The Meghalaya Cabinet has decided to relocate "illegal settlers" of Punjabi Lane in Them Lew Mawlong area in Shillong based on the recommendation of the High Level Committee (HLC).
Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said that the HLC has recommended the Urban Affairs department to find a suitable location for relocation of people who reside in the area as those serving with the state government will be relocated to the official quarters of the concerned departments.
"The Urban Affairs department has been asked to come up with a proposal and present it to the cabinet and after examining all those aspects... the government will take a call on that," Sangma, who chaired the cabinet meeting on Thursday told journalists.
He tweeted about the meeting and gave the updates in a thread,
Cabinet met today to discuss the recommendations of the High Level Committee on the Sweepers’ Colony issue. Following are the recommendations by the committee & the way forward: pic.twitter.com/NU9ZkE95cO— Conrad Sangma (@SangmaConrad) October 7, 2021
Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong headed HLC had on September 28 submitted a recommendation to the state government to shift the employees of the Shillong Municipal Board (SMB) and other departments from the disputed area in the city where illegal settlers have also made it their home.
Constituted to find a feasible solution for the relocation of the Sweeper’s Colony from Them Iew Mawlong following the 2018 violent protest at Motphran in 2018, the HLC made a detailed presentation to the cabinet on the matter.
According to the chief minister, there were three main recommendations regarding the ownership of the land at Them Iew Mawlong, shifting of the employees of the SMB, other departments and relocation of “illegal settlers”.
On the recommendation related to ownership of land, Sangma said that the process of signing an agreement and taking possession of the land by the state government and the SMB from the Syiem of Hima Mylliem has already started.
"A tripartite agreement (between the Syiem of Hima Mylliem, Urban Affairs and the SMB) has been signed and the final procedure to actually take over the possession of the entire land is in process and it should be completed within a week’s time," he said.
The chief minister said that the HLC has also recommended the process of shifting the SMB office from the Bishop Cotton road which is the location where different quarters were made, to a temporary location at the old MBDA office.
He added that another suggestion was to facilitate the movement of the permanent SMB employees who are staying in the Sweeper’s Colony right now to the official quarters built for the purpose.
On the request for shifting employees of other departments, Sangma, however, said there are close to about 57 families and of these 50 per cent have already moved out from Sweeper’s Colony and gone to different locations.
"The committee has also recommended that we should further request the others also to shift from Sweepers’ Colony and go to designated locations which their parent departments will give," he said.
Earlier, the inventory report submitted by the Shillong Municipal Board had stated that a total of 184 employees and their families have been identified as legal settlers. These include families of 128 employees of the SMB and 56 others who are working in the different government departments.
The Harijan Panchayat Committee (HPC), claiming to be working for the benefit of the residents, has expressed opposition to relocating the residents from the area.
On April 10, the Meghalaya High Court in its order had asked both the state government and the Harijan Panchayat Committee (HPC) to maintain status-quo with regards to the Sweeper Colony issue.
The chief minister, however, said the state government will challenge the order. “If there is a status quo that has been ordered by the high court then we will definitely challenge that status quo order,” he said.
Stating that resolving a long pending issue such as the Sweeper’s Colony will take time, Sangma said, "It is a problem that has been there for a very long time so definitely everything takes time."
"What is important for us to realise is that this is the first time that the government has actually taken this matter seriously, we are actually moving on this and we are trying to find an amicable solution so that we can find a way which we can settle this issue for once, so it is not very simple, not very easy, otherwise it would have been done long time back. It is a complicated procedure but whatever the case may be, you are seeing that steps will be taken," he added.
(With PTI Inputs)