Assam govt OKs Oppn demand to defer talk on Muslims’ population control

Assam government accepted the demand of opposition Congress for deferring a discussion on population control among the Muslim community

Guwahati: The Assam government on Friday accepted the demand of the opposition Congress for deferring a discussion on population control among the Muslim community, though Speaker Biswajit Daimary had allowed it.

When the Congress was about to stage a walk-out as its demand was not being met, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pijush Hazarika said that the government is willing to postpone the discussion. Friday is the last day of the budget session.

The Speaker adjourned proceedings for five minutes after the minister’s statement.

When the House reassembled, Daimary said, “I am here as a mediator. If both sides (the treasury and opposition benches) reach a unanimous decision, I am happy…. The Speaker has some discretionary power, but what the House feels convenient, it should be done.”

Earlier, when the House had met for the day, the Speaker had said that a discussion on the private member’s special motion, moved by Congress MLA Sherman Ali Ahmed on August 10, would take place as the first order of business and the chief minister will place the government’s response after the discussion.

Ahmed, in his special motion, had said that the birth rate among the Muslim populace of Assam, especially those residing in riverine areas, will come down if measures are taken to spread education, and develop healthcare facilities and means of communication.

Deputy Leader of the Opposition Rakibul Hussain of the Congress and AIUDF MLA Aminul Islam pointed out that discussion on a private member’s special motion or bill cannot take place on a day when government business discussion is listed.

Hussain proposed that the discussion can take place in a different session as a similar matter was raised by Ahmed earlier during this ongoing session.

Speaker Daimary said that he had announced in the House on August 10 that the motion will be discussed and Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma will reply on Friday, and no one raised any objection then.

Though the Speaker allowed the discussion, the parliamentary affairs minister agreed to the Congress’ proposal and said that the discussion will be deferred.

On July 19, Congress legislator Ahmed had raised a similar matter, under a different provision of the assembly, suggesting various measures to bring down the birth rate among the Muslims, particularly those settled in the Char-Chaporis’ (riverine areas).

Ahmed had proposed establishing educational institutes, stopping child marriages, improving health and communication services, providing jobs in government and private sectors based on population representation and facilitating easy availability of birth control measures among women.

Also Read: Assam Assembly passes cattle bill as Opposition stages walkout

The CM, replying to Ahmed on that day, had said that his government had no objection to the proposals, except those related to providing jobs as this had to be based on merit and not population representation.

He had said that the House will adopt this resolution without any further debate if he made the relevant changes. Accordingly, the Congress member brought the Special Motion on August 10.

According to the 2011 Census, Muslims comprise 34.22 per cent of Assam’s total population of 3.12 crore and they are in majority in several districts.

Sarma had in June urged the Muslim community to adopt a “decent family planning policy” for population control to reduce poverty.

Assam Assembly passes cattle bill as Opposition stages walkout

Assam Assembly on Friday passed a bill to regulate slaughter, consumption and transportation of cattle, notwithstanding the walkout staged by the opposition parties

Guwahati: The Assam Assembly on Friday passed a bill to regulate slaughter, consumption and transportation of cattle, notwithstanding the walkout staged by the opposition parties in protest against the government’s refusal to forward the legislation to a select committee.

The ruling BJP members shouted ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and ‘Jai Shree Ram’ slogans and thumped desks as soon as Speaker Biswajit Daimary announced the Assam Cattle Preservation Bill, 2021 as passed.

The lone Independent legislator, Akhil Gogoi, had walked out of the House when the bill was taken up for consideration.

The Opposition Congress, AIUDF and CPI (M) had urged the government to refer the bill to an Assembly select committee for vetting, but Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, during his reply on a discussion on the legislation, rejected the proposal.

Sarma, in his response, said the bill had no bad intention and claimed it will strengthen communal harmony.

The legislation doesn’t intend to stop anyone from consuming beef, but the person who eats so must also respect the religious sentiments of others, the CM said.

