The Telegraph
Tuesday , August 12 , 2014
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Push for local governance

Guwahati, Aug. 11: The Tarun Gogoi government today announced creation of four development councils for Kumar, Madahi, Sut and Hajong communities, besides “actively considering” one each for Bengali and Hindi-speaking population in the state.

It is also considering setting up a Garo Autonomous Council and Scheduled Caste Development Council. Nearly seven lakh Garos live in Goalpara and Kamrup districts.

The announcement was made in Gogoi’s budget speech — a move believed to be aimed at wooing these groups before the 2016 Assembly elections, more so after the stupendous rise of the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls.

As on day, there are 19 development councils in Assam, constituted for all-round development of communities such as Muttocks, Morans, Sooteas, Saraniya Kacharis, Tai-Ahoms, Adivasis, Bishnupriya Manipuris, Gorkhas, Maimals, Koch-Rajbongshis, Moriyas, Nath-Jogis, Mech-Kacharis, Meiteis, Man Tais, Sema Nagas, general caste and hill tribes of Barak valley, ex-tea tribes and tea tribes.

There are also six satellite autonomous councils for communities such as Tiwa, Rabha, Deori, Mising, Thengal Kachari and Sonowal Kachari.

Three autonomous councils under the Sixth Schedule (Bodoland Territorial Council, North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council and Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council) have also been set up through central acts. Autonomous councils have geographical jurisdiction, but development councils do not have any such jurisdiction.

Minister of state for welfare of plains tribes Rajiv Lochan Pegu told The Telegraph that the recommendations on the councils were made by the cabinet sub-committee headed by revenue minister Prithibi Majhi.

“As the councils have started benefiting the communities individually as well as in groups, our chief minister backed the recommendation. We are now pushing for enhancement of the budgetary allocation from Rs 60 crore to Rs 100 crore for the development councils and from Rs 260 crore to Rs 300 crore for the autonomous councils for smooth implementation of the schemes. We have asked the deputy commissioners to find out the populations of Kumar, Madahi, Sut and Hajong as soon as possible,” Pegu said.

Like Pegu, the Joint Committee for Autonomous and Development Councils of Assam, an umbrella organisation of the autonomous and development councils, too has welcomed the government’s decision to create more councils in the state.

Joint secretary of the committee, Dhiren Nath, told this correspondent that creation of such councils would help in ensuring equal socio-economic development of large and small indigenous communities. He, however, vehemently opposed the proposed move of Dispur to create similar development councils for a few non-indigenous communities.

“Development councils must be for those living in Assam since time immemorial,” Nath who heads Nath Yogi Development Council said. “The government should conduct census of the communities for which development councils have been created or would be created and allot funds accordingly. It should also conduct elections for existing development councils,” Nath said.

The president of the All Assam Bhojpuri Parishad, Parshuram Pandey, while welcoming the decision, said finally Dispur had recognised the existence of this section of society which has assimilated with local milieu. He said Bhojpuri/Biharis dominate the Hindi-speaking population which will be over 25 lakh of Assam’s over 3.1 crore.

Kaushik Rai, BJP Cachar unit president, too, backed the move for a Bengali council and hoped the announce- ment would become a reality soon. Bengalis constitute over 26 lakh of the state’s population.