Mr Conrad said our vision totransform Meghalaya into a high-income state by 2030

Shillong, Jan 26: Meghalaya Chief Minister Mr Conrad K Sangma today address the 71st Republic Day in Polo Ground Shillong ha spell out what the government ha done and the vision that the government will do for the development of the state. The address of the Chief Minister is published as it is below.

My dear fellow citizens of Meghalaya,On the occasion of the 71st Republic Day, I convey my heart-felt greetings to all of you.

1.On this Day, we salute the values of our democracy and reaffirm our commitment to liberty, fraternity and equality among all our citizens. Let us also pay homage to the freedom fighters who fought for our country’s independence. Let us remember, with reverence, Meghalaya’s own patriots namely U Tirot Sing, U Kiang Nangbah and Pa Togan N. Sangma and many other unsung heroes. I would also like to greet the members of the Armed Forces, Paramilitary forces and the Police force on this day. We sleep safely and peacefully because you are awake.

2.The overall internal security situation during the year 2019 was peaceful.The National Days were observed in a befitting manner and all socio-cultural and religious festivals were celebrated with traditional fervor and gaiety. The militancy situation in the state is completely under control. A few militant groups have expressed their desire to come over ground for talks with the Government. The Government reiterates its stand that the doors are open for dialogue provided that the groups give up their unlawful activities.

3.The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 was passed by the Parliament exempting the 6th Schedule areas of the State. The State Government has passed a Resolution in the Special Session of the Assembly held on 19th December 2019 to implement the “Inner Line” under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 to ensure further protection and safeguard the interests of the people of the State. The matter is being pursued with the Government of India for approval.

4.My fellow citizens, we are at the start of a new year and a new decade. I want to lay out the broad vision and the plan of the government for the overall development of the State in the short, medium and long-term. Our vision 2030 is to transform Meghalaya into a high-income Indian state and to improve the well-being of every single citizen of the State. Our vision has six core pillars – Human development, Primary sector rejuvenation, Infrastructure expansion, Entrepreneurship promotion, Environmental protection and Governance reform. A lot of work has happened on each of these pillars in the last two years and we have a clear plan to move forward in the next three years. We are building on our strengths and overcoming the challenges.

5.One of our greatest strengths is our youth. 75 percent of Meghalaya’s population is below the age of 34 and 37 percent is in the age group of 15-34 years. We understand that this huge resource needs to be empowered with quality education and skills so as to realize their full potential. Accordingly, a lot of emphasis is being placed on secondary and higher education, on skill development and on entrepreneurship. In secondary education, Ekalavya Model Residential Schools (EMRS) are planned to be set up in all the blocks of the State. Eleven such schools are already sanctioned at a cost of ₹ 24 crore per school. Land has been identified for the construction of these schools and DPRs are under preparation. Many initiatives are also being planned for higher education, of particular importance is the idea of Community Colleges. These community managed institutions will provide higher education at the doorsteps of rural population with financial support from the Government.

6.We are also skilling our youth under various programs including the Asian Development Bank funded, Supporting Human Capital development in Meghalaya project. We recently implemented a unique soft skills development program called Aspire Meghalaya, wherein about 5000 youth from across the State have been trained. These soft skills improve the confidence levels and communication abilities of the youth. We are expanding this program to cover more youth this year.

7.Another targeted initiative is the Chief Minister’s Civil Services Fellows program. Under this program, comprehensive Civil services coaching is being provided at Shillong and Tura to about 200 youth annually. These youth are selected through an open competitive exam conducted across the State. Two of the Chief Ministers’ Civil Service fellows, Ferdinand Kharbudon and WankhrawKharbuli cleared the UPSC prelims last year. Our aim is that at least half a dozen of our youth should enter the All India or Central services in the next two years.

