Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has advised the minority community to adopt decent population control measures to reduce poverty and pressure on land.
Reacting to criticisms of his government’s drive to free state-owned land from encroachment, the Chief Minister said the illegal occupation of land belonging to temples, satras (monasteries) and forests cannot be allowed. Most of those evicted were Bengali-speaking Muslims.
“Members of the community have assured us that they do not want encroachment on these lands,” Dr. Sarma told journalists on Thursday while marking a month of the BJP-led government.
“No one is our enemy and we want the poor people of every community to progress but we need community support. Instead of criticizing the government, organizations such as AIUDF (All India United Democratic Front) and AAMSU (All Assam Minority Students’ Union) should motivate people to have smaller families,” he said.
The Chief Minister said keeping the population in check could go a long way in easing the pressure on land. He cited the examples of the Bodo and Mishing communities that have not occupied forest lands over the decades because of family planning.
He, however, justified giving land settlement certificates to indigenous forest dwellers “because they have been protecting our forest resources”.
Dr Sarma urged all stakeholders in the minority community to come forward and support the government in helping reduce poverty and improve education. He said the State government will work towards educating the women of the community to tackle the issue of family planning effectively.
The Chief Minister hinted at gradual easing of lockdown while claiming that the ‘Assam model’ of COVID-19 management has been successful in checking the spread of the virus while not affecting livelihoods.
“We will take decisions, including conducting the school board exams if the positivity rate falls below 2% by July 1. Our advance planning has helped us become oxygen surplus as well as help our north-eastern sister States with the supply of oxygen and cylinders “Dr. Sarma said.
The Assam model, he said, involved focusing on isolation, treatment and vaccination in six districts from where most of the COVID-19 positive cases have been recorded.
He also lauded the State police for the war on drugs that has yielded narcotic items worth ₹ 24 crore and put 500 people behind bars for drug-related offenses.