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Centre signs agreement with Garo Hills outfits
Spl Correspondent
 NEW DELHI, Sept 24 – In keeping with its policy of signing peace accords with underground outfits of North East, the Centre on Wednesday signed Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) with both the factions of Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC), militant outfits operating in the Garo Hills districts of Meghalaya.

The signing ceremony held at the North Block was attended by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, Meghalaya Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma, top officials and leaders of ANVC and ANVC (B).

Others who were present at the meeting included Zoramthanga, who acted as a mediator, and representatives of Garo Students Union, among others. Former IB chief PC Haldar was the Centre’s interlocutor.

According to sources, the settlement basically has three components including political, organisation-related and development issues.

The political issues included transferring of 13 additional subjects to the Garo Hills District Council under para 6 (2) of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, handing over of the civic administration of towns through duly elected bodies and in-principle agreement to an increase in the number of members of the Council.

Sources said the organisational issues in the MoS included dissolution of ANVC, as an organisation within three months from the signing of MoS and withdrawal of criminal cases in respect of non-heinous crimes registered against members of ANVC. As for the cases involving heinous crimes, it would be reviewed on a case to case basis according to the existing policy, said sources.

Development related issues involve concerted efforts by both Government of India and Meghalaya Government and include the efforts to be made in the direction of improvement in the level of general and medical education through projects like setting up of medical college-cum-hospital, general nursing and mid-wife schools, as well as paramedical institutes and women and children hospital in Tura, opening of a research unit by ICAR in Garo Hills.

Further creation of synergy between State Government departments and the Council in tourism and culture related activities in the region, improvement of road network in Garo Hills region, conduct of a feasibility study for upgrade of the airstrip at Tura, recommendation for setting up of an independent body like the State Finance Commission and setting up of a committee under the Ministry of Home Affairs for a six monthly review of the status of the implementation of the decisions under the MoS.

The ANVC, formed in 1995 and banned in 2000, had entered into a tripartite ceasefire agreement with the Government on July 23, 2004.

For almost 10 years, the ANVC had unleashed a reign of terror in Garo Hills and indulged in kidnapping, extortions and forceful collection of taxes. ANVC also lost several of its cadres to security forces.

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