Guwahati: Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said his government is planning to set up a “population army” to distribute contraceptives and create awareness about population control in Muslim-dominated areas of the state.
Pointing out that a 1,000-strong force will be sent to Western Assam’s remote riverine areas, he told the Assam Assembly: “Around 1,000 youths from the char chapori (riverine island) will be engaged to create awareness about population control measures and to supply contraceptives. We are also planning to create a separate work force of ASHA (accredited social health activists) workers who will be tasked with creating awareness about birth control and also supply contraceptives.”
He claimed that if population growth among Hindus in Assam was 10 per cent from 2001 to 2011, it was 29 per cent among Muslims. “Due to a smaller population, the lifestyle of Hindus in Assam has become better, with spacious houses and vehicles, and children becoming doctors and engineers,” asserted the CM, who has been pushing hard for an effective population control measure to check the “population explosion” which he claims is driven by the state’s minority population.
The proposed measures include voluntary sterilisation and enforcement of a two-child limit for couples looking to access state-run welfare schemes.
Also stressing the need for education of people in these high-population areas, the CM said: “The people of Upper Assam will not relate to the struggles that western and central Assam people face due to the burden of higher population.”
Mr Sarma said out of compulsion, Muslims have started encroaching on forest lands. He said a ground assessment of the minority areas is more needed than the surveys to assess the impending dangers.
Mr Sarma also reiterated that the Congress, BJP and AIUDF don’t differ on the need for population control measures. “We need a realistic solution for population control,” he added.
Mr Sarma said this in the Assembly while replying to Congress MLA Sherman Ali Ahmed who earlier proposed that contraceptives be sent to every woman, especially in minority-inhabited areas of Lower Assam, to control the state’s population.
Mr Ahmed also urged the House to consider increasing the marriage age of girls to 20 years, with clearing the Class 12 exams being the minimum qualification for marriage. Delayed marriage, he felt, can help to control the population in Western Assam districts....