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Graft slur on Barak development council chief

Tribal organizations demand CBI probe against BVHTDC chairman

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT

SILCHAR, June 29: Eight different tribal organizations of Barak Valley in a memorandum addressed to Promila Rani Brahma, minister of forest, minerals, mine, soil and WPT and BC, through the Deputy Commissioner of Cachar on Tuesday strongly demanded to dissolve the Barak Valley Hill Tribes’ Development Council (BVHTDC) headed by Lalthomlien Neitham as chairman.

The existing Council, they pleaded, should be reconstituted by nomiting new members from every community on the basis of population pattern. It was also their demand to conduct departmental inquiry against Lalthomlien Neitham for his involvement in rampant corruption, malpractices and swindling of funds and to initiate strong action. After the submission of the memorandum, the leaders of the tribal bodies held a press-meet where they briefed the media-persons about all the anomalies and irregularities in the functioning of the Council.

 Since the formation of the Council on March 18, 1996, it has failed to meet the objectives, hopes and aspirations of the hill tribes people of this valley. The Council has never addressed the burning issues and problems of the indigenous hill tribes. According to them, the Council is a total failure even though it was provided maximum possible autonomy to work for the socio-economic-academic and creating avenues of employment, besides striving for their ethnic and cultural advancement. The gross anomalies and irregularities have been exposed through the RTI filed by R Lie Chiru and Ringlien Hmar as well as from other reliable sources.

 Lalthomlien Neitham has been functioning according to his whims and wishes without caring an iota for the tribal communities. He exercised his power unfairly to commit fraud by taking advantage of the illiteracy and ignorance of the beneficiaries of certain villages from 2011 to 2013. Schemes shown executed on papers have never been implemented. No scheme was taken up for the benefit of tribals. Another serious allegation levelled against the chairman is of embezzlement of funds allotted for schemes by taking away 75% of it for his persol benefit.

 Most surprising, as the tribal bodies pointed out, the state plan fund of Rs.2.50 crore has been spent or utilized by the chairman himself with the help of some dubious agencies. Not only that, he has illegally misused public development fund to the tune of more than Rs.10 lakh under the non plan fund of 2011 to 2013 only on vehicle and fuel, flouting standing rules and regulations. The chairman, the litany of allegations says, arbitrarily shifted the headquarter of the Council to his residential home at Hmarkhawlien, Fulertal.

 It has been stated that BVHTDC represented 14 ethnic indigenous hill tribes people with a population of more than 7 lakh. The Council is the only statutory body for the support of economic uplift and to address their social issues. The existing Council under the chairmanship of Lalthomlien Neitham failed to address several major issues even after receiving the funds from the state government. In the circumstances, it has been argued that the Council besides its reconstitution needed to be vested with more autonomy in the larger interest of the hill tribes people.

 All the allegations against the chairman have been substantiated with documents which are made available to The Sentinel. In fact, the allegations against him are so serious that it warrants CBI inquiry in order to unfathomed the depth of the corruptions in which he has been involved. The memorandum was signed by Rongmei ga Council, Barak Valley Tribal Rights Protection Front, Chorei Students’ Association, Bru People Forum, Khasi Students’ Union, Barak Valley, Tribal Welfare Organization, Barak Valley Khasi Jaintia Welfare Organization, Karbi Students’ Association and All Assam Rongmei ga Students’ Union. Kombi Rongmei and Elizabeth Seng Song gave leadership for the move against the chairman and the Council.

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Ankur Kalita