Foothill road in progress, Pochury’s district demand genuine — Neiphiu Rio
Kohima, March 21 (EMN): Nagaland Chief Minister on Monday said that the foothill road, which had taken a back seat due to fund constraints and border issue, is now progressing and the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) has been roped in for operation.
He said this in his concluding remark on the motion of thanks to the Governor’s Address on day two of the 11th session of the 13th Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA).
The state government had earlier appealed to the Centre to declare the road as national highway but such a move required approval from the prime minister as the national highway declaration was moved out from the MoRTH.
Giving further updates, he said that the foothill road is in progress with the NHIDCL having started the survey. This road, starting from Tizit-Dimapur-Khelma, Silchar, is a rice bowl, mineral-rich and therefore is an important road, he added.
On the Doyang Bridge, he informed that it is nearing completion and is expected to be completed before the monsoon. And the other areas, the tender and work order has been issued, he said while directing for completing the earth cutting before monsoon.
The chief minister assured that the road would definitely be taken up and funds would be given by taking from any agency to make it pliable even if the Centre delays in releasing fund.
But despite giving fund for the bridge and for the road, tendering process had just completed and the working season is getting over, he lamented. ‘But now, it is moving at a fast pace,’ he added.
New district demand
In regard to creation of new districts, the state government had constituted a committee headed by Commissioner of Nagaland, and based on their recommendations four new districts — Chümoukedima, Niuland, Tseminyu, and Shamator – were created, it was informed.
‘Nagaland is a political state because it is born out of political dialogue and political settlement. It is a tribal state and therefore when the state is constituted from the beginning, the desire of the people is to have a district of the composite compact tribe areas dominated. For the smaller district, government made two or more tribes signed that they will co-operate and stay together in a district. The principle of the government is not to divide a tribal district that is compact, that is why some were not given a separate district,’ Rio explained.
Unfortunately, Pochury tribe that deserves a separate district was left out.
‘We understand their situation and their demands are genuine,’ he acknowledged while assuring support once the delimitation is completed.
Citing the committee’s findings, he informed that under Meluri constituency, the total number of voters is 19,202 with Pochury tribe alone accounting for 13,466 votes. ‘Moreover, the population is about 30,000. If delimitation comes, they should have a separate district and justice can be done to the people,’ Rio stated while requesting them to have patience.
On inter-state boundary disputes, the chief minister informed that there were positive developments with Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur, and that the states were coming to a “good understanding”.
‘Besides that, Nagaland and Assam had also discussed on oil and natural gas exploration. The issue of petroleum exploration and share of royalty were discussed with the Minister of Oil and Petroleum Gas last year,’ he informed while expressing hope that the matter takes off gradually.
Rio further said that the border dispute between Assam and Nagaland, which is pending in the Supreme Court, has been communicated. In a discussion, both sides had decided to settle the matter outside the court with “mutual understanding”.
It had decided that stakeholders on both sides — indigenous local leaders — should sit on the matter and not a third person who do not know about the issue, he informed while adding that the matter would be pursued.
Regarding the bandh imposed by the Southern Angamis, he expressed hope that leaders come together and resolve the matter.
On the urban local bodies (ULBs) election with 33% reservation for women, Rio informed that intensive electoral roll update would be initiated before the polls. While informing that the government has identified 29 towns, he suggested that smaller towns can come under rural local bodies and avail VDB funds like in Manipur state.
He also informed that the state government is trying to complete the ongoing hydro-power projects and planning to take up new projects. He also assured to discuss and address the criteria to become a VDB secretary.
More fund for DUDA
The CM said that budget for the Department of Under Developed Areas (DUDA) had been reduced for some time due to financial crunch but the government would allot more fund this year and try to construct some hostels for students from ENPO area.
Teachers on contract basis
Regarding higher education teachers, who are on contract basis, he said the matter is of great concern, adding that ‘without qualified teachers, students cannot get quality education’. Government was mulling regularisation of their services but the NSF and activists took the matter to the court, which banned such move, he informed while saying that the government would try to address the issue.
He went on to say that the discussion on Governor’s Address was “very cordial”. He added that all suggestions and comments have been taken note of.
Two bills introduced on floor of the house
Two bills – the Nagaland Groundwater (Regulation and Control of Development and Management) Bill, 2020 and Nagaland Village and Tribal Councils (Fifth Amendment) Bill, 2022 — were introduced on the floor of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA) on the second day of the 11th session.
The Speaker of NLA, Sharingain Longumer, announced that the two bills would be taken up on March 22 before passing it.
Minister of Geology and Mining and Soil and Water Conservation, V Kashiho Sangtam stated that the main objective of the proposed bill is to regulate, control of development and management of groundwater resources in the state, citing private groundwater drilling agencies carrying out groundwater abstraction without proper knowledge and understanding of the groundwater regime in the state.
Under the bill, the authority will maintain data base on groundwater, grant permit to extract and use of groundwater. It will have registration of existing users of groundwater in notified areas, registration of user of existing/new wells in non-notified areas, registration of drilling agencies. They will have the power to amend or vary the terms of the permit or certificate or registration, cancel of permit and certificate of registration.
Every user of groundwater in a notified area will pay to the state government a royalty for extraction of groundwater at such rates and in such manner as prescribed.
It went on to state that defaulters of the bill will be punished with imprisonment, fine or both.
Nagaland Village and Tribal Councils Bill
Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio introduced the Nagaland Village and Tribal Councils (Fifth Amendment) Bill, 2022 which seeks to amend the Nagaland Village and Tribal Councils Act, 1978 and to be extended to the whole of Nagaland.
The bill pointed out the need to change the qualification criteria for becoming a member of a village council to check the possibility of non-indigenous persons and non permanent residents becoming a member, tenure of the councils and several others.