Border Area Development Minister Rakkam A Sangma on Tuesday urged the government to consider a proposal for connecting Baghmara in South Garo Hills with Guwahati, Assam and Bangladesh with a railway line.
Rakkam, who is also NPP legislator from Rongara-Siju, also termed the Meghalaya Land Transfer Act and provisions of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India as the greatest protection mechanism for the indigenous people while referring to groups opposing railway in Khasi-Jaintia region apprehending influx and illegal immigration.
Speaking to reporters, the minister said there was a proposal a long time back when Captain Williamson Sangma was chief minister to connect Guwahati with Bangladesh through Baghmara by railway.
“I will also still demand to make this happen because Baghmara can be the corridor for Meghalaya and for the North East where it can be connected directly to Dhaka. The trade and employment generation will rise and lots of our young people and economy will improve,” he said while adding “Therefore, it is my pleasure to make the demand and I will also be meeting the chief minister very soon as a local MLA in this regard.
According to him, a petition was already submitted that an integrated check gate should be set up at Baghmara so that tourists and businessmen can come in because if the railway comes, the economy of the people will improve to a great extent.
Asked if he would request the government to divert the railway project proposed for Shillong and Byrnihat to Baghmara, Rakkam said, “If it is possible, I would request the railways, the government of India, the government of Meghalaya to connect Baghmara with Guwahati by railway.”
Having said so, to me as education minister I want to say that every year I have been attending most of the graduation and convocation ceremonies in the state where there are 18,000 to 20,000 graduates and post-graduates every year. Out of 20,000 in a year, only 1,500 – 2000 government jobs are being advertised while the rest 18,000 plus educated are unemployed.”
On the continued opposition to railways in Khasi-Jaintia regions, the minister said, “Yes, there may be issues with everybody but now we have to decide the merits and demerits. Coming of railway to Shillong or East Khasi Hills may have the negative and demerits also but the merits are also there like the connectivity, job opportunities. The people from Garo Hills are going to Dimapur to buy clothes because the cost is cheaper. Therefore, I request that our people decide after comparing the merits and demerits. Whichever is heavier (they should go with that only).”
He said people should allow railways if proper mechanisms can be installed as employment and economy is the need of the hour.
“Therefore, we need more industries, we need railways, we need more markets, we need more institutions which will create employment for the young people. Livelihood is above all important. As a son of the state, we should find a way to make our graduates employed.”
Also stating that it is important for the government to take up the issue of influx and immigration on priority, Rakkam said granting of ILP or not is in the hands of the Government of India but the Land Transfer Act and provisions of Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India are the greatest weapons for the people of the state. He also announced that the government is also contemplating introducing the Sixth Schedule as part of the school curriculum.
“Everybody should know this. We want to introduce in our curriculum that every students must read about Sixth Schedule, about the Khasi, Jaintia and Garo people, the culture, the tradition, the food, the assets, the rivers, the potential that we have…the Sixth Schedule is a complete mechanism,” he said while recalling that “Captain Sangma once stated when somebody asked a question that there are some people who want to do away with the Sixth Schedule. Captain stated anybody who decides to do away with the Sixth Schedule he is the most useless person on the earth as the Sixth Schedule is the greatest pillar laid down by the leaders of the past especially for tribal people and for Meghalayans.”
“Therefore, the Sixth Schedule is the greatest pillar and greatest protection mechanism for all of us. Having said so, the provision of the Sixth Schedule if strengthened we will have nothing to lose,” he asserted further.