While the whole country is busy condemning racist tweets on Miss America, debating Tendulkar’s retirement and reacting to Mallika Sherawat’s birthday wish to Narendra Modi, a small state in the north-east of India is struck with continuous agitation.

Reason – ILP .

Meghalaya that is remembered mostly only in geography lessons is facing agitation for the past few weeks from 10 pressure groups including some frontal organisations of regional political parties and the Khasi Students’ Union.

These groups have been taking out rallies, picketing government offices, calling for bandhs and imposing night curfews on national highways across the state to push forward their demand for introducing Inner Line Permits (ILP).

ILP is an official travel document issued by the Government of India to allow inward travel of an Indian citizen into a restricted/protected area for a limited period of time. The document is an effort by the Government to regulate movement to certain areas located near the international borders of India (according to Wikipedia).

Currently, the ILP is applicable in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland.

Situated in the north-eastern corridor of the country, Meghalaya is bound on its north by Assam and on its south, Bangladesh. To check the inflow of illegal migrants into the State, parties are in continuous demand for implementation of ILP. The huge, labour-intensive coal mining industry is one of the reasons for the inward flow of labourers from various parts of the country. Also, since the state shares borders with Bangladesh, the flow of illegal immigrants goes unnoticed. This influx has led to the unemployment of local labourers. Also, the people believe this influx is causing a demographic shift and threatening the tribal minorities of the state.

Introduction of ILP is to regulate the entry and temporary stay of outsiders in general and migrant labourers in particular.

The High Level Committee on Influx had submitted its report last year recommending the State Government for the implementation of ILP. But the Mukul Sangma government has refused to do so and is looking for other options to control the influx issue. Strengthening of Directorate of Infiltration, appointment of labour officers and a strong Tenancy Act are a few such options. Sangma is of the view that it will create negative perception about the state and hinder development.

Talks between the government and the pro-ILP activists have failed. Adamant NGOs have refused any assurance that these “other options” will help in tackling the matter.

Result – A week long holiday for government employees (picketing), loss of earnings for the daily wage earners and creating obstacle in travelling of people via the state.