“It can’t be that only Hindus are responsible for maintaining communal harmony, Muslims must also reciprocate,” he added.

On objection to a clause in the bill that prohibits cow slaughter within 5-km radius of temples or satras, Sarma claimed that there are “kilometres and kilometres of area with no temples, and 70,000-80,000 habitations in the state have no Hindus at all”.

He, however, accepted an amendment moved by AIUDF legislator Aminul Islam to remove ‘buffaloes’ from the definition in the Bill.

Sarma, while introducing the Bill in the House on July 12, had said that the legislation seeks to ensure that permission for slaughter wasn’t granted to areas that are predominantly inhabited by Hindu, Jain, Sikh and other non-beef eating communities or places that fall within five-kilometre radius of a temple, satra, and any other institution as maybe prescribed by the authorities.

Exemptions might be granted for certain religious occasions, he noted.

Also Read: Elephant found dead, rhino injured in Assam

The chief minister had further said that there was an imperative need to enact a new legislation and repeal the earlier Assam Cattle Preservation Act, 1950, which lacked sufficient legal provisions to regulate the slaughter, consumption and transportation of cattle.

The new law, when enacted, will prohibit a person from slaughtering cattle unless he has obtained the necessary certificate issued by the registered veterinary officer of a particular area.

According to the bill, the veterinary officer will issue a certificate only if he is of the opinion that the bovine, not being a cow, is over 14 years of age.

A cow, heifer or calf may be slaughtered only if it is permanently incapacitated, it said.

Also, just duly licensed or recognised slaughter houses will be allowed to butcher cattle, the bill maintained.

The new legislation will check transport of bovines within the state or outside, if valid documents are not made available to the authorities.

There will, however, no restriction on ferrying cattle for agricultural purposes within a district.

One does not need to take permission for transporting cattle to and from registered animal markets for the purpose of sale and purchase within a district.

All offences under this new legislation shall be cognizable and non-bailable.

Anybody found guilty shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than three years or fine that may vary between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 5 lakh or both. If someone convicted under the new law is found guilty of the same or a related offence the second time, the punishment will be doubled.

The legislation shall extend to the whole of Assam and the term ‘cattle’ shall apply to bulls, bullocks, cows, heifer, calves.

Raijor Dal demands implementation of Act to rein in MFIs in Assam

The Act to rein in the MFIs was drafted and passed when the present Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma was the finance minister in the previous government.

Guwahati: As the Budget session of the Assam Assembly got off on Monday, the Opposition Raijor Dal iterated its demand for implementation of the Assam Micro Finance Institutions (Regulation of Money Lending) Act, 2021, which will provide succour to lakhs of women in the state.

The party claimed that this law was vital now as people are under extreme economic distress due to the prevailing pandemic and repeated lockdowns, and the situation has been laid bare by reports of people having to allegedly sell their kidneys to repay their loans from microfinance institutions (MFIs) in the state.

“The incident in Morigaon has exposed the situation of the people. The illegal kidney trade is rampant there as people are being forced to sell their kidneys to pay for their children’s treatment, their MFI loan instalments, etc,” Russel Hussain, vice-president of Raijor Dal, said at a press conference here.

An illegal kidney trade racket was busted in Morigaon district on Sunday and two persons were arrested.

Police said, at least six persons of a village were allegedly lured with money to donate their kidneys at a hospital in Kolkata.

Hussain further said the pandemic and lockdowns have further compounded the problems of people and the BJPs pre-poll promise of waiving MFI loans for all women borrowers was a glimmer of hope for them.

“If the law is implemented, all the borrowers will be benefited, as was promised by the BJP. But they have now put riders for being a beneficiary and this would deprive a major chunk of the women,” he said.

Also Read: Almost 30,000 posts in Assam Police lying vacant: Assam CM

The bill was passed in the state Assembly on December 30 last year and the Governor signed the gazette notification on January 27, but the state government has failed to implement it so far.

