In an attempt to quell anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests in Assam, the Sarbananda Sonowal cabinet has resolved to approach Centre by amending Article 345 of the Constitution to make Assamese the state language, excluding the Bengali major Barak valley, two hill districts and the Bodoland Territorial Administration Districts (BTAD), and also make it a compulsory subject till Class 10 in all schools.
The decision has come as protests against the contentious citizenship law, which the protesters claim violates the Assam Accord of 1985 and have deemed it a threat to the language, culture, demographics and economic well-being of the indigenous population of Assam.
State finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told a press conference in Guwahati that for the protection of the land rights of indigenous people, he said a bill will be tabled in the next Assembly session to stop the transfer of their land to outsiders.
As per the new bill, only an indigenous person will be able to sell or buy land from another indigenous citizen.
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 fulfil 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, Chutia and Ahom communities will be divided equally among them, he said.
In addition, the Tai Ahom Development Council, Chutia 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 Chutia communities, the minister said.
The allocation for Tea Tribe Welfare Department will be substantially hiked and more development programmes 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 1 January.
Recognising the contributions of Chutia 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.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Dec 22, 2019 16:55:56 IST