SHILLONG, Jun 27: Former legislator and working president of the United Democratic Party (UDP), Paul Lyngdoh on Wednesday questioned the agenda of organisations coming from outside the state and making statements on the issue of Sweeper’s Colony at Them Ïew Mawlong.
Speaking to media persons after meeting deputy chief minister and chairman of the High Level Committee (HLC) Prestone Tynsong, he said, “There is nothing communal over this issue it is an issue of ownership (of land).”
According to Lyngdoh, the land in question at Them Ïew Mawlong belongs to the Shillong Municipal Board and not to the residents there.
The UDP working president also said that the residents living in the Them Ïew Mawlong are taking advantage just because they are from mainland India.
“Just because of their reach with the national media they are turning the indigenous population into villains in this whole episode,” Lyngdoh said.
Meanwhile, in the letter to Tynsong, the UDP working president said that the controversy arising out of the Sweepers’ Lane land issue continues to defy solution even after several years.
In the letter to the deputy chief minister, Lyngdoh pointed out that the municipal authorities are supposed to exercise control over the plot of land measuring around 34000 square feet and the sweepers have been allotted quarters to house them during their service period with the Shillong Municipal Board.
“The question of allotment of any plot or dwelling unit to nay servant of the board on a permanent basis simply does not arise as it goes against well-established parameters of any government board and institution,” he stated in the letter.
“Allotment to persons other than employees of the board and their immediate families is illegal and violative of allotment guidelines,” Lyngdoh added.
Lyngdoh who once held the Urban Affairs portfolio in the Meghalaya government informed that in 2006, attempts to conduct a detailed census of the residents of the lane failed to make much headway due to non-cooperation from their end.
He also pointed out that subsequent allotment of quarters to some employees at the Bivar Road Complex got enmeshed in legal hurdles and petitions were filed individually and collectively against the Shillong Municipal Board and the state government, rendering the matter sub judice. He also said that petitions were also filed before the National Commission for Minorities.
Meanwhile, on the issue of land falling under the jurisdiction of the Syiem of Mylliem, Lynggdoh urged the High Level Committee to delve further to find out how plots have been leased and pattas and permissions granted without the knowledge and approval of competent authorities.
“…more so in the light of the Land Transfer Act (as amended till date) and inspite of the Government having announced the launch of projects meant to decongest the city like the road-cum-flyover project from Rap’s Mansion to Sweepers’ Lane and the multi-level parking lot at Sweepers’ Lane,” Lyngdoh said.
He also said that as Urban Affairs Minister he had made an effort decongest the Sweepers’ Lane and substantial progress was made on the road-cum-flyover project.
“In trying to work out a feasible solution aimed at decongesting the busy Ïew Mawlong area, the state government met with resistance from several quarters,” Lyngdoh.
Lyngdoh informed that the project involved land acquisition in two parts. The first part is the land measuring 7.917 acres of vacant land of Shillong Cantonment, for which Lyngdoh, then in his capacity as the state’s Urban Affairs Minister met the Union Defence Minister as well as the Union Minister for Urban Development.
“The second part is revenue land measuring approximately 3760.30 square kilometers which was leased to certain individuals, J Goenka, B Goenka, M Nongkynrih and the High Court Bar Association,” Lyngdoh said.
He also said that as per estimates received from the Deputy Commissioner, East Khasi Hills, the cost of acquisition of cantonment land at that point of time (2004-2006) was Rs 18, 88, 54, 268. However, Lyngdoh said that in subsequent discussions, the Defence authorities made it amply clear that they would not accept monetary compensation but would opt for exchange of land of equal value as per government of India norms.
“In this regard, a letter addressed to the Union Defence Minister date 4th December 2009 indicated that the state government had done due diligence but there was resistance and opposition from certain quarters,” Lyngdoh stated.
The opposition to the land swap at Umbir village was lead by then Congress MLA from Umroi Stanly Wiss Rymbai.
Lyngdoh also particularly mentioned that one Harcharan Singh Josh, Member, national Commission for Minorities petitioned to the then Union Minister for Tribal Affairs, Patty Ripple Kyndiah against any possible eviction of the residents due to the road-cum-flyover project.
The UDP working president in the letter to Tynsong also suggested that the High Level Committee should revive the road-cum-flyover and multi-level parking projects in the interest of permanently freeing this “vital economic hub of human habitation and optimising its latent potential.”
Lyngdoh also said that in view of repeated references to the area as “Punjabi Lane”. “Harijan Colony” and other such misleading names, the General Administration Department should retain the orginal name of Them Ïew Mawlong (Sweepers’ Lane) through a notification.