Celebrations tempered with caution
Guwahati, Aug. 15: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today announced the creation of five new districts on the 69th Independence Day, taking the total number of districts to 32.
The new districts, to be carved out of present Sonitpur, Sivasagar, Nagaon, Dhubri and Karbi Anglong, will be Biswanath, Charaideo, Hojai, South Salmara-Mancachar and West Karbi Anglong respectively.
"The government has decided to constitute the new districts to bring the administration closer to the people," Gogoi said soon after hoisting the Tricolour at the College of Veterinary Science playground here.
The decision to create five new districts, according to official sources, was taken in view of long-standing demands and the administrative difficulties in maintaining law and order and proper implementation of development activities. "Insurgency is a serious issue in Soniptur, Sivasagar and Karbi Anglong while the large population in the rest of the districts is a challenge in proper implementation of schemes," a state government official said.
The decision, taken less than a year before the Assembly elections, according to a source, was also aimed at addressing the criticism the state government faced over the delay in addressing the long-pending demands for creation of new districts.
The Gogoi government, however, did not make any announcement on creation of new sub-divisions, despite frequent protests in favour of such demands.
Gogoi in his hourlong speech highlighted that increase in the gross domestic product, per capita income and credit deposit ratio proved the state had transformed the atmosphere of "fear and frustration" into "hope and confidence" since 2001, when the Congress government led by him assumed office in Dispur. The chief minister flagged the schemes his government took up in the past 14 years in agriculture, healthcare, education and employment generation, which, according to him, had helped Assam prosper, generate employment and address the frustration among youths, which was high during 2001-02 owing to lack of jobs and insurgency.
Claiming that the Congress government had first initiated the process to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC), Gogoi said he had also moved the Centre for accepting the electoral rolls up to 2014 as an additional document for inclusion in the NRC, being updated across the state.
The Supreme Court had ordered the Centre and the state to prepare the updated NRC within January 2016.
All those submitting documents establishing their presence in Assam till March 24, 1971, will be included in the updated NRC.
On the recent peace accord signed between the Centre and the NSCN (I-M), Gogoi made it clear that the state government would not allow any "infringement" of Assam's constitutional boundary under any circumstances. "We welcome the peace initiative in Nagaland and recent development regarding the peace accord. It would have been helpful if details of the agreement were published. Not making the details public has led to multiple apprehensions," he said.
Education minister and Sonari MLA Sarat Barkataky broke down at the Sonari public parade ground in Sivasagar district while announcing that Charaideo would be made a district.
Charaideo is a sub-division, about 50km from Sivasagar town. It is home to the historic maidams (burial mounds) of Ahom kings and nobles. The sub-division adjoins Mon district in Nagaland and Longding in Arunachal Pradesh and serves as a market for both these places apart from providing medical facilities to people of these states through the civil hospital.
Barkataky wiped away tears of joy and drank some water before continuing with his speech while the crowd burst into loud cheer, applause and prolonged bursting of crackers.
The five-time legislator said this had been his aim for the past 15 years. He was extremely happy that he had been able to fulfil the demands of the people who faced a lot of difficulty in having to travel more than 50km to the district headquarters in Sivasagar to get their work done like acquiring licenses, passports, etc.
At the remote end of the subdivision is Borhat, Dillighat, almost 90km from Sivasagar by road.