A global financial institution has been dragged into Meghalaya’s controversial maiden municipal polls.
Social and students’ organizations in Meghalaya want the Congress-led coalition government to scrap the civic polls slated for October 29. They say the elections are an infringement upon and insult to the traditional institutions and tribal councils that play a similar role.
Meghalaya is divided into councils specific to each of the three principal matrilineal tribes – Garos, Khasis and Jaintias.
According to chief minister Mukul Sangma, the civic polls are a necessity for availing funds from the Asian Development Bank for urban facelift. Meghalaya is in queue for a $ 200 million from ADB under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.
“The polls will translate into better civic amenities,” he said.
But those against the polls sniff a possibly international design to rob the indigenous peoples of their rights.
“An elected body is mandatory for loans to be provided by ADB,” Agnes Kharshiing, president of Civil Society Women’s Organization, told HT from Shillong. “But why force the civic polls when we already have traditional bodies and councils that are democratically elected?”
In a letter to Manila-based ADB president Haruhiko Kuroda, Kharshiing has asked the global funding major to come clear on its connection with the civic polls. “The ADB claims that its transactions are linked to corruption-free governance and rights of indigenous communities. Graft-prone Meghalaya does not fit the bill.”
Organizations such as Garo Students’ Union said the government and the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region misled ADB with vague borrowed Acts to convince ADB. “Customary land laws and an Act restraining land transfer were blanked out in the proposal to get the funds,” a student leader said.