A solution to the demand for introduction of the Inner Line Permit System, ILPS, continues to be elusive. The government it is known now has prepared several variations of the Bill, but is awaiting consensus before it can be sent up for approval to be introduced in the Assembly. But since its talks with the JCILPS has broken down after two joint sittings, with the latter insisting all the five points it forwarded the government would have to be included in the draft Bill, it is uncertain how this consensus will ever be reached. In an informal meeting with the senior media persons today, the chief minister, Okram Ibobi, said he is wary that with all these five point, the Bill is unlikely to get past the legislative process, as not everything is in the hands of the state government. This is particularly so, he said, because demands 2 and 5 of the JCILPS, one having to do with fixing the cut off year of 1951 to determine who is a permanent resident, and the other pertaining to detection and deportation of non-residents may face insurmountable legal hurdles. Whatever option the government takes, the question which looms is, what if the Governor as the representative of the Union government either keeps the Bill reserved, as he did the earlier withdrawn Bill on the same issue, or else sends it for the President`™s advice, which actually means seeking the Union Cabinet`™s approval? What if this approval is not forthcoming on whatever the ground, legal or nationalistic considerations? These are disturbing thoughts, but ones which everybody must be prepared to ask themselves, so as not to be taken by surprise should the worst case scenario becomes the state`™s fate. At the moment, such a scenario does seem a distinct possibility and in the end, if there is a total collapse of the established order, the emergency measure of President`™s Rule, would probably become inevitable.
We do hope something positive and progressive results out of the current tussle. But in the meantime, we cannot also help looking back on some of the possible solutions many have suggested, including in our own columns. We have also seen how the problem is compounded by the deep fissures on ethnic lines in the state. Hence, one of the solutions that sections of the valley dwellers have suggested, that of seeking Schedule Tribe, ST, status for the Meiteis and Meitei Pangals so that land protection would automatically come for the indigenous populations in the valley too as in the hills, is looked upon with suspicion not just by another section of the valley population who see this as a retrogressive step, but also by a section of the hill population who are already in the ST list, for then the competition for reserved seats in the state government job market would become far stiffer. If this is the only apprehension, there could be a way out. Even if the whole state is declared a tribal state, the state government could still keep the current reservation norms for state government jobs and other entitlements, with 33 per cent seats continued to be reserved for the hill populations. On the national arena, the valley dwellers having access to the 7 per cent reservation in Union government jobs should not worry the state`™s hill tribes, for this would hardly make a dent on what is already available for them.
The other option is to make a draft of the Bill that is perfectly within the bounds of the law of the country so that even if its passage is withheld by any authority, the obstruction can even be challenged in the court of law. And if it is perfectly within the bounds of the law, there is no reason why any authority, be it of the state or the Union, should object to it. Many cases with unquestionable merit are lost because of procedural or technical flaws in their presentation. There can be no doubt that the case for the ILPS is strong. Demographic marginalisation of small communities in the face of unchecked immigration is indeed a real threat. This being the case, close study of the way the case is presented is important. This is also why minute consultations with legal experts are vital before the Bill is pup for scrutiny in the long legislative process. The government as well as the JCILPS, since both have vowed they are interested in a constitutional solution, should independently consult nationally and internationally reputed, and absolutely independent constitutional experts, well versed with Indian laws; their histories; and variants of them that exist across the globe, even if this means considerable expenses. Let us realise that this is not a simple law were are looking at, but one which will have a bearing on the future of generations to come.
Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam