SHILLONG: Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said that the Supreme Court lifting the 2014 ban on coal mining by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) is a big victory for the people of the State.
“The Court upheld the Government’s contention that the indigenous people of Meghalaya have rights over land and over the extracted mineral,” Conrad said while delivering his address on the 73rd Independence Day of the country at Polo Ground, Shillong.
The Chief Minister said that the Supreme Court’s verdict is perhaps the first time anywhere in the country, the government argued for protection of tribal rights, the unique culture and identity of the people before the highest court of the land.
He said that his government walked the talk on the issue and that the judgment of the court is historic and its implications extend beyond the realm of coal mining.
“Once tribal identity has been acknowledged by the Supreme Court, the customs, practices and traditions will remain protected,” Conrad said.
He also said that this judgment will certainly have a positive impact on the economy of the State and will lead to a revival of the coal mining areas.
The Chief Minister also informed that the State has about 576 million tonnes of coal deposits and about 9,300 million tonnes of limestone deposits.
According to him the value of all mineral resources of the State is about 180 billion US dollars.
“The government is now putting in place systems for sustainable mining so that the present and future generation can reap the benefits of these important resources,” Conrad said.
The Chief Minister also said that in the health sector, the government is aware that its performance on key Maternal and Child Health indicators like Infant Mortality Rate and Maternal Mortality rate is not satisfactory.
Meghalaya’s Infant Mortality Rate is 39 deaths per 1000 live births and its Maternal Mortality rate is 197 deaths per 100,000 live births.
He said that the government’s goal is to reduce these numbers dramatically in the next 2-3 years and to achieve this, the government has successfully piloted a new initiative that uses real time data on the pregnant women to monitor their health status on a continuous basis.
Under this data driven model, primary data on pregnant women is collected by the Medical Officers and Health functionaries through a mobile app. This data is updated regularly and can be seen in Shillong by the Chief Minister himself and other health officials.
Each pregnant woman can be tracked and on any given day, the number of women due for delivery can be seen on the Chief Minister’s Dash Board.
In South West Garo Hills District, where this initiative was piloted, institutional deliveries improved by 30 percent in just three months.
Conrad also pointed out that a second key constraint in health care provision is lack of adequate infrastructure and human resources.
“We only have 436 government doctors in the entire State. Like in the education sector, we need more private sector and civil society participation to improve this State of affairs,” the Chief Minister said.
He informed that currently about 22 health institutions are being managed in a PPP mode even as he said that the government intends to expand this engagement.
“Another crucial aspect in health care is availability of free medicines at all health facilities. Rs 66 crore has been allocated in this year for the procurement of medicines,” Conrad said.
He also informed that at the moment the government is developing an on line system for collating medicine demand in a bottom-up manner.
“The online system will have a dashboard that will enable me and other health functionaries to monitor the disbursement of medicines regularly,” he said.
The Chief Minister also informed that the government is also constructing warehousing for the storage of medicines in all the district headquarters and at CHCs with an investment of about Rs 20 crore.
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