8.The largest youth focused initiative in the recent past is the Chief Minister’s E- Championship Challenge, which is again an open competition to select business ideas. About 700 youth of the State applied for the first such challenge last year from which Meghalaya’s top 100 ideas were selected. The selected E- Champions were felicitated at a grand function held on Meghalaya Day at Shillong this week. The competition showcased the Entrepreneurial spirit of our youth. We are proud of our winners like Cryspil K Sangma from West Garo Hills who started a waste management enterprise with a mere sum of Rs 500 and Badal Nyalang from East Khasi Hills who owns a social media marketing firm. Some of the E-Champions have also ventured into the IT sector and a notable name here is that of Geneva Dohling from East Khasi Hills who started a firm that aids in strategic decision-making. The Chief Minister’s E- Championship challenge will henceforth be conducted annually to identify Meghalaya’s top-100 ideas.

9.In addition to the top- 100 ideas, we also want to reach out to and support all the entrepreneurial youth of our State. Hence, we launched a comprehensive enterprise promotion program called PRIME, which stands for Promotion and Incubation of Market- Driven Enterprises. Under this program all three categories of entrepreneurs- Startup, Nano and Livelihood- will be incubated in a systematic way. Enterprise incubation centers, called PRIME Hubs will be set up in all district and block headquarters. These Hubs will be managed professionally and will be vibrant spaces for innovation and knowledge sharing.

The first Prime Hub, at JN Sports Complex, Shillong has been inaugurated this week. I dedicate the Hub to all the entrepreneurs of the State. This will be a space for our entrepreneurs to engage with mentors, investors, funders and market players. The Hub also has some co-working spaces that entrepreneurs can hire at a nominal price. Our mission is to create such spaces and connections across the State, so that a true entrepreneurial ecosystem can emerge. We are also designing a funding program to support entrepreneurs and a fund of Rs. 10 crore has been created for this purpose.

10.I believe that entrepreneurship will be the key driver of growth and employment in the coming years for our State. The sectors with the greatest natural and comparative advantages are high-value agriculture, high-end eco-tourism and new age industries like music and fashion.

11.We all know our state is blessed with diverse agro-climate zones, which enable us to grow a range of high-value agriculture, horticulture and floriculture items including Lakadong turmeric, honey, oranges, strawberries and flowers like anthuriums and chrysanthemums. Various initiatives have been taken to improve the production, productivity and marketing of these produce. The Lakadong Mission, the Jackfruit mission and the Mushroom Mission have been launched to systematically promote growth and value addition in these particular crops. To promote marketing of our products, we have launched an online platform, the ‘Megha Mart’, which will facilitate the sale and purchase of products sourced from local entrepreneurs. This version of Amazon for ‘Made in Meghalaya’ products will open up global markets to our entrepreneurs and artisans.

12.Another huge opportunity is food-processing industries. To further this agenda, the North East Food Show, 2019, a mega food processing event was organized by the State Government for the first time in December, 2019 at Shillong in partnership with the SIAL group. The event saw the participation of industry exhibitors, international trade delegations, major hotel chains, retailers and super stores under the banner of the Forum of Indian Food Importers (FIFI), Purchasing Professionals Forum of India (PPFI) and renowned chefs under the aegis of the Indian Culinary Forum (ICF). A number of new products and brands were launched and made their debut in the show like vegan meat and locally made fruit wines. Sales and agreements worth about Rs. 24 Crore were signed during the event. This event has put Meghalaya on the world culinary map. We will continue this momentum and make food tourism and food processing part of the agri-horticulture agenda.

13.In addition to the focused missions and food processing, we are taking several initiatives to improve the wellbeing of our farmers, who are our livelihood entrepreneurs. About 61,000 farmers have received the 1st installment of Income Support Assistance of Rs 6000 per year from the central sector scheme Pradhan Mantri KisanSamman Nidhi
(PM KISAN) during 2019, through Direct Benefit Transfer. Farmer’s Parliaments were conducted at Shillong and Tura to place the voices and views of our Farmers at the centre of new agricultural initiatives. These fora saw the active participation of about 1000 farmers. Another significant milestone for our farmers is the laying of the foundation stone of an Integrated Beekeeping Development Centre (IBDC) in North Garo Hills. An amount of ₹ 10 crore will be invested in the construction of the center.

