13 years on, Meghalaya yet to have permanent assembly building

Shillong, Jan 9 (IANS) Exactly 13 years have passed since its original home — a 125-year-old Burmese teak building — was reduced to ashes, but the Meghalaya assembly is yet to get a permanent building for itself.

Thursday is the 13th anniversary of the destruction of the historic assembly building, but there has not been much progress in construction of the new assembly building in all this time.
From March 2001, assembly sessions have been held at the state’s central library auditorium and later shifted to arts and culture auditorium within the premises of Brookside, the house where Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore began writing his “Shesher Kobita” in 1919.
During these years, many proposals have been floated including constructing the assembly building at its original site at Khyndai-Lad, and even at the chief minister’s residence, but all proposals faced opposition and later rejected.
Several crore of rupees have also been spent by the state government for the proposed construction, even as the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) rapped the assembly secretariat for wasteful expenditure of Rs.2.14 crore for construction of a building at Mawdiangdiang.
“We are still scouting for a suitable land for construction of a permanent assembly. Once suitable land is identified, we will approach the state government for necessary action and start the construction work,” Speaker Abu Taher Mondal told IANS.
“The delay in construction of the permanent assembly building is due to opposition from various quarters to construct the building at the earlier selected sites. The previous high-powered committee had selected Tara Ghar (chief minister’s bungalow), but there too the high court stayed the proposal following a PIL,” he said.
The speaker exuded confidence that the assembly will have a permanent house of its own during his tenure.
“We are hopeful that we will have a positive result (construction of permanent assembly building) during my tenure,” Mondal, the first non-indigenous legislator to be elected as speaker in the tribal state.
Chief Minister Mukul Sangma also promised that the permanent assembly building will be constructed during the current assembly’s term once the assembly’s high-power committee identifies the land.
“It is sad that even after 13 years we have not been able to have a permanent assembly building of our own following that inferno and we are hopeful that they identified the land soon for construction of the assembly building,” he said.
Opposition leader Donkupar Roy, however, rued that whenever a new government is formed, the decision to construct a new Assembly changes site — from Upper Shillong to New Shillong Township and Tara Ghar to the existing site of the old assembly.
“Not a single citizen would be happy with the fact that the Meghalaya assembly is yet to have a building of its own,” said the leader of the opposition United Democratic Party.