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Assam: Sarbananda Sonowal govt announces measures for safeguard of indigenous language, land rights

Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal

Amidst the anti-CAA protests in the state, the BJP-led government in Assam on Saturday announced a slew of measures for protection of Assamese language and land rights, welfare of ethnic communities and constitutional status to all tribal autonomous councils. Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told a press conference here that the Cabinet has resolved to request the Centre to amend Article 345 of the Constitution to declare Assamese language as the state language, excluding the Bengali major Barak valley, two hill districts and the Bodoland Territorial Administration Districts (BTAD).

The Cabinet meet chaired by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal also decided to introduce a legislation in the next Assembly session, making it mandatory to include Assamese language as a compulsory subject in all English and other medium schools in the state. For protection of the land rights of indigenous people, he said a bill will be tabled in the Assembly to stop transfer of their land to outsiders.

Another legislation, the Assam Heritage Preservation Bill, will make encroachment, buying and selling of heritage property punishable, the minister said. Asked why the new decisions were announced at a time when the state was being rocked by anti-CAA protests, Sarma said, “The train of agitation and development will run together. We are getting ready for the upcoming 2021 assembly polls. We have just about a year to fulfill our election promises.” He said the state Cabinet also decided that Bajali Sub-division in Barpeta district will be upgraded to a district.

The Cabinet resolved that all Tribal Autonomous Councils – Mising, Rabha, Sonowal Kachari, Thengal Kachari, Deori and Tiwa – may be granted constitutional status so that they can receive funds from both Central and state governments, including other rights and privileges. Sarma also said that a new autonomous council for Koch Rajbongshi community (Kamatapur Autonomous Council) residing
in “original Goalpara district excluding BTAD and Rabha Hasong area” will be constituted along with the creation of two new
autonomous councils for Moran and Matak communities.

A Rs 500-crore special package announced in the budget for Moran, Mattak, Chutiya and Ahom communities will be divided equally among them, he said. In addition, the Tai Ahom Development Council, Chutiya Development Council and Koch Rajbongshi Development Council will be restructured with substantial budget allocations. The Cabinet further decided that two new medical colleges will be established each in Biswanath district and in the undivided Sivasagar district.

Medical, engineering, agriculture and veterinary science and PG seats in general universities will be specifically reserved for Tai Ahom, Koch Rajbongshi and Chutiya communities, the minister said. The allocation for Tea Tribe Welfare Department will be substantially hiked and more development programmes would be taken up, he said, adding, for higher education of the Tea Tribe community, seats will be reserved in general colleges.

The process for starting 100 new high schools in tea garden areas will be taken up in the next three months. Sarma said the wages of labourers of Assam Tea Corporation will be increased from Rs 138 per day to Rs 167 in Brahmaputra Valley, and from Rs 115 to Rs 145 in the Barak Valley, from January 1.

Recognising the contributions of Chutiya dynasty queen Sati Sadhini, the minister said her birthday will be declared as a state holiday, and a new state university — Sati Sadhini Rajyik Vishwavidyalaya — would be set up in Golaghat district.

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Source: Financial Express