14. Meghalaya is blessed with diverse and unique natural and cultural endowments, which can be capitalized upon to make the State the most sought-after high-value tourism destination in the country. Tourism provides the opportunity to create meaningful jobs for our youths in their own villages and towns. Good quality infrastructure needs to be created to promote high-value tourism. Log huts are planned to be constructed at Shnongpdeng and at the Nokrek biosphere reserve with support from the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. These infrastructures will be made into carbon neutral resorts. Log huts constructed at Umiam and Mawdiangdiang under Swadesh-1 scheme are ready to be operationalized. In order to promote ecotourism and adventure tourism, additional infrastructure at a cost of ₹ 85 crore are being set up under the Swadesh-2 scheme. Hiking tracks, eco-trails, public conveniences, wayside amenities and adventure sports infrastructures are being created at West Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills and Garo Hills. Infrastructure of ₹ 32 crore will be created under the Prasad scheme at Sohra, Nartiang, Jowai and Charantola. Small scale village homestays and tourism amenities are being constructed by Tourism Cooperatives at the villages of Phlangwanbroi, Mawmluh, Laitiam, Mawten and Mendipathar.

15.Friends, recently our State was identified as the “Favourite emerging destination in India” at the CondeNast Traveller Readers’ Award 2019.We realise the potential that the Tourism sector holds and the need for exponential investments in the sector. Accordingly, we designed and got the approval for an externally aided project for development of Experiential Eco Tourism. Under this project, tourism circuits and destinations will be developed in collaboration with the local communities and keeping in mind the carrying capacity of the locations. Master planning for some of the most important tourism destinations like Umiam lake, Nokrek Biosphere reserve and Umgot river front have already begun. We will be organizing two large iconic tourism promotion events this year with a goal to put Meghalaya on the high-end tourism map.

Further, superior quality publicity material on the various facets of our beautiful State is also under development. Feasibility studies for setting up of Tourism ropeways at Upper Shillong, Umiam and at Tura peak are ready and we will have these ropeways operational by 2022. We are designing new schemes for the development of homestays and deployment of tourist taxis. The new tourism policy for the state is being drafted and will be put up in the public domain soon. The Shillong Heritage Walk was recently inaugurated to promote the history and architecture of our celebrated capital. In our aim to make Shillong an iconic tourist spot, we are redeveloping central locations of the city like Barik point and Police Bazaar. A very high quality and aesthetic sound and light show facility is being installed at Wards Lake.

16.Another critical step for the promotion of high- value tourism is to start direct flights between Delhi and Shillong. We have initiated the process for this and I am hopeful that we can fly directly from Delhi to Umroi in the month of March this year. I am very optimistic that with all these interventions, Tourism sector will finally reach its full potential in the State and become the true driver of growth.

17.A third area where our state has a natural advantage is new age industries like Music and Fashion. We all know that our State has abundant talent in these sectors. We now need to create industries in these sectors, so that the available talent can reach its fullest potential and contribute to the growth of the State. In the recently held Meghalaya Entrepreneurship and Startup Summit, we placed special emphasis on building a music industry in the State through connecting music entrepreneurs from other parts of the country to the State. We have now created a task force to work on this specific issue and I am hopeful that we will make progress in this area in the coming months.

18.Friends, provision of good quality primary education and healthcare is fundamental to all other developmental efforts. A new initiative in primary education is the National Initiative for School Heads and Teachers’ Holistic Advancement, the NISHTHA program that aims at improving the quality of school education through Integrated teacher training. Under this program, 23,000 teachers at Elementary level will be trained across all districts and blocks.

19.We also realise the need for incorporation of technology to improve the performance in our schools. A program called Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing, DIKSHA has been launched recently. Under this program, Energized Textbooks for Classes IX and X in Science and Mathematics have been developed. Very soon, textbooks for classes I – VIII will also be energized. These energized textbooks provide easy access to digital content by scanning QR Codes. QR Codes have been placed at the chapter, topic or hard spot level.

