Shillong: Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma on Friday said that the biggest hurdles that the Autonomous District Councils in the State is the issue of funds and central funding.
“The main important challenge the council face is fund crunch. In Article 280, Panchayati Raj, Municipality Board has provision for funding but District Councils do not receive funds through the Finance Commission devolution,” he said addressing the Outreach and Familiarization programme for Local Bodies of Meghalaya and the other North-Eastern States organized by the Parliamentary Research & Training Institute of Democracies (PRIDE), Lok Sabha Secretariat and the District Council Affairs, Government of Meghalaya.
Citing the example of the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC)the Chief Minister stressed, “The GHADC’s expenditure is more than the revenue it generates and this is because ADCs do not get much support from the central government and the Finance Commission.
Because of this, District Councils appear to be failing but if they are not getting the financial support and without financial inclusion, the performance of their duties is hampered”.
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla also attended the programme and highlighted the importance of local bodies such as the Autonomous District Councils and efforts made in order to strengthen the same.
On the importance of the Autonomous District Council, the Chief Minister said, “The importance of the District Councils remain in its ability to protect the tribes of the North East and therefore, we must make an effort to recognize its role, take it forward, uplift it and protect their traditions and cultures.”
Under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, Meghalaya has three Autonomous District Councils in Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills and Garo Hills.
Touching upon he absence of the Anti Defection Law or the Tenth Schedule in the District Councils, the Chief Minister said, “Because of the absence of the Tenth Schedule or the Anti Defection Law in District Councils, there is political instability. There is a lot of movement and instability in grassroot politics, therefore, it is very important.”
On the ‘Sixth Schedule Amendment Bill’, Sangma stated, “I am happy that we were given the chance to submit our views and opinions on the ‘Sixth Schedule Amendment Bill’, sent through the Select Committee. Through the views and opinions of all the District Councils we can move towards amending this I am happy that we were given the chance to submit our views and opinions on the Bill to strengthen the District Councils”.
On the relevance of District Councils today, the Chief Minister positively stated, “Many individuals have questioned if the District Council has failed, or if the purpose of its existence is irrelevant or if
it is performing its objective. Individuals draw their conclusions seeing things on the surface, seeing the management and functioning of the District Council but I would like to say that the purpose of setting up the District Councils has been accomplished. They have managed to protect the identity of the tribal population through the ADCs and I believe in the coming years, we must strengthen them”.