Perhaps, the delayed elections of the Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) coupled with the issue of recruitment of different posts under ADCs was also one of the grudges the hill MLAs had with the powers that be in the BJP-led government.
In the last term, a move to amend the ADC bill became a rallying point cutting across ethnic lines in the hills. If we remember correctly, ADC elections were put off due to Covid-19 restrictions and later on preference was given to the state assembly elections besides complex situations arising out of newly created districts and of course the controversial amendment of the District Council Act as put forth by the All Tribal Students Union Manipur (ATSUM) and the previous Hill Areas Committee (HAC).
The proposed 2021 amendment had sought to practically separate the administration and governance of the hill areas from the Manipur government on the premise that the hill areas had been neglected by the state administration thereby causing disparity in development. Well, that has gone by. In a recent state assembly session, two bills were introduced.
While the house passed the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (Sixth Amendment) Bill, 2022 which increased the number of District Councils from 6 to 10, the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2022 was referred to the Hill Areas Committee after a motion by Tribal Affairs and Hills Minister Letpao Haokip, who said that there were some technical errors in the bill and needs to be examined by the committee.
The two bills were, in fact, brought to the house after due deliberations among the tribal MLAs who were elected in the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly. And one could understand as to why the seventh amendment was put off for the time being. The HAC in the last term was at loggerheads with the state government and teamed up with ATSUM in their effort to dictate terms to the government.
But it was not quite so in this term as the move for amendment was put in the backburner while interference in ADC recruitment from a power centre became the issue. While elections to the various Autonomous District Councils are being continuously put off for one reason or the other, the state government is trying hard to fill up the various posts under ADC before elections are announced.
So, the former ADCs members and new aspirants have every reason to be angry and devastated, as the state government is encroaching upon what should have been the responsibility or power and functions of elected representatives of the Autonomous District Council. It is not a question of trust with regard to the grassroots level leaders who would be coming in as new members of the ADC after elections, but more about wanting to do it themselves.
Everyone understands what does job recruitment and appointments entail in present day Manipur, even though those in power are crying hoarse against corruption. If an elected ADC is not in position, it is the local MLAs who would have the say in these matters of recruitment or any other development projects. It has almost been two years since the ADCs had been functioning without an elected body but through the government appointed Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and in a space of two years one can do a lot of things.
Recruitment is just one of the perks on the anvil. One must also be alive to the reality of elected representatives who had been enriching themselves from the funds meant for development of hill areas. Take for example, the case of misappropriation of ADC funds which was recently highlighted in the media. Earlier, we had written about the leakages in development funds sanctioned through the ADCs.