Ibobi for fresh survey, slams Govt over MU row, gives CPC tips

IMPHAL,9th July: Expressing concern over the growing unrest among the people in the wake of Myanmarese incursion into Kwatha Khunou village along with relocating the site of border pillar no 81, former chief minister and Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader MLA O Ibobi has appealed to the state government to take up initiative for conducting another survey or demarcation to sort out the issue and clear the apprehension of the people.

Addressing media persons at Congress Bhawan here on Monday during which he also elaborated on various other issues besetting the state, Ibobi said that considering the volatile situation in the state, the government should ask the ministry of external affairs and Surveyor General of India for conducting another survey with the Myanmar authority and representatives of stakeholders of the state including the villagers. People of the state do not want Myanmar’s land but to safeguard their own land, he added.

Ibobi went on point out that in response to the border issue, the ministry of external affairs has issued a clarification saying that there is no question of India conceding its territory to Myanmar. The ministry said that the recent survey with the involvement of state government representatives was conducted based on an agreement made between the two countries in 1967, which makes the issue even more sensitive, he said.

During his government, he himself and the present chief secretary Dr J Suresh Babu attended several meetings regarding Indo-Myanmar border issue both during the time of UPA and NDA rule. Following instruction of the Centre, his government initiated construction of border fencing for a distance of 10 km. However, his government requested the ministry to stop the fencing following objection from villagers and CSOs over affecting state’s land. The Congress government stood firm for the territory of the state and successfully put a halt to the fencing work, Ibobi said.

A delegation of Congress party led by himself and former deputy CM Gaikhangam went to the national capital and apprised about the ground situation to President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Rajnath Singh. In the past too, his government made it clear to the then Prime Minister that the state government cannot accept conceding even an inch of land to Myanmar, he asserted.

On the other hand, the ensuing monsoon session of the assembly, to be held from July 20 to 23 is too short for discussion on issues plaguing the state. The first day will be reserved for obituary references without discussing any agenda. The second and third day will have no sittings as they fall on Saturday and Sunday. So, only one day is left which is not enough to discuss the issues facing the state, he contended.

Though the government could say that the business advisory committee fixed the schedule since there is not much agenda. However, the bill for protection of the state’s indigenous communities is a sensitive one and the House should discuss the bill more thoroughly, Ibobi said, while adding that there is no question of opposition taking political advantage over long duration of assembly session.

It was confirmed that one of the three bills passed by the state assembly during the previous government had been sent back by the Centre. However, there is an unconfirmed report of the Centre sending back the two remaining bills with response to the state government, he said, while demanding a clarification from the present government whether it is true or not. If the report is not true, then the state government should pursue the status of the two bills with the Centre, the former CM pointed out.

Ibobi also said that the state government should take up active initiative for resolving the current impasse at the Manipur University so as to ensure smooth flow of academic calendar in the university. He also expressed concern over the possible fallout of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016.

The former CM said that the current row in Manipur University has taken an ugly turn with incident of arson. Despite such situation, the state government is remaining silent as if it does not care what burns or who lost what. Responsible representatives of the state government even gave up their hands over the matter during discussion sessions on electronic media while citing inability to intervene in matters which are under the ambit of the central government, he lamented.

Even if MU is out of the purview of the state government, giving up on the issue and letting the students suffer is not appropriate. The government could always put pressure on the Union HRD minister and Prime Minister for resolving the issue at the earliest, he maintained.

Both MU and Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) have been converted into central institutes following request of the state government to sanction recurring fund when the state was facing acute fund crunch. Despite this, the present vice-chancellor is said to be delaying appointment of vacant posts in the university. Apart from pressing the Centre, the state government can also act as a liaison to hold joint talks with the agitating bodies to find a solution, Ibobi stressed.

As both governments at the Centre and in state are led by BJP, pursuing the matter and bringing a solution to the impasse should not be a tough task. It should not be a matter of concern for the state government to urge the Centre to replace the VC with another person in the larger interest of the students, he contended.

The Congress delegation, which went to the national capital earlier met the President and apprised the issue to him. However, they could not meet the Union HRD minister despite repeated attempts. The situation is taking an ugly turn with each passing day and even heads of different departments have resigned from their posts over the issue. In such a situation, remaining silent without doing anything would only bring loss to the state and the students, he added.

At the same time, Ibobi said that the Congress delegation met chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which is likely to be passed in the upcoming monsoon session of the parliament, and registered strong objection against the bill. Besides, the delegation also met leaders of different political parties and discussed the issue, he said.

The CLP leader further said that passing the bill would be one sided as it would benefit only one religion. If passed, it will force several Islam followers to convert into Hinduism just to get citizenship in the country. At the same time, it will severely affect the north east states, especially Manipur. Though the bill will not affect the hill areas of Manipur due to the constitutional protection given under the MLR&LR Act, the valley area will become the dumping ground for non-locals including immigrants, he said while stressing the need for the government to raise strong opposition against the bill.

Assam chief minister had even threatened to resign from his post if the parliament pass the bill. Nagaland, which is protected by ILPS, also warned of intense protest. On the contrary, the Manipur government is refusing to oppose the bill stating that it will not affect the state, he exclaimed.

On the other hand, the government will face tough situation in the near future if it does not implement the 7th Central Pay Commission to its employees out of fear of a possible overdraft situation. Delaying the issue would prove regrettable for the government, he maintained while urging intellectuals, economists and experts in planning to give their opinions and suggestion in this regard.

The state government had already experienced the situation while implementing the 6th Pay Commission. So, the central government should help the state in adopting the 7th CPC. Though the government might face financial strain and it may be unable to sanction salary in time, the government could get the required additional fund in the 15th finance commission, the ex-CM explained.

Requesting for additional fund to adopt the 7th CPC is unlikely to be entertained by the Centre. However, Centre would be compelled to sanction the additional fund once the state government implements the revised pay and pursue the fund highlighting financial crisis in the state, he maintained.

Recalling his experience while adopting the 6th CPC, Ibobi said that the state government was in a situation in which it could not release salary of its employees for four months. He then tried to meet the Prime Minister and the union finance minister of the then NDA government. As all of his attempts failed, he approached Sonia Gandhi after which he along with Manmohan Singh met the then finance minister Jaswant Singh and raised a demand of Rs 150 crore assistance. On that day itself, the finance minister sanctioned Rs 120 crore, which solved the financial crisis, he confided.

Stating that a responsible government should always be ready to take risk for the welfare of its people and employees, Ibobi said that the present government should take the risk and take initiatives to adopt the revised pay.

Maintaining that his opinion is neither an instigation to the agitating employees nor a desperate attempt to take political mileage, he acknowledged that his government could adopt the same during its term. However, he did not get enough time to prepare the financial involvement due to election code of conduct even if officials of finance department had already began the calculation, he contended.

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