The Raijor Dal leader pointed out that if implemented, it would automatically lead to waiver of all loans and there was no need for the state government to pay from its coffers to the MFIs.

The Act will also prevent harassment of women borrowers by the lenders, as it would invite imprisonment and fine if the lender indulges in it, and also ensure that agents cannot visit residences of the borrowers, demanding repayment.

The Act to rein in the MFIs was drafted and passed when the present Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma was the finance minister in the previous government.

The new state government, in its very first Cabinet meeting on May 11, had constituted a committee to assess the financial implications of waiving the loans given by the MFIs.

The committee, after its initial investigations, had revealed that an amount of Rs 12,500 crore, including principal and interest, was outstanding as of March 31, 2021, involving 26 lakh customers and 40 lenders.

The amount was later worked down to Rs 8,250 crore by the government after discussions with the MFIs as many loans were given flouting RBI norms.

It was decided that the state government will be paying off the loans on behalf of the eligible beneficiaries.

Several conditions were recommended by the committee like only those loans will be considered which were taken before December 31, 2020, and those with a family income of Rs one lakh, paying income tax, owning four-wheelers or any other such guidelines set by the RBI will not be considered for a waiver of loans.

“All these conditions will stand nullified if the Act is implemented, and we sincerely hope that the state government will soon do it,” Hussain added.

Bill tabled in assembly to strengthen Assam’s resources to fight pandemic

In the beginning of the financial year 2020-21, the state was allowed borrowing permission based on 3.50 per cent of GSDP.

Guwahati: Assam Finance Minister Ajanta Neog on Monday introduced a Bill in the assembly, which seeks to allow the government to raise the borrowing ceiling by 0.50 per cent of the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) to strengthen the resources of the state to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Introducing the Assam Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (Amendment) Bill, 2021, Neog said that the Union Finance Ministry has informed Assam that during 2021-22, it will be allowed the Net Borrowing Ceiling (NBC) of four per cent of the projected GSDP for the fiscal.

In the beginning of the financial year 2020-21, the state was allowed borrowing permission based on 3.50 per cent of GSDP.

Also Read: Taking measures to vaccinate people in tea gardens: Assam CM tells Modi

The remaining borrowing ceiling of 0.50 per cent of GSDP is earmarked for incremental capital expenditure by the state and will be allowed on the basis of Capital Expenditure incurred by the state during the year 2021-22.

The decision has been taken in view of the unprecedented COVID-19 situation and to strengthen resources of the state to fight the pandemic as well as maintain the standards of service delivery to the public, Neog said.

Additional borrowing ceiling of 0.50 per cent of GSDP over and above the ceiling of 4 per cent of GSDP will also be allowed to the state, based on guidelines issued by the Centre, subject to the amendment of the Act, she said.

The state Cabinet had, in its meeting on Jun 24, approved the amendment of the Act for incorporating the conditions.

Magisterial probe ordered into Assam EVM row

Karimganj/Hailakandi (Assam), Apr 3 

A magisterial probe has been ordered to determine why a polling team in Assam carried an EVM in a vehicle owned by the wife of a BJP candidate, officials said on Saturday.

Karimganj District Deputy Superintendent Anbamuthan MP issued an order on Friday night to probe the incident, which has snowballed into a huge controversy amid the ongoing Assam assembly elections, the last phase of which is slated for Tuesday.

Additional District Magistrate Rajeshan Terang has been asked to conduct the enquiry and submit a detailed report within three days.

"... This incident posed a threat to security of the polled EVMs and has an adverse effect on the law and order situation," the order said.

The probe will also find out the circumstances leading to the poll party travelling in a private vehicle, and ascertain whether there was any lapse or conspiracy on the part of the authorities.

Violence had broken out on the outskirts of Karimganj town on Thursday night after a crowd spotted a BJP candidate's vehicle being used to transport a polled EVM to the strong room, prompting the police to fire in the air to bring the situation under control.

