ILP recommendation unnerves tour operators

Raju Das

SHILLONG, Nov 13 – A Government-constituted committee’s decision to recommend implementation of Inner Line Permit (ILP) in Meghalaya has opened up a debate whether the British-era Act would affect the State’s economy rather than helping to curb influx.

The Committee on influx recently decided to recommend to the State Government to implement the ILP to curb influx. The committee is headed by Deputy Chief Minister Bindo Lanong and has solicited opinions from State NGOs before arriving at the decision.

Former Meghalaya Home Minister and chairperson of Meghalaya Tourism Development Forum RG Lyngdoh, however, said that the State cannot “survive in isolation.” He said that the committee’s decision would “adversely affect” the tourism industry of Meghalaya if ILP is implemented.

“Implementation of ILP would adversely affect Meghalaya as a tourist destination, Lyngdoh said, adding, isolation is not the answer to the issue of influx as there are ways out to tackle it.

Larsing Ming, another MTDF member said that influx is a serious issue. “It is a serious issue and this needs a holistic approach and deliberation to tackle it,” he said.

He suggested that the issue of influx should be handled phase wise. The first would be to set up a State citizenship database and card and secondly the much talked about work permit system needs to be implemented.

Further, influx is a major threat in the mining belts of the State as well as the areas bordering Bangladesh and Assam in Garo Hills. Moreover, the transfer of thousands of acres of land in the State to Industries in the Jaintia Hills belt and the likelihood of a similar occurrence in the West Khasi Hills belt is a much graver threat at this juncture, Ming observed.

“Whether ILP is the right step forward for the State is questionable, especially when we look at the impact it may have on the overall development of the State,” Ming, who is also an hotelier, said.

Meghalaya, which has a fledgeling tourism industry blossoming, and therefore some of the hotelier and those associated with the tourism sector are especially nervous that ILP would affect their businesses adversely.

“In my mind the ILP would be just a temporary solution or relief to an ailment. In fact, it may bring with it economic perils to the State. If one wants a permanent solution or a cure, we need to take a holistic approach which may include voting rights only to bonafide citizens of the State and such other steps,” Ming added.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma has not given a direct reply when asked about the mind of the Government in implementing ILP. Sangma has reiterated that the Government, taking into consideration the seriousness of the problem of influx, was looking at having an institutionalised mechanism to tackle it.