Respected Prime Minister, Hon’ble Home Minister, my esteemed colleagues from other states and senior officers of the Central and State Governments.
I am indeed happy to take part in this 11thmeeting of the Inter-State Council. In his first address to the Governing Council of NITI Aayog, Hon’ble Prime Minister emphasized on forging a model of co-operative and competitive federalism and charting out a common course to progress and prosperity. The Inter-State Council should, I believe, provide an effective national level forum to help realise the Prime Minister's great vision. As expected by him, Mizoram will no doubt make sincere efforts to fulfil their role in promoting shared national objectives. However, the Centre may extend all the needed assistance, particularly to the backward hill states in the North East, to enable them to discharge their responsibilities properly and adequately.
I would now like to express our views on the important subjects of discussion in today’s meeting.
(i) Punchhi Commission’s Recommendations:
State Govt’s views on most of the Commission’s 273 recommendations have been communicated. However, we agree to the suggestion in the agenda note that, as was done in the case of Sarkaria commission, the recommendations of Punchhi Commission may first be discussed in the Standing Committee of Inter-State council and, based on its report, the Council would take appropriate decisions.
(ii) Adhar as identifier of beneficiaries:
The Centre’s proposal to use Adhar number to identify the targeted beneficiaries for providing various services and concessions by the Government is well taken. Such, a procedure will ensure uniformity and, more importantly, transparency in the service delivery process. However, care has to be taken to see that only genuine residents get an Aadhar number and people of doubtful citizenship, particularly in the North Eastern States, cannot take advantage of the system through dubious means. In my State issuance of Aadhar Card has been slow. A large number of people, particularly in the remote areas are yet to get the card. In their case we shall have to take recourse to the proviso to Section 7 of the Aadhar (Targeted Delivery of financial and other subsidies and Services) Act, 2016. Constraints of terrain and geography and lack of adequate connectivity are partly responsible for slow progress, but the main reason is the lethargy on the part of agencies engaged by the Central Govt. The biggest bottleneck in implemental DBT of course is the poor mobile/internet connectivity and lack of banking infrastructure in the villages, that needs to be addressed on priority.
(iii) Improving Quality of Education:
The existing system of education is not in consonance with the social reality and is grossly unrelated to developmental needs. Institutions at various levels roll out youths who find it difficult to cope with the grim reality of highly competitive world of employment. Nor are they prepared with the needed skills to be self-employed. What is needed urgently is a total systemic change.
For the purpose of qualitative improvement the educational system as a whole should be treated as a seamless one from E to U i.e. Elementary to University. Programme for quality improvement cannot be compartmentalized. Qualitative Improvement of education will call for a number of measures such as : (a) Improvement of the teaching standard right from the primary level; (b) adequacy of teaching aids; (c) teacher’s training; (d) integrating vocational stream with the general stream to make the system single track and to provide students enough opportunities for gainful employment; (e) provision of adequate physical infrastructure; and (f) creation of Centres of Excellence and creative arts in the states. A special package for the hill States of the North East Region should be approved. School enrollment, percentage of trained teachers and availability of laboratory, class rooms and teaching aids in these States being far below the national average, special thrust in these sectors is an urgent necessity. Similarly, improvement of teaching of science and mathematics in these states, where only about 35% of students opt for science stream, is of great urgency. Expansion of education at the Higher Secondary level is going to be very extensive in the years to come, because Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Saakshar Bharat campaign are expected to raise tremendously gross enrollment at the elementary level. A realistic assessment of educational needs in terms of infrastructure and resources, both human and financial, is required to be undertaken immediately to help formulate a realistic expansion programme.
Skill development is a very important sector generally for the whole country but particularly for the N.E.Region where spectre of unemployment has assumed disturbing proportion. Hardly 5% of the total work force in the region are skilled and about 40% of youths between age group 15 to 29 are educated unemployed. A scheme for skill development among these youths has to be taken up. It should provide an integrated course of class-room teaching, hands-on-training with attachment to industrial units, institutional finance and market accessibility. The trained youth can thus become self-employed. This will provide one way to solve the unemployment problem in these states where there are practically no private of public sector industrial enterprises and the State Governments can take on no more administrative burden.
At the national level there are more than 17 different agencies implementing various skill development schemes. It may be considered whether all these can be amalgamated to obviate cross purpose functioning and economize expenditure.
(iv) Internal Security:
The imperatives of effective measures for control of violence and guaranteeing internal security are too obvious to be over emphasized. While it is the bounden duty of the state to ensure peace and order, the civil society has also a responsibility to maintain ‘eternal vigilance’. Religious fundamentalism, economic backwardness, a perceived sense of neglect among some sections, in adequacy of engagement opportunities for the youths, demographic disturbance in some areas leading to fear of identity loss seem to be some general and basic causes of violence. While iron-hand-dealing of terrorism born of fundamentalism is absolutely necessary, the other violence-causing factors would call for a growth oriented and persuasive approach and sensitive administration.
As the law enforcing and peace-keeping agency the Police Force, has to be strengthened in all respects. Following improvement measures may be considered urgently :
(i) Strengthen Police infrastructure across the country, including residential facilities;
(ii) Networking all Police Stations, outposts in all the states;
(iii) Enhancing mobility of the force with special care for the hilly, remote and difficult terrain;
(iv) A mechanism to ensure availability of real time information and updated decisions;
(v) Setting up of seamless command and control system with well-equipped central control room;
(vi) co-ordination set up for constant sharing of intelligence and information among various agencies;
(vii) Provision of improved three-tier communication equipment to ensure fool-proof communication; day/light surveillance equipment, reading and analysis equipment, most modern arms and ammunitions etc. etc.;
(viii) Ensuring various welfare measures to provide the personnel of the force on duty, particularly in remote areas and difficult terrain, minimum comforts so that their morale is kept high.
After 20 long years of violence peace was restored in Mizoram. We have to pay a heavier price to maintain and sustain it. Special efforts are needed to protect the porous borders, particularly withBangladesh, where recent upsurge in terrorist activities has come up as a big threat to the North East. Closeness to the Golden Triangle increases possibility of illicit arms and drug smuggling. The border requires much greater vigilance.
A poor state like ours can ill afford to manage on its own financial resources needed to carry out all the above tasks. We have been facing huge mismatch between resources required and resources available. Centre should consider a separate package for the N.E.States with 100% grant.