The poll team from Ratabari constituency claimed that its official vehicle broke down midway, forcing them to ask for a lift from a passing vehicle, which turned out to be that of the wife of BJP's Patharkandi candidate.

Sitting MLA Krishnendu Paul is the BJP candidate from the Patharkandi seat, while Ratabari is currently represented by his party MLA Bijoy Malakar, who is contesting the election as well.

Ratabari and Patharkandi constituencies went to the polls in the second phase on Thursday.

The Election Commission has suspended four election officials and ordered repolling at the booth.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah has also sought an inquiry by the commission.

Meanwhile, police arrested at least six persons for allegedly live streaming the violence that had erupted after the incident, and inciting the mob to attack the private vehicle in which the poll party was travelling with three units of the EVM from 149 Indira MV School in Ratabari.

"We are identifying the people who were seen attacking the vehicle in the videos... more arrests are likely," a senior police official said.

Opposition Congress and the AIUDF have slammed the authorities for the incident, and alleged that the EVM was being "stolen".

Demanding an explanation and immediate action, Assam Congress chief Ripun Bora said the party will consider boycotting the election if "this open loot and rigging of EVMs" does not stop immediately.

Assam Assembly passes Bill to repeal Provincialisation of Madrassas in State

Guwahati: The Bill to repeal Provincialisation of Madrassas in the state of Assam has been passed by State Assembly in the 3-day Winter Session on Wednesday.

All Madrassas, being run under government stands will now be converted into regular educational institutes from April 1, 2021.

Notably, the Bill proposes to abolish two existing acts -- The Assam Madrassa Education (Provincialisation) Act, 1995 and The Assam Madrassa Education (Provincialisation of Services of Employees and Re-Organisation of Madrassa Educational Institutions) Act, 2018.

Informing about the matter, State Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma took to Twitter saying, “Glad that the Bill pertaining to repeal of Provincialisation of Madrassas has been passed, even as @INCAssam and @AIUDFOfficial expectedly staged a walkout in Assembly. All Madrassas, being run under government stands converted into regular educational institute wef April 1, 2021.”

Earlier, AIUDF legislators walked out of the Assam Assembly on Monday over the Government’s decision to shut down Madrassa in the state.

The leaders of the AIUDF as they walked out of the session demanded the withdrawal of the bill saying, “India is a secular nation and there are no differences between a school and the ‘Madrassa’. The State Government is trying to taking political mileage by using the Arabic wording ‘Madrassa’ and polarize the vote ahead of the assembly elections."

Also Read: Congress, AIUDF leaders walk out of Winter Assembly Session

Pvt Madrassas Will Never be Shut Down, these keep "Muslims Alive": Assam Deputy Speaker

Assam Assembly Deputy Speaker and senior BJP chief Aminul Haque Laskar has mentioned that personal madrassas won’t ever be shut down as “these have kept the Muslims alive”.

Earlier, the Assam government has decided to close all state-run madrassas and a notification to this effect is likely to be issued this month.

“Has any madrassa been closed down? These madrassas won’t ever be shut down as these have saved the Muslims alive,” he mentioned, whereas laying the inspiration stone for a madrassa in Cachar district on Sunday.

“Maulanas and qazis have come out from these madrassas. Imams of mosques have studied in these madrassas. They have never been shut down,” he said.

Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has announced that all the state-run madrassas will be shut down as the government cannot support any religious education in a secular society, leading to sharp political reactions from the opposition.

“If madrassas are closed down, then do protest. When Congress protests closing of madrassas by the BJP authorities, then inform them that solely authorities madrassas shall be closed down,” the deputy speaker mentioned.

Laskar further added that the closing of presidency madrassas will in no way impression the Muslim neighborhood’s non secular preaching.

“No one has ever come out from a authorities madrassa and joined a masjid. The opposition Congress and AIUDF are solely doing politics over the difficulty,” he instructed.