There was no impact of Swachh Bharat Mission on the Meghalaya Secretariat. The office was as clean as it is after Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the much-hyped programme! Very few Secretariat employees need a lecture on cleanliness. But as it is a Central government scheme – and there is fund – the programme has to be held. Many such government programmes are held just because there are funds for them. Officials have no clue as to purpose they are going to serve!

All Central schemes do not have equal relevance in the north-eastern states, especially the hill states. Take the example of population stabilisation programme. As per 2011 census, population density of Assam per square km was 398, Tripura 350, Meghalaya 132, Mizoram 52 and Arunachal Pradesh 17. Does the programme need to be introduced in Arunachal Pradesh and for that matter Meghalaya? The rising cost of education of children and especially in this age of consumerism, parents are already not keen on having more children. In urban centres, many parents who are working personnel are not going beyond one child. Mizoram has the exception of Ziona Chana, who is the head of world’s biggest family with 39 wives and 94 children in a 180 member family. But this family size does not reflect on the population density of Mizoram. The state is third in terms of least population density after Arunachal and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

To address the problem of growing population, the best solution is to promote education among the underpriviledged people where we see parents having more children. Population can also be controlled by improving the health scenario. High infant mortality is one of the reasons why people earlier had bigger families. With health scenario getting better, parents can take the risk of having only a couple of children. Another pet scheme of Modi government is Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, which is being introduced in North-east as well. This scheme is highly relevant in rest of India especially the northern states like Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. But, the issue is not a priority in the North-east especially in matrilineal Meghalaya. The region is acknowledged for having high regards for women. The time has come for introduction of need-based schemes in the North-east irrespective of their relevance in the rest of the country.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on October 15, 2016)

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