Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday at the Assembly said that a 'population Army' will soon distribute contraceptives and create awareness about population control in the state's Muslim-dominated areas.
CM Himanta Biswa Sarma called for delinking the population control issue from politics and adopting a realistic solution with emphasis on education, health, ending child marriage and financial inclusion to solve the problem among the Muslims of the state.
The problem is more pronounced in Muslim majority districts, he said. It has been accepted by all members of the assembly that population increase among the minority community of Lower and Central Assam is a matter of concern, Himanta Biswa Sarma claimed during a discussion in the House initiated by opposition Congress MLA Sherman Ali Ahmed on various issues related to the Muslims living of the 'Char-Chaporis' (sand bar areas).
Opposition members who participated in the discussion said that using the issue politically would not solve the problem but asserted that there should not be a population control policy for Muslims alone.
To bring down the population growth rate among the Muslims particularly those settled in the 'Char-Chaporis', Congress MLA Sherman Ali Ahmed 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.
CM Himanta Biswa Sarma said that his government has no objection to the proposals, except those related to providing jobs as this has to be based on merit and not population representation. The House will adopt this resolution without any further debate on Tuesday, he said.
"I am glad that this proposal has come from a Congress MLA. If it had come from me, people would have said I am doing politics. I thank the opposition member for initiating the discussion as our population policy is not anti-Muslim but anti-poverty," the Chief Minister said.
The government has already planned to appoint 10,000 ASHA workers to distribute contraceptives among Muslim women and set up a population army of 1,000 youths to create awareness among the members of the community, Himanta Biswa Sarma said.
Speaking in the state assembly, Sarma said, "Around 1,000 youths from the char chapori (riverine sand bars) will be engaged to create awareness about population control measures and to supply contraceptives. We are also planning to create a separate workforce of ASHA workers who shall be responsible for creating awareness about birth control and also supply contraceptives."
Sarma said that with the decline in population growth of the Hindus in the state, there has been an improvement in their lifestyle and education level but, with a 29 per cent growth rate, the Muslims are currently in a state of crisis. "If population growth among Hindus in Assam was 10 per cent from 2001 to 2011, it was 29 per cent among Muslims," he added.
Sarma also sought the cooperation of the Congress and the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) in fighting population explosion for the prosperity of all.
Biswa posted the video of his address in the state legislative assembly on Facebook and wrote, "Population explosion is the root cause of economic disparities and poverty among minority Muslims in Assam." "I spoke at length today in the Assembly and sought the cooperation of both the Indian National Congress and All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) in our pledge to fight population explosion for the prosperity of all," he added.
(With inputs from ANI and PTI)