20.Dear Citizens, you will recollect that I launched a new program called the Meghalaya’s Outcomes oriented Transformation in Health, nutrition, Education and Rural development or the MOTHER program last year. The goal of this program was to improve our indicators in Infant Mortality, Maternal Mortality, Institutional Deliveries, nutrition and economic empowerment of women. To improve Maternal and child health indicators, primary data on pregnant women is collected by the Medical Officers and Health functionaries through a mobile app. This data is updated regularly and can be seen in Shillong by me and other health officials. Each pregnant woman can be tracked and on any given day, the number of women due for delivery can be seen on the Chief Minister’s Dashboard. Using this information, targeted support can be provided to mothers. This program is now being implemented across Meghalaya. Data has been collected on 5,617 pregnant women from 1,556 villages in the last two months. The government is now able to monitor and ensure that the pregnant women are able to get the best medical care during their pregnancy and that deliveries happen at institutions. In the next few months, we plan to get the complete data of all pregnant women on the system, so that we can provide good quality pre and post-natal care to every mother in the State.

21. Another significant initiative focussing on women and their empowerment is the National Rural Livelihoods Mission. Our vision under the program is to alleviate poverty in the rural areas by identifying the poor and vulnerable, empowering them and providing them livelihood opportunities. We have been able to reach out to around 2 lakh women and organise them in around 17,000 Self Help Groups across 3,500 villages of the state. The Government is targeting to reach out to all the remaining villages and women by the end of 2021.

22. I am happy that the network of Self-Help groups and Village Organizations has provided a platform for 2 lakh women to meet on a weekly basis and discuss wide ranging issues such as immunisation, savings, children’s education and other relevant social issues. This massive mobilization of women is making its impact felt. For example, Krimkro village organisation, from Edinbari village, Rongram Block recently organised a rally raising awareness on the ill effects of consumption of liquor. Women of the Village organisation conduct night patrolling to curb gambling and consumption of alcohol in the village vicinity.

23. Self Help Groups are serving as banks at the village level providing the much-needed small scale credit at the grassroots. Through the Self Help Group movement, women have come together to make regular savings ranging from ₹ 10 to ₹ 300 per week. An amount of ₹ 11 crore has been mobilized as saving from the groups in the state. In addition to savings, the Self HelpGroup Movement has empowered about 6000 women to enroll in Social Security Schemes, thus providing them and their near ones the much needed support during crisis. For instance, when SmtiRoshinaLynkoi a member of Kyntiewlang SHG from Mawkyrwat Block passed away, her daughter SmtiAirismeryLynkoi was able to claim insurance under the PMMJJBY scheme and received an amount of ₹ 2 lakh. The daughter was able to bear the cost of the medical treatment, repay loan taken by her mother and managed to save a portion of the money received from the insurance claim.

24. Friends, I now want to move from social to physical infrastructure and highlight some of the key achievements and the government’s plans. In the roads sector, Meghalaya received a huge quantum of sanctions amounting to Rs. 1729 crore during 2018-19 and 2019-20 under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY). We are making every effort to implement the program and to connect as many habitations as possible. State Highways and Major District roads are being prioritized under the World Bank funded Meghalaya Integrated Transport Project. The DPRs for about 300 kilometers of these roads and critical bridges, costing ₹ 500 crore are ready and the works will begin soon. Critical roads like Pasysih-Garampani road, Shillong- Diengpasoh road, Bajengdoba-Resubelpura-Mendipahar- Damra road and Agia- Mendipahar- Phulbari- Tura road are being upgraded in accordance with the best global quality and safety standards. Another important component of the project is the construction and upgradation of roads connecting Tourist spots. DPRs are being prepared for about 100 kms of such roads.

25. In the water supply sector, the progress of work under the Greater Sohra water supply scheme, costing about ₹ 25 crore and the Tura water supply scheme, costing ₹ 35 crore is encouraging. Both these projects are funded under the North Eastern Special Infrastructure Development Scheme (NESIDS). We have recently posed the Greater Baghmara Water Supply Scheme and the greater Sohiong Water Supply Scheme to the Ministry for the Development of the North Eastern Region.

