Tougher challenges ahead
CONTRARY to widespread speculation that the just concluded monsoon session of the Manipur Legislative Assembly might be a stormy one – both inside and outside the dome, in view of the various sensitive and contentious issues besieging the state, the two sittings passed off by and large in a cordial manner in comparison with the past sessions. Of course, there were tense showdowns between the police and agitators in different parts of the capital city on the last day of the session but the stand-off was not that menacing, at-least from the state’s context. Though the opposition Congress walked out of the assembly on the first day on the ground that having only two sittings will not be enough to discuss the numerous issues, healthy presence of both the ruling and opposition benches on Monday helped preserve the sanctity and importance of the assembly in a democratic set-up. Moreover, many of the niggling issues figuring in the house and both parties having no ambiguity on some important matters give the impression that time duration should not matter much if the legislators are keen to debate with propriety. As announced by Speaker Y Khemchand the fifth session of the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly session had two sittings, eight starred questions, three un-starred, four calling attentions, seven papers were laid, obituary references remembered the contribution of four departed members in enriching the democratic heritage, three government Bills tabled and two of them passed, one Bill referred to Select Committee of the assembly, four Committee reports presented, including the findings of the Vigilance Commission and two resolutions adopted.
While two out of the three Bills were passed by the house, the assent given to the Manipur People Bill 2018 is unlikely to go down well with certain sections of the tribal community. As the said Bill confirmed 1951 as the base year to recognise a citizen of Manipur, which is against the dissenting tribal groups’ proposal for 1971 as the cut-off year to identify a state native, the Hill Areas Committee of the assembly will now be responsible to explain the reason thereof to the tribal people if at all they are disheartened by the passage of the proposed legislation. The House also resolved to withdraw two Bills namely, the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2015 and the Manipur Shops and Establishments (Second Amendment) Bill, 2015 which were passed by the House on August 31, 2015. The House’s abstention from taking a final stand on the Manipur Liquor Prohibition (Second Amendment) Bill, 2018 but rather referring the proposed law aimed at permitting mass production of local brew for exportation was also on expected lines for there had been vocal resistance against the move. Reiteration of the earlier resolution that the territorial boundary of Manipur should not be affected in case of finalisation of the Indo-Naga peace talks was also predictable, though it is certain that as usual such a stand would be interpreted as an affront to those propagating the idea of Naga unification. Regardless of the otherwise smooth conclusion of one of the briefest sessions there is no guarantee that Manipur would be free from socio-political tension in the coming days as there are many other unsolved issues which merit collective effort and wisdom of the peoples’ representatives.