Meghalaya is at crossroads. The state’s basis administrative structure has come in for question. The multiple layers of authorities – government and traditional – are struggling for power. The tussle between the government and the district council, representative of the traditional bodies, came out in the open in the past one year. The Meghalaya High Court order curtailing powers of traditional chiefs, in absence of any legal provisions, started the entire crisis. While the state government kept silent on the order, NGOs and even Constitutional body like the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) started making open revolt. Then came the village administration bill (VAB), the Ordinance on powers of traditional chiefs, the Grassroots Bill, etc. All these controversies make it clear that the government is not eager to share much power with the district council while the latter always fall back on the Sixth Schedule to justify is demand for more power.
While the government and ADCs are almost parallel authorities, there are many other authorities under the both. The Hima, the Raid, the Dorbar, the Elaka, etc., are separate traditional authorities having separate jurisdictions all under the ADCs. On the other hand, there are village employment council, municipal bodies, town planning committees under the government. While the government authorities are well funded the grassroots traditional bodies are mostly self-funded bodies. The traditional bodies, although self-funded, had a lot of authorities till the HC order. Clash over power is not unexpected in such a system of multiple layers of authorities overlapping with each other. Besides, there are parallel authorities, making the situation more confusing. Not surprising, even the existence of the ADCs has come in for question. Meghalaya’s pioneer RTI activist has for long been demanding abolishment of the ADCs. He recently filed a PIL seeking the same.
It looks like the existence of the traditional bodies and ADCs has become a matter of prestige. While the advocators of traditional bodies argue its existence from time immemorial there is hardly any argument on whether any change is required in view of the changing scenario. Can the exchequer bear so many ‘powerful’ people, when the work can be done with much fewer folks? Will Meghalaya raise this question to itself? It’s time people understood that power is not for the person holding it, but for those for whom he is working. Answer to this question will lead to the solution of the present crisis.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on November 7, 2015)