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Conrad hits back at Opposition on work permit issue
Staff Correspondent
 SHILLONG, April 12 - Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma today asked opposition Congress in the State Assembly to “come out of its election mode” and stop politicking and blowing out of context the idea to issue work permits to Bangladeshis.

Replying to a short discussion under Rule 50 of the procedure and business of the House, Sangma said, the State Government would do whatever necessary to “protect the identity of the people, its land and youths,” while furthering economic prosperity of the State.

He was replying to the concerns raised by Opposition Congress over his recent statement that an idea was mooted to issue work permits to Bangladeshis. Explaining the context under which this idea of issuing work permit to Bangladeshis cropped up, he said, it came up during his recent meeting with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi while discussing the Act East Policy.

“It was just an idea not a formal proposal. The media and opposition have blown it up…In a democracy everyone is entailed to their own views and ideas,” he said adding that in the democratic process the collective wisdom prevails in the end.

Slamming Leader of Opposition, Mukul Sangma for saying that the Chief Minister was acting like a “pawn in the hands” of Central leaders, Sangma termed it as an immature remark and said: “let’s not give election speech in the House.” He said that before partition, North East had the highest per capita income in the country as the region was involved with trade with countries such as Myanmar, China, Bangladesh and other countries.

Emphasising that opening up of Chittagong port would bring in economic prosperity to the region, the Chief Minister said that currently goods like rubber are not allowed to be exported from North East, but through Kolkata.

He said the Act East Policy has the potential to change these bottlenecks and usher in socio-economic development in the region and Shillong-Guwahati can well become the International hub for at least seven ASEAN countries.

Conducting trade, the Chief Minister said, with the seven ASEAN countries and Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh would be far easier than reaching to New Delhi to seek funds.

Urging the Opposition to see the big picture, which could take the State and the region as a whole to the next level of economic development, Sangma said, only through improved trade and commerce can the youths become job givers and not job seekers.

“There would be more challenges with illegal immigration as trade and commerce picks up,” he said, but went on to add that even now illegal immigration is going on. Therefore the challenge is, Sangma said, to strike an appropriate balance between economic development and illegal migration.

He further informed the House that a meeting of Chief Ministers would be held in New Delhi on May 4 and Members can feel free to give their ideas and opinions on the subject, which could be taken forward.

While appreciating the work of the previous Government to check influx, he said that the present government is continuing with some of the unfinished projects and work is moving smoothly in terms of constructing the entry and exit points to check influx.

However, the Opposition was not satisfied with the reply of the Chief Minister and briefly walked out of the Assembly. Earlier, Ampareen Lyngdoh initiating the discussions raised concerns over the CM’s statement and said the idea of issuing work permits to Bangladeshis may pose threat for the State.

Leader of Opposition, Mukul Sangma lodged his protest against the idea and said it would have serious implications for the State.

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