Shillong March 10th,2021 (MMP) :Meghalaya Chief Minister, Conrad K. Sangma today informed the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly that the process of auctioning the extracted coal in the state has started. Replying to the discussion on the Governor’s Address Sangma said the first tranche of 5,400 metric ton of coal in East Jaintia Hills has been put up for auction in the past few days. The auction is in an advanced stage and the bidding process will continue for the next 14 days,” Sangma said. The next tranche of extracted coal of 9,000 metric ton is in South Garo Hills District, Sangma said. In a passionate defence on the opposition’s allegation of illegal coal mining in the state, Sangma said, the mining is being streamlined.
He said Standard Operating Procedures have been framed to start scientific and legal coal mining in the state, as per the direction of the Supreme Court. The Chief Minister added that some of clauses in the newly drafted SOP have been accepted by the Central Government. Informing the House that it is for the first time the licensing process for prospecting coal has been approved. Now the state Government can allow the prospecting without going to the Centre for approval. The prospecting can be done by the local agencies in the state. In the regard, 20 people have applied for prospecting licenses. The state Government has opened the gate for scientific and legal mining in the state,” he added. He moreover informed that it is for the first time in the state that private mines can be leased out.
Moreover, local miners will be getting a better price as the reserved price for the extraced coal has been put at 4800 rupees per metric ton.” This price is doubled the price that local miners used to get around 1,500 rupees and 2,800 rupees per metric ton.
This will encourage local miners,” he added. Negating allegations of illegality in the ongoing coal transportation, Sangma said, the coal is being transported legally. The state has earned 70 crore rupees from seized and incidentally mined coal, ” he informed the House. Blaming the previous Congress government for the financial mess in the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council, Sangma, he said the party “arbitrarily” employed people in the Council.
Due to the arbitrary decision, the expenditure in the salary component of the Council increased substantially from 1400 crore rupees to over 2000 crore rupees. However, the Council’s staff strength was streamlined after the NPP came to power and now the salary of the staff has been reduced to 1600 crore rupees with 700 “ghost employees” now out of the council.
Touching on the law and order situation, he said, that the situation is now better with militancy under control. Stating that the law and order situation has always remained dynamic with stray incidences of violence reported, Sangma however assured the house the Government will take firm action against violators. “Nobody is above the law. We won’t allow the laws to be broken,” he stated.
On the other hand, the Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma, who also holds the finance portfolio presented a deficit budget of Rs. 1570 crore for 2021-22, which is around 4.07 percent of the Gross State Domestic Product.
Presenting the budget in the Assembly, Sangma informed that the state total receipt for the current fiscal, excluding borrowings, is estimated to be Rs. 15, 262 crore. However, the estimated total expenditure, excluding repayment of loans, is Rs 16, 832 crore thus leaving a deficit of Rs. 1570 crore. Sangma said that the revenue collection for this fiscal would “improve significantly” and the State would be able to mop up Rs. 2579 crore tax and Rs. 694 crore non tax revenue this fiscal.
Together with the centre’s devolution the state is expected to mobilize Rs. 3300 crore during this fiscal, the CM informed the house. Sangma lamented that due to the pandemic the tax transfers from the centre have “reduced drastically.” For the year 2020-21, the budget estimates were Rs. 5, 999 crore, while the revised estimates were Rs. 4, 207 crore, a shortfall of Rs. 1792 crore.“The projections for the devolution of taxes for 21-021-22 are, however, encouraging,” Sangma said. The 15th Finance Commission has recommended a total of Rs. 39, 012 crore for the state covering the five year award period 2021-26, he said.
This devolution has increased from 0.645 percent in the 14th Finance Commission to 0.767 percent in the 15th Finance Commission award. “For 2021-22, the share of central taxes is estimated at Rs. 5, 105 crore and the revenue gap grant is at Rs. 1279 crore,” he added.
The own tax revenue of the state for the current fiscal is expected to touch Rs. 2213 crore, which is at 11 percent jump over the previous financial year. The excise revenue for this fiscal is expected to be at an all time high of Rs. 350 crore, a jump of 27 percent over the previous fiscal.
The prospects for non-tax revenue collection remains encouraging for this fiscal and the State government is optimistic that from auction of coal the state will be able to generate Rs. 350 crore. There was a reduction of 29 percent in non-tax revenue collection in the previous financial year.
Sangma, meanwhile, has prioritized the health, education and agriculture and allied sector in his budget allocation. Out of the total budget, Sangma has earmarked Rs. 820 crore for the health sector, which is a 13 percent increase over 2020-21.
Under this budget, the allocation provision of the newly farmed state health policy will be implemented, new health infrastructure will be built, and programmes and schemes to develop the health of children and mothers will be undertaken.
For the education sector, Sangma has earmarked Rs. 980 crore in which new schools and colleges will be established and existing schools and college infrastructure will be upgraded or repaired.The agriculture and allied sector has been allocated Rs. 559 crore in this budget by Sangma. Under this budget allocation different mission mode projects such as Mushroom, Jackfruit, Lakadong turmeric and others will be promoted.
Moreover, agriculture related infrastructure will be built and fish, piggery farming and the dairy sectors will also be promoted through various mission mode projects. For development of the road and bridges in the State, Sangma allocated Rs. 1080 crore to the PWD department. Rs. 802 crore has been set aside for the PHE department. Overall, Sangma has allocated Rs. 2491 crore for the development of the infrastructure sector in the state.
During the Question Hour, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma told the House that a total of 95, 189 people have returned to the State due to COVID-19 pandemic. The Chief Minister said this while replying to a query raised by Gambegre MLA, Saleng A Sangma. Replying to the query whether the returnees have availed financial assistance under the Project Livelihood and Gainful Employment funded by the North Eastern Council, the Chief Minister informed that 502 have been approved for financial assistance under Phase-1 of the project and that applications under Phase-II are being examined by the Directorate of Commerce and Industries
To another query, Meghalaya Home Minister, Lahkmen Rymbui refuted the allegation that Khyndai Lad in the heart of Shillong has become a pick-up point of Sex Workers in the Shillong City. The Home Minister replied in the “Nagative” to the question raised by North Shillong MLA Adelbert Nongrum on the floor of the House. Dissatisfied with the one word reply, Nongrum stressed that since this issue is serious nature, the State Government should take a serious note of this. The Home Minister said the state Government is concerned and has constituted the anti-human trafficking unit and surveillance team to see
On the other hand, Minister in-charge Water Resources, Brolding Nongsiej informed the House that the department has initiated steps in taking up construction works for the protection and anti erosion measures of Umngi River along Balat, Dangar and Lalpani Vilage in East Khasi Hills district. The detailed project report has been prepared and submitted to the Central Water Commission Regional Office, Shillong for examination,” Nongsiej said in his reply to a query raised by Mawsynram legislator Himalaya M Shangpliang in the Assembly.
The state Government has targeted to commission the much-awaited Ganol Small Hydro Power Project by May next year. The status of completion of the project stands at 66.60 percent. The target for commissioning of the project after the 2014 approved cost is May, 2022,” Power Minister James K Sangma informed the Assembly on Wednesday. Replying to a query raised by Congress Rangsakona MLA, Zenith Sangma, the minister also informed that the project has been revised within the last one year. MMP