26.Several initiatives are being taken up in the power sector. A significant one is the plan to install 1,80,000 smart electricity meters in the State. This includes establishment of fully functional modern smart meters based on Advanced Metering Infrastructure technology with real time connectivity to a central data centre. This will result in more efficient utilisation of power and reduce Aggregate Technical and Commercial losses. The Project is being funded by the Asian Development Bank and work is expected to start very soon. The board of MeECL has recently approved the installation of another 1,00,000 smart meters on PPP mode. We are also strongly promoting renewable energy – a project for putting up solar panels in various Government buildings across the State at a cost of ₹ 15 crore is approved.

27.Other prestigious infrastructure projects like construction of the IT park and the State Assembly Building at New Shillong are progressing well. We expect the IT park to be completed by the end of this calendar year and the Assembly building to be ready by 2022.

28.My dear fellow citizens, I now want to speak at some length on the most important challenge facing us- sustainable use and management of our natural resources. We all know that climate change and environmental degradation is the top challenge facing mankind as a whole. The vulnerability to climate change is more acute in fragile ecosystems like Meghalaya. The ill effects of deforestation, shorter jhum cultivation cycles and unscientific use of available water resources are becoming visible in different ways across the State. Despite receiving some of the highest rainfall in the world, large parts of the State suffer from water scarcity during the lean seasons. Grappling with this problem requires concerted efforts by government and citizens.

29. My Government has rolled out several initiatives with Natural Resource Management as the central agenda. Last year, the state spent ₹358 crore on natural resources and water related interventions through the MGNREGA scheme. This accounts for 35% of the total budget under MGNREGA. A total of 54,257 land and water related projects were implemented across the stateunder MGNREGA.

30.In addition to using MGNREGA resources, the State is collaborating with multilateral agencies such as the IFAD, World Bank, JICA and KFW to work on the Natural Resources Management Agenda. These agencies not only provide funding support, but also the much-needed technical expertise to manage our fragile resources in the best possible way. The Meghalaya Livelihood and Access to Markets Project or Megha-LAMP project which is partly funded by IFAD is implementing Natural Resource Management interventions across 1,350 villages in the state. Approximately ₹ 55 crore have been invested in the various natural resource management activities under the project in just the last nine months. What delights me is the fact that in addition to funds from the project, the community also contributed ₹ 4 crore towards the various Natural Resources Management interventions.

31.A second project focussed on Natural Resources Management is the Community Led Landscape Management Project or CLLMP, which is funded by the World Bank. This project is targeted at 400 of the most degraded landscapes in the state and we are working towards reclaiming these landscapes for productive use. Two more projects focussing on community-based forest management and protection of vulnerable catchment areas will be rolled out soon. Through all these projects, we are making focussed Natural Resource Management Interventions in about 2500 villages.

32. Meghalaya has also become the first State in the country to formulate the State Water Policy for better management of water resources and ensuring long term water security and equity. Further, we launched a massive One Citizen One Tree campaign to increase the tree cover in the State by encouraging every citizen to plant and adopt one tree each. In a span of one month, the people of the state rallied together and planted more than one million trees, which is a laudable achievement. However, the journey does not end there. I urge all citizens to take responsibility to provide care for the trees that they planted.

33.Friends, climate change and sustained natural resource management are complex problems and governments have a big role to play in working towards solutions. However, small individual actions can make a huge impact. For instance, I use solar energy at my house and we are trying to make the CM’s residence a net-positive energy building, meaning that I generate more power than I consume. Similar actions like banning of single use plastic bottles at Government offices and at Pinewood hotel have been done. I believe each one of us has a responsibility to take up such small, but very significant, individual actions so that this complex problem can be addressed. For example, each one of us, at an individual level, can reduce the utilization of single-use plastic, and start using water and other resources more judiciously. By taking small steps we can truly enable sustainable and equitable development for all.

34. I will now move from the power of individual actions to the importance of networks. We live in a deeply interconnected world and it is imperative that we connect and partner with individuals, organizations, states and countries, if Meghalaya is to move into an exponential growth trajectory. Keeping this in mind, my government has been forming partnerships with various entities in different sectors. I already highlighted the partnerships being built with multilateral funding institutions like IFAD, ADB, JICA and the World Bank. In addition, the state has also entered into knowledge partnerships with University of California, Berkeley to build smart villages, Airbnb to work on Tourism promotion, IIM-Kolkata and the Global Alliance for Mass Entrepreneurship to support the PRIME program and Center for Policy Research, New Delhi to support in driving research around our programs and policies. I have also proposed the idea of sister-state partnerships between Indian states to the Hon’ble PM, so that States can learn and benefit from each other’s experiences. We are working towards building such sister-state partnerships with some larger Indian states this year.

