Two years of BJP-led Government: Assam on a roll
The Himanta Biswa Sarma-led BJP Government in Assam completed two years in office successfully on May 10. Two years in the life of a Government is not even half of its tenure,
The Himanta Biswa Sarma-led BJP Government in Assam completed two years in office successfully on May 10. Two years in the life of a Government is not even half of its tenure, and that does not give us the yardstick for a proper assessment of its performance! However, if we judge the work of this government since day one, there are some remarkable achievements that have to be taken note of and given the due credit they deserve.
Law and order are one of the top priorities of any Government. Without law and order, no progress is possible. If we evaluate the performance of the present government, then there is no denying the fact that it has been able to keep the situation on a tight leash. There have been very few instances of civilian killings, no killings of security personnel, and no ethnic flare-up or communal riot, barring the gunning down of six cadres of the Dimasa National Liberation Army (DNLA) in an encounter with security forces in Karbi Anglong district in August 2021.
On the law-and-order front, the signing of the peace accords with the DNLA in Delhi in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah augurs well for durable peace and stability in the state. There is no armed tribal militant outfit in the state now. Now, barring the pro-talks faction of ULFA, with whom negotiation has begun in elhi in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah augurs well for durable peace and stability in the state. There is no armed tribal militant outfit in the state now. Now, barring the pro-talks faction of ULFA, with whom negotiation has begun in earnest, and the anti-talks ULFA-I, there is no other underground militant or extremist group in the state. The State Government is hoping for an agreement with the pro-talk faction of ULFA in May if they agree to its draft settlement proposal. Moreover, efforts are on to bring the anti-talks ULFA-I on board, with Chief Minister Sarma extending the olive branch to ‘c-in-c’ Paresh Baruah.
Agitation, economic blockades, and protests that have been rampant in the state for decades, putting the clock back, have now become things of the past. And this is no mean achievement by any standards!
Since day one, the present government, under the able leadership of Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, has been striving relentlessly to resolve the vexed border dispute imbroglio with the neighbouring states.
With Meghalaya, Assam has come to a Memorandum of Settlement on some contentious areas in the 50-year-old inter-state boundary row.
According to the settlement formula, both states will divide the disputed area of about 36 sq km, covering the six points of difference, into almost equal parts between them.
The agreement has ended the dispute in about 70% of the inter-state border area, and the areas of differences in the remaining six places will be resolved if both sides work it out mutually. That is not all. The over 50-year-old festering border row with Arunachal Pradesh has been resolved amicably in a give-and-take manner, with both sides arriving at a memorandum of settlement in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah in the national capital.
Chief Minister Sarma has been assiduously working to resolve the long-pending border problem with Nagaland. Talks have been held with Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, with both Chief Ministers agreeing in principle to resolve the issue outside the ambit of the court. As a first move, they agreed to go in for oil exploration in the disputed areas for the mutual benefit of both states. This is a big step forward to break the ice on the border imbroglio and take it to its logical conclusion.
With Mizoram, there is a need for a greater push to resolve the border row, as in the recent past, during the tenure of the BJP government led by Sarbananda Sonowal, border flare-ups took place along the inter-state areas bordering Hailakandi and Cachar districts of Assam’s Barak Valley.
Another noteworthy aspect of this regime is the war on drugs. Concerted and vigorous operations by the Assam Police have led to the seizure of huge quantities of drugs running into crores of rupees and the apprehending of the drug mafia. This war against drugs must continue unabated, as the menace poses a grave threat to our society, snuffing out the lives of scores of youth or maiming them forever. Along with the battle against drugs, there is a need to step up awareness campaigns on a massive scale to keep youths at bay.
The war against child marriage is yet another laudable step by the present government. Following a series of punitive steps taken under POCSO and the Child Marriage Act, more than 97 percent of cases have been charged. This is a huge achievement. The fear psychosis it injected into the perpetrators of the crime will help to bring down the rate of crime drastically. Despite certain elements trying to put a spanner in the works by going hammer and tongs at the government for its all-out drive against this evil practise, the government did not succumb to the pressure, and the results are there for all to see! This grabbed the national eye, with the Himanta Biswa Sarma-led government earning accolades for taking such a big step.
