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SHILLONG:

Former chairman of the ANVC (B), Bernard (Rimpu) Marak is not very happy with the other NGOs’ stand on exclusion of village councils from the Sixth Schedule Amendment bill. Marak is of view that the village councils should be included in the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC).

The former militant pointed out that “Village Council” was the demand which ANVC-B submitted through a memorandum to the Centre Government before the “Peace pact” was signed.

“ANVC-B agreed to be part of the agreement and Settlement because Village Councils were assured to be included in the final draft which was particularly meant for the administration of the Garos,” said Marak.

Raising this issue with the District Council Affairs Minister, James PK Sangma in Shillong on Friday, Marak expressed his gratitude to the minister for his stand on the inclusion of Village Councils in GHADC.

(L-R) Bernard with DCA Minister, James Sangma

It may be mentioned that a committee, headed by District Council Affairs (DCA) Minister, James PK Sangma, met two days ago in Shillong to discuss about the proposed amendment to the Sixth Schedule bill and had unanimously agreed to make recommendation for removal of the word ‘unrepresented tribes’ from the  amendment bill.

The Nokmas of Garo Hills are not elected; therefore, Village Councils was mandatory in the GHADC right from the beginning of the District Council but the election and the funds to the Village Councils were stopped and later the State introduced DRDAs, he said.

“The VECs in the Village level under DRDAs are the smaller version of the Village Councils. In order to avail fund from the Centre, there ought to be an elected body and that’s why Congress wanted to introduce Village Administrative Bill (VAB),” Marak said.

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Accusing the previous Congress government of stealing their ideas and made a replication of it, the former ANVC-B chairman said “That’s one of the reasons why Garo Hills was under developed in the past.”

With the introduction of the Village Councils and elected bodies, Garos will have the administrative power at the grassroot level and local self governance will be activated, he said adding that the Garo council, village courts, the laskars and the nokma system will be strengthened and common people will be empowered.

“The Home Minister acknowledged the necessity of the Village Councils and in spite of opposition of some self claimed NGOs, he took a strong stand to include Village Councils for Garo Hills. His stand and bold step is deeply appreciated,” Marak said.

Furthermore, he also expressed his gratitude to the MDCs of GHADC — Dipul Marak, Augustine R Marak and others for voicing out on the need to have the Village Councils in Garo Hills.

Regarding the exclusion of the word “Unrepresented tribes“, Marak raised concerns about the Garos and other minority STs living in Khasi and Jaintia Hills.

“Garos will lose a privilege to be nominated into the KHADC and JHADC. We are surprised why Garo pressure groups who were present in the meeting did not voice out during the meeting. Are Garos in Khasi and Jaintia Hills not an ‘unrepresented tribes’? We don’t mind a Khasi or a Jaintia being nominated into GHADC,” he questioned.

He stated that Garos, though are considered STs, they are, however, deprived of chances to participate in the Council elections and in some areas their names are even deleted from the electoral roll. “It will defeat the objective of maintaining equal status of the STs. We will pursue our demand at the centre level now,” he added.

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