As we welcome a new year of the Gregorian calendar, let’s look back at the initiatives of the Government of Assam under Chief Minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma in the year 2023. One can easily point out to welfare activities that have led this State on the path of development backed by a peaceful ambience, one complementing the other.
Assam was in the national and international media with the relentless crackdown on illegal drugs mafia & child marriage, harsh actions against the criminals, legal initiatives to arrest corrupt Government officers, commitment to end polygamy, and much more in bygone year.
The Chief Minister initiated dialogues to resolve the border disputes with neighbouring States, rolled out development programmes for the benefit of down-trodden families, pursued peace with armed outfits, launched some record-breaking approaches to recognise the cultural heritage of Assam and implemented a unique idea to make the State greener while benefiting its economy.
Like 2022, the immediate past year also witnessed a series of incidents relating to recovery of drugs worth hundreds of crores and arrest of traffickers from various parts of the State. Government agencies in February and October cracked down on the menace of child marriages and arrested nearly 5,000 people, most of whom are still fighting legal battles in various local courts.
During his address at the 77th Independence Day celebration in Guwahati, Dr. Sarma committed himself to eradicate this social menace by 2026. Defying the outcry of various Opposition leaders, he argued that the campaign against this illegal practice should continue in Assam. Now an emboldened Government plans to ban the practice of polygamy by placing a Bill in the Assembly session scheduled for February 2024. Records suggest that Assam has improved in the statistics of maternal mortality and infant deaths post the crackdown.
The continued arrest of Government officials, including administrative & police personnel, against corruption charges has amused the common people, and sent the right signals.
Launching Orunodoi 2.0, the Government maintained its commitment to serve beneficiaries in a better way. More than 26 lakh poor families now get ₹1,250 in their bank account to fulfil needs like healthcare, nutritious foods, children’s education, electricity consumption, etc. The Government also launched the third phase of microfinance loan waiver scheme for the benefit of over 2.22 lakh women borrowers, for which ₹291 crore of outstanding loans were cleared by the Government, no mean feat to help these beneficiaries become credit worthy again.
Another highlight of the year was the paddy procurement policy. The initiative benefited more than 60,000 farmers with the revised MSP across the State. Under Mission Basundhara 2.0, over 1,500 indigenous families in several districts have benefited from land settlement claims.
Assam largely enjoyed peace and tranquillity with tribal insurgency almost coming to an end. In fact, since Day One in office, the Chief Minister has been asking militants to join peace initiatives. For the record, over 7,200 insurgents belonging to various outfits have come overground and joined the mainstream thus far.
To resolve the decades long boundary disputes with the neighbouring States, the Assam Government has taken a pragmatic approach following which several bilateral agreements have been inked. This is a testimony to the decisive leadership of the Chief Minister.
These initiatives have resulted in Assam emerging as a potential State to register impressive growth in its Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP). An increased GST collection and development measures have led the Niti Aayog to report that the State could bring over 47 lakh people out of multidimensional poverty from 2015-16 to 2020-21.
The State Government has already crossed the magical mark of 100 Cabinet meetings in 28 months since the first Cabinet was held on 11 May 2021. Many such meetings were organised outside Guwahati. The CM Office is now open round-the-clock so that residents can be served better. One can observe the Chief Minister attending his office even late at night while returning to the capital after a day-long official tour. These are signals which are a delight to investors and the masses.
The State has established records one can be proud of. Be it the Amrit Brikshay Andolan, or the Bohag Bihu celebrations, ideas have been executed at the ground on multiple fronts to give the people of Assam a holistic ways to improve life. The recently launched Cultural Mahasangram, and Khel Maharan are examples to drive home the point.
Last and most importantly the initiative to fulfil the target of one lakh jobs to the youth of Assam in a free, fair and transparent way need to be talked about. Even the worst critics of the Assam Government will find it difficult to find a fault with the idea and the way it has been implemented. We must also bear in mind that the Government has completed not more than 30-odd months in office. One can easily hope that there are even better days ahead.
(Nava Thakuria is a journalist, and columnist.)