Barely two weeks into his new role, 40-year-old Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma says he has realised running the government would be a tough job, but asserts he is “here to take over and do my best” to spur development. In a state that faces pressing financial and administrative challenges, Sangma, in an exclusive interview to PTI, said the priority of his government would be to bring about administrative discipline and a new work culture for faster delivery of services to the people.
“There are a lot of challenges ahead,” he said, “financial, implementation challenges, administrative challenges. And there are some issues that require immediate attention.” Sangma, son of former Lok Sabha speaker P A Sangma, was sworn in as the 12th Chief Minister of Meghalaya on March 7.
He is heading a coalition government of his National People’s Party (NPP) with the BJP and a clutch of regional outfits like the UDP, the PDF, the HSPDP. He enjoys the support of an Independent MLA as well. He said the first thing he was trying to do as the chief minister was to bring about a disciplined system in the office, at the secretariat and in the government as a whole.
As part of efforts to usher in a new work culture, he himself is setting an example by reaching the office everyday at 10 am or even before that and remaining there till 7 pm.
“The chief minister checks in at the secretariat office 10 am dot. If not at 10 am, he reaches office before that. His office timing is between 10 am and 7 pm,” a senior staff at the CM’s secretariat told PTI requesting anonymity.
“We are adapting and many are appreciating the new work culture,” she said.
Sangma said, “I don’t want to be seen as a person who is forcing people but I think it is important that we as leaders lead by example.”
The new government came to power ending 10 years of Congress rule in the northeastern state.
Asked about role of the BJP in the government, Sangma said, “This is NPP led government and all other parties are stakeholders and equal partners in it.”
The new Meghalaya CM, who is presently the Lok Sabha member from Tura and has to be elected into the state Assembly in near future, refused to make any adverse remarks on the Congress government.
“I am not here to blame anybody in the past. I am here to take over and I will do my best.”
Implementation of the Fifth Pay Commission benefiting nearly one lakh government employees will be one of the immediate challenges confronting the NPP-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance government, he said.
He said revenue sources have been going down in the recent times with the National Green Tribunal banning mining of coal and the High Court tightening export of minerals like limestone.
Implementation of central government schemes has not been up to the mark and that was one of the reasons why money that should have come in did not arrive, he said.
Other immediate financial challenges the new government has identified are completion of the Assembly building and holding the National Games 2022 which coincides with 50th year of the state’s formation.
He stressed that there was an urgent need to “plug the loopholes” in the revenue collection which, he said, would help increase revenue.
“This way,” he said, “the Central government and everybody will realise that this government is serious about development business.”
He said he found out that implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) was “quite bad” in the state.
“We want to create necessary manpower and cells within the public works department to strengthen the PMGSY wing apart from trying to get other projects through which we can focus on road connectivity in the rural areas.”
When asked about the difference between the NPP and the Congress, which his father P A Sangma was originally a member of, Sangma said, “The Congress has a top-to-bottom approach. We truly believe not in high command but in a command that is going to be decided by a majority.”
Reacting to the two churches rejecting Union tourism ministry’s Swadesh Darshan Scheme earlier this year, he said, “I think it is my responsibility, the state and the central government’s responsibility to raise this issue and find out ways to clarify the concerns and how to move forward.”
Defending the government’s offer to uplift the surroundings in the Church under the scheme, he said, “This is not any particular organisation giving you (church) money. It is the Government of India that is giving money. I feel that we should take it positively and any developmental work meant for our people should be welcomed.”
He said he would take it up with the Centre and the Churches and end the stalemate.