While reiterating the demand for timely conduct of Autonomous District Council (ADC) election 2020, a joint meeting of the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM) and its federating units/district based students’ organisation was held on Wednesday (October 7) at ATSUM office, Adimjati Complex, Chingmeirong in Imphal at 11.30 am to deliberate the impending ADC election impasse and took decisions of the issue.
The meeting was attended by senior leaders of ATSUM, Kuki Students’ Organisation-General Headquarters (KSO-GHQ), All Naga Students’ Association, Manipur (ANSAM) and ATSUM federating units, according to a press statement of ATSUM.
According to the statement, after threadbare discussion, the meeting resolved to place the position/reasons of ATSUM for opposing further extension of office terms of the incumbent ADC tenure.
ATSUM pointed out that, “Section No. 13, second paragraph of the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils Act, 1971, explicitly states that ‘provided that the Administrator may, when satisfied that it is necessary in order to avoid administrative difficulty, extend the term of office of all the members by such period not exceeding one year as he/she thinks fit’”.
ATSUM then said that, the Hill Areas Committee (HAC), “for reasons best known to them, had deliberately misled the public by misinterpreting ‘rainy season’ as administrative difficulty and recommended the state government for deferment of election of the six ADCs of Manipur Hill districts”.
According to ATSUM, basing on the HAC recommendation, the state cabinet without pondering the legality/rationality of the provisions of the act had hastily deferred the ADCs election for six months. “Subsequently, Tribal Affairs and Hills, Government of Manipur issued an order for extension of the term of office of all Members of the Autonomous District Councils with election to be held in the intervening month of October and November 2020 vide Order No. 7/1/2019 –Hills(ADC/ELEC) dated 19th March 2020,” it further pointed out. The apex tribal students’ body of Manipur added, “That, the state government, in contrast to its official Order No. 7/1/2019 –Hills(ADC/ELEC) dated 19th March 2020 for conduct of ADC Election, is deliberately hesitating to publish draft electoral rolls of ADCs of each constituency despite intimation from the State Election Commission to do so. This desperate hesitation of the state government is uncalled for”.
ATSUM then said that categorisation of harvesting and COVID-19 pandemic as two major reasons for term extension by the Chairmen of four ADCs namely Ukhrul ADC, Chandel ADC, Tamenglong ADC and Kangpokpi ADC.
“That, the intention of the four ADC chairmen for extension of their office term based on their two given reasons i.e. ‘harvesting’ and ‘COVID-19’ is improbable because people of the state including the hill populace are directly connected with the agriculture activities throughout the year starting from the beginning of the year till the end,” the tribal student body also said. It added, “Thus, Citing ‘harvesting’ as a reason for extension of ADC term and coining/interpreting it as administrative difficulty as per the Manipur (Hills) District Council Act 1971 is ridiculous”.
Secondly, said ATSUM, it is a matter of fact that everyone in the whole globe is reeling under dreadful pandemic. “However, the hill people need effective and popular local/grassroot governance to deal with these pandemic according to law,” it also said. Importantly, the election Commission of India had already announced date of by-election for some Assembly Constituencies of Manipur, ATSUM further said. For safety conduct of the elections, ECI had also issued Protocols/Broad guidelines to be followed during the conduct of by-election during COVID-19, it also stated. “Thus, the intention of extending ADC terms of office on the pretext of COVID-19 pandemic to meet whims of few individuals is irrational”, it added.
According to ATSUM, the term of office of the incumbent ADCs in the aftermath of the first six months extension expires in the month of November 2020. “As decided at a joint meeting of the chairmen of the six Autonomous District Councils meeting held on July21, 2020, the chairmen of ADC Ukhrul, ADC Chandel, ADC Kangpokpi and ADC Tamenglong urged the State Government and HAC to extend the terms of office of all Members of ADCs by another six months starting from December 1, 2020 till May 31, 2021,” it also stated.
ATSUM then said that “this move” of six ADCs for another extension of six months starting from December 1, 2020 till May 31, 2021is a serious blunder mockery “because the reason of their initial extension was that the month of June-July being a rainy season, conducting of ADC is not convenient for all”.
However, according to ATSUM, if another six months extension of incumbent ADC terms of office is granted, the next election of ADC will fall in the month of June-July 2021 which will naturally be again a rainy season. “Thus, it will self nullify their previous reasons of extension,” it ridiculed.
Therefore, taking all these facts into account, the joint meeting of the All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur and its federating units/district based students’ organisation have seriously considered the attempt of the ADCs chairmen for extension of another six months as a selfish act and sectional interest. “And earnestly implored the Hon’ble Members of Hill Areas Committee (HAC) to wisely employ their God given wisdom to prevent another blunder mistake and ensure that incumbent ADCs are dissolved and pave ways for summoning of fresh election of Autonomous District Councils,” ATSUM also said, adding, “On the outcome of the proposed October 8, 2020 HAC sitting and decision, ATSUM, in consultation with its federating units would take further course of action in larger tribal interest”.