In a rare sight, the ruling and the opposition parties were seen agreeing on an issue in the Assam assembly’s ongoing budget session on Monday. The topic was a resolution proposed by Baghbar MLA Sherman Ali Ahmed to implement population control measures and uplift the educational and health status in the riverine areas, especially Lower Assam.

Speaking in the assembly, Ahmed said, “As a people’s representative, I accept that the population growth of Muslims living in Char-Chaporis is more than the non-Muslims. But we have to come up from politicising and instead bring realistic measures such as uplifting educational status to uplift the poor socio-economic condition.”

“We have to accept reality. There is a need to bring educational reforms such as the increasing number of educational institutions in Char-Chaporis. If we take such a realistic decision today, we will see a fruitful result in the next 20 years,” he added.

The issue of girl child marriage in the minority-dominated remote areas was discussed in the assembly. “To curb this issue, we need to bring in education. Education is a realistic measure to curb this,” he said.

Addressing the chief minister, he said, “You should send a message to respective DCs [Deputy Commissioner] and SPs [Superintendent of Police] in lower Assam districts to curb child marriage. If a girl below 18 years is married off, the DC and SP should be suspended.”

He said the availability of birth control measures and contraceptives should be made available for women in Char-Chaporis. “We need to quash the social taboo. These contraceptives should be made easily available, directly to their home,” he added.

“The then chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal introduced 21 model residential schools and 9 women colleges in these (riverine) areas. This step will go a long way in the development of minorities, especially in Char-Chaporis. What the previous government started, I believe this should be continued,” he said.

Agreeing to his proposal, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said, “I’m happy to see Sherman Ali coming up and bringing the reality. If we can bring girls to education, it will curb the issue of girl child marriage. The maximum expansion of education will curb population growth.”

“The opposition should forget politics when it comes to controlling population growth. Ever ybody has to unanimously agree with population growth as it adds more to poor socio-economic status. You can’t always blame the poor for more birth,” he added.

He said his government will work towards financial inclusion for women in the riverine areas. “There should be an engagement of women in self-help groups. They should be employed. It is our responsibility and we will work in the next 5 years,” he said.”

Chandra Mohan Patowary, Minister for Welfare of Minorities and Development Department said, “We want inclusive development. When we talk about this, we cannot forget the 34 per cent (Muslim population) for discussion. There will be a discussion of the minorities from Char-Chaporis.”

The Assam government earlier said the indigenous Assamese-speaking
Muslim community of the Assam has agreed on the proposed two-child policy. It said the state has to manage population expulsion if they have to be among the top five states in the country.

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