35. As part of this agenda of forging partnerships and making connections, a large delegation from our State visited Bangladesh in November last year. I led the delegation that comprised of three of my cabinet colleagues, senior officials, entrepreneurs and tour operators. The objective of this visit was to strengthen our partnership with Bangladesh in the areas of border trade, agriculture, Tourism and people-to-people connections. We travelled 1300 km by road entering Bangladesh at Dawki/ Tamabil and exiting at Dalu/ Nakugaon. We had very important meetings with government, industry leaders, entrepreneurs, academia and tour operators at both Sylhet and Dhaka. MoUs for cooperation were signed between the tour operators of Meghalaya and Bangladesh. I also had a very positive meeting with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

36.Following up on the visit and to further deepen our relationship with Bangladesh, we are taking steps to improve the infrastructure at the entry and exit points, border haats and land custom stations so that the movement of people and goods can be streamlined. Steps are being taken for improvement of facilities at the Immigration Office at Dawki on the Indian side. In the agriculture sector, we are exploring the possibility of Cassava plantation in Garo Hills which has an export market in Bangladesh. We are also in touch with Bangladesh’s top food processing firms like Pran and studying opportunities for collaboration. We are working on ways to start a regular direct bus service from Shillong to Sylhet so that we can tap into the strong international air connectivity that Sylhet has.

37. Friends, I want to conclude by speaking about something that is very dear to all of us- Sports. I want to complement athletes of the State, for excelling in the sports arena and making all of us proud in the last year. In September 2019, Hopewell Elias Secondary School won the prestigious Diamond Jubilee Subroto Cup International Tournament played in New Delhi by defeating a team from Bangladesh. Our athletes, Skhemlang Suba, Primus Ronghi and MarsoKyndait won medals in the 31st East Zone Junior Athletic Meet held at Jharkhand during September and brought laurels to the State. I would also like to congratulate WandahunshishaMawblki who won the Gold Medal in the girls’ cadet 54kg category at the 5th South Asian Karate Championship during November 2019. I have started a program for honouring and celebrating one sports person and one musician every month from April 2020.

38. We are all well aware that Meghalaya has been selected to host the 39th National games in 2022. I want to update you about the preparedness of the State to host this mega- event. The National Games will be held at Shillong and Tura. The competition venues for the different sports have been finalised in consultation with the various sports Associations and the Meghalaya State Olympic Association. Land has been finalized and earmarked for development of sports and ancillary infrastructure. Consultants are in place for the development of stadium designs and plans. For the main stadium at Umsawli to be constructed by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, ₹ 200 crore has been cleared by Expenditure Finance Committee and the final clearance of the Union Cabinet is awaited. ₹ 125 crore has been sanctioned by the Ministry of Minority Affairs for creation of sports infrastructure at West Garo Hills. Another ₹ 20 crore has been sanctioned by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs for construction of Indoor Stadium at Shillong. In total, we have got commitments for investments of upto₹ 440 crore for building National Games infrastructure. We will start the process of construction in the next three months. I can assure all of you that this Government is fully prepared to host an impressive National Games in 2022, that will make all of us proud.

39.Finally, I would also like to congratulate the recipients of the Meghalaya Day awards for this year- Shri Pradip Kurbah, Shri Dominic MegamSangma, Bro Jose Joseph Kolangauil and Shri TlandingWahlang.

40.In conclusion, I want to appeal to all the citizens to collaborate with the Government in working on our ambitious development agenda. Let us all rededicate ourselves to the values and principles enshrined in our constitution. Let us redouble our efforts to achieve greatness for ourselves, for our communities, for our State and for our country.

KHUBLEI : : : JAI HIND : : : MITHELA

 

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