Sinlung /
18 December 2013

In Mizoram portfolio allotment, CM and kin get headstrong depts with enlarged future roles

Mizoram CM LalthanhawlaMizoram CM Lalthanhawla

As Mizoram moves towards more infrastructure projects in part due to India's Look-East Policy, Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla and his younger brother Lal Thanzara, who has been made a Minister of State this term, have taken the technical department portfolios manned by powerful government engineers. Another crucial portfolio, Public Health Engineer, is in the hands of the CM's daughter-in-law's brother, Cabinet Minister Zodintluanga. While the CM retains both the Public Works Department and the Power and Electricity (P&E) Department, his brother Lal Thanzara (who was earlier Parliamentary Secretary for the Finance and Planning portfolios) will assist the CM in handling the PWD and P&E departments.

These three technical departments are considered the state government's main revenue sources in the absence of a strong industrial sector, laggard state PSUs with nil profits in five years and an under-developed agricultural sector.

Consequently, the engineers who man them have grown powerful over time, the government even acceding this year to their demand for a secretary-level post in the face of a vocal and sustained opposition from central-service officers such as IAS, IPS and IFS officers posted in the state.
With ongoing and planned infrastructure projects such as an ambitious multi-modal transport project linking the land-locked state to a sea-port via Myanmar, a pioneering railway line that will cut through the hill-state from north to south, several hydro-power projects and ongoing natural gas reserves exploration (and increasing urbanization that is likely to see an enlarged PHE role), these technical departments are expected to play a major role in Mizoram's near future.

The portfolio allotment by the five time Congress CM has also seen several changes from the previous government.

The school as well as higher education portfolios -- both usual flash-points not just because of their reach but strong lobbying from powerful students' and teachers' unions -- changing hands in spite of the former Education Minister Lalsawta still in the present Cabinet. He has however been given Finance after the former Finance Minister H Liansailova lost the polls.

As with finance, the health portfolio has meanwhile also been given a new head; MoS Lal Thanzara has been allotted independent charge of the health portfolio (his predecessor and controversy-dogged Cabinet Minister Lalrinliana Sailo has been dropped from the Council of Ministers entirely). The portfolio has been in controversy after controversy for at least a decade, first due to alleged corruption that saw the non-fruition of several planned infrastructure as well as the siphoning off of funds, as well as alleged involvement of top officials in the illegal trafficking of pseudoephedrine to Myanmar.

The controlled drug, more than 20 million tablets of which have been seized by anti-narcotics agencies in the last two years alone, is widely used to manufacture methamphetamine, a narcotic drug more addictive than opium and it's products like heroin.

The Education Department's mishandling of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan funds to purchase school uniforms for 1.85 lakh children is currently under an investigation, ordered by the Gauhati High Court last month.  


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