the Inner Line Permit with the entry and   exit points   would  be effective enough  to  check  and monitor  such  massive entry  of outside labour force as required by the  coal mining  activity is anybody’s  guess. As reported, the government  is  however not averse  to an NRC like exercise  in the state  as stated by one of its  senior Ministers  while other political parties  also want such an exercise. While it could be a long  wait for the NRC like exercise if brought  at all  and proved effective  it is open to speculation if for now  the government, the other political parties and especially  the pressure groups  against  influx would   take  advantage  of the NGT ban  on coal mining   and ensure  that it continues as  one  of the preventions  against influx  besides its other beneficial intentions while overlooking the  quick financial gain that comes  out of coal mining .

       At the end of it all, the proposal of the KHADC  in the   Lineage Bill 2018 may  remain  contentious if  its conception is  based mostly   from  generalised assessment  without  in depth  research , substantial evidences  and  well  weighed   arguments  and where  its  long term impact may  not be verifiable  or  quantifiable enough. Conversely there are the  other critical   issues as mentioned  which are starkly  evident and which  occur  more perhaps because of  inadequacy,  indifference, biased assessment  or selfish motives though such critical issues can lead to adverse consequence on the people. It does not require in depth research or analysis   to ascertain  the root  causes which made these other  issues critical  though  their  positive or  negative  qualitative and   quantitative effect  on the people will  be definitely  apparent with time  depending on whether or how these issues are addressed .Its time perhaps  to be   more circumspect and emotional on such issues as well  for the sake of the jaitbynriew.