Though there has been a decline in crime against women from 73,474 cases in May 2021 to 12,730 cases as of March 2023, with a total of nine districts registering zero backlogs, sustained and intensified efforts are needed to bring down the rate of crime. In this context, the Chief Minister, while expressing concern over the instances of sexual assaults and crimes against women, called for adopting the best practises in the country to ensure the safety of women. “The best practises of Kolkata, Karnataka, and other places must be adopted to make our towns and cities safer for women. The police need to be sensitised about the need to act swiftly and firmly and ensure that crimes against women are brought to logical conclusions”, Sarma told the DGP. The message here is loud and clear and needs no further elaboration.
In the 2021 election manifesto, the BJP promised to provide one lakh jobs to the unemployed youth if it was voted to power. Many of its detractors dismissed it as a hollow promise. Giving appointments to one lakh white collar jobs and that, too, in a year is by no means an easy task given the fact that the government already has a strong workforce and has few openings in this sector. But it went about its uphill task with tenacity, and a total of 87,321 youths have either been recruited or are on the verge of getting appointment letters (45,401 appointment letters at once will be given away by Union Home Minister Amit Shah at a function to be held in Guwahati on May 26 as part of the celebrations on the completion of two years in office by the present government). Though it fell a little short of the target and also beyond the stipulated timeframe, the figure, however, speaks volumes about the government’s sincerity and firm resolve.
And what is of paramount importance is that the entire appointment process was done in a hassle-free and transparent manner, devoid of corruption and litigation. Even the Assam Public Service Commission, which had its image dented because of the cash for jobs scam during Congress rule, got its credibility back. The youths who were fed up with the recruitment mechanism that was steeped in corruption, nepotism, and court cases during the long years of the Congress regime have now regained their faith and confidence in the system that merit counts under the present dispensation.
Besides government jobs, the state government is also pushing for self-employment. This is a good move to create employment opportunities given the fact that the scope of jobs in the government sector is too limited. The state budget for 2023–24 passed by the Assam Legislative Assembly has earmarked Rs 5,000 crore for three years for the scheme titled ‘Mukhya Mantri Sva-Niyojan Mission’ to provide self-employment opportunities to two lakh youths of the state, help them stand on their own, and transform them into job creators.
The government has also identified several income-generating activities like trading, manufacturing, service, food processing, handloom, handicraft, agriculture and allied animal husbandry activities, fishery, and dairy for self-employment. It plans to cover one lakh eligible beneficiaries by providing them with a one-time seed capital of Rs 2 lakh in tranches for starting up microenterprise units in the next three years.
Sticking to its credo of “Jati, Mati, Bheti’ (race, land, and homestead land), the present government has been striving to safeguard the rights of the indigenous people. It has freed the Xatra lands from encroachments and also carried out evictions from reserve forests, wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, wetlands, and government lands. Tens of thousands of bighas have been freed from illegal encroachments.
It must be acknowledged that there has been a new wave of development on various fronts. Infrastructure development in terms of road connectivity with new bridges, flyovers, airports, and new medical colleges, besides AIIMS, industrial, and agri-business growth, has taken place. Never before did any erstwhile governments roll out a development package for every district like the present dispensation! Whopping development packages will bring about a major transformation in the districts, thus opening up vistas of employment, direct and indirect, to the youth and bringing about equitable economic development in every part of the state. If Assam has to forge ahead and become one of the five leading states in the country, it has to ensure that each district contributes equally to the gross domestic product and not just a handful of districts.
Towards this end, Chief Minister Sarma has set the ball rolling by instructing the senior bureaucrats to transform the district into an administrative and economic unit and absolving the Deputy Commissioners from doing traditional and conventional work. The upcoming DCs conference in Tinsukia from May 12 to 14 will have brainstorming sessions on how to bring about a sea change in administration at the district level.
With durable peace in the state, Assam is poised to march triumphantly on the path of development, with the target of surpassing Punjab in terms of GDP in the days ahead. Assam is on a roll, with hopes and promises galore.