Traditional bodies, it seems, made up their mind not to go by logic in the meeting with Meghalaya government. They decided not to accept the government’s ‘relaxed’ notification that ordered government employees to inform about their involvement in such organisations. It is not clear as to why they do not want to inform the government about their role in traditional bodies. Do they want to hide something from the government? On the other hand, the government although relaxed its original order that had prevented government employees from holding offices in any ‘community-based’ organisations, it remained ‘adamant’ on the rectified clause. The government, justifiably, wants information about its employees’ role in traditional bodies. However, it is too not clear as to why faith-based and clan-based organisations are exempted and not the traditional bodies. Both sides are adamant and, surely, politics is behind this hue and cry.

Traditional bodies like Dorbar Shnong headed by a Rangbah Shnong do not government intervention in their affairs since they are to be controlled by the autonomous district councils (ADCs). They are supposed to be non-political entities. However, they play a significant role in the affairs of the village, solving disputes and monitoring as well as implementing welfare schemes of the government. Thus they are a powerful body not only in matters of traditional practices but also day to day affairs. There are instances of villagers being deprived of PDS items just because of their defiance of the Dorbar or some influential people in the Dorbar. Eligibility of availing any government scheme cannot depend on such factors. Family of even the dreaded murderer is entitled to all government schemes! There are ample reports of such malpractices by Dorbar Shnongs or headmen many of whom are government employees! Then came the conflict, first of its kind, between the government and the traditional bodies over the issue of village administration bill (VAB), which is lying pending with the Union ministry of home affairs.

It was high time the government thought of striking a blow to the opposing voice. The first notification barring employees from holding office in traditional bodies met with severe criticism. Even chief minister Mukul Sangma later admitted that many of the headmen, who are also government employees, are the most eligible persons to run the traditional body. In such case, his removal will be a loss to the village. Now, the government is not asking for the moon. It only wanted information about those employees, who are also holding office traditional bodies. If the government is considered a family, it should know what each of its members do in public life. That’s not a personal secret!

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on February 12, 2016)

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