Guwahati, Feb 1: The year 2021 witnessed a major political shift after Himanta Biswa Sarma became Assam's Chief Minister. Considered as a firebrand leader, the politician was largely responsible for helping the saffron party to secure a second consecutive term in the office. While the CM is popularly accepted as 'Mama', he has also received criticism for his style of governance.
Here we have highlighted five major changes that the State has witnessed after Himanta Biswa Sarma took over as Chief Minister:
War Against Drugs
Though the drive against drugs has been part of the routine police operations, the campaign picked momentum after the new government under Himanta Biswa Sarma. While asserting that families are being destroyed due to the drug menace, the Assam Police was directed to adopt stern measures to curb the threat posed by drug trafficking. Meanwhile, Sarma's free-hand to law enforcers has been hugely criticised as the number of encounters or controlled shootings upsurged. The Assam Police's narrative of 'shooting while the accused tried to flee' did not go down well. Oppositions termed the law enforcers as 'trigger happy', while the CM remains unfazed citing that they have the liberty to fight criminals within the ambit of law".
Wearing of helmet by pillion riders, wearing of seatbelt and avoiding drunk driving were some of the strict rules that the people of Guwahati are adhering to. The results were visible as the city recorded zero accident cases in New Year's Eve and Uruka. Sarma made sure that the rules are being followed and he himself monitored the situation by being out on the streets to boost the morale of police and transport department personnel who were on duty to curb traffic violations.
After assuming the CM office, the initial task that Sarma did on a priority basis was to extend the olive branch to banned militant groups like ULFA. He urged the ULFA chief Paresh Barua to shun violence following which the group declared a unilateral ceasefire for three months, and has extended at regular intervals. Meanwhile, he also urged Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) to come to the table for peaceful negotiations. Earlier, in January over 200 militants of the United Gorkha People's Organisation (UGPO) and Tiwa Liberation Army (TLA) formally laid down arms in a ceremony in Guwahati, Sarma termed the occasion as the end of the era of tribal militancy in Assam.
With an aim to eliminate the middleman from the system and reduce unnecessary visits to government offices, while empowering the public to resolve land-related issues online in a hassle-free manner, Sarma launched the 'Mission Basundhara' app. The app provides nine land-related services on a mission mode. Last month over 2 lakh land related cases were solved. A total of 8,08,112 applications have been received, out of which a total of 2,01,539 applications have been disposed of so far.
One of the major challenges that Sarma witnessed after assuming office was border dispute with Mizoram that led to the death of six police personnel and a civilian. Despite the frequent disputes, both the State Governments initiated to resolve the issue by forming a committee. Meanwhile, Sarma also took steps to resolve pending boundary disputes with Meghalaya, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.
The Assam Government has proposed the give-and-take approach under which Assam will keep 18.51 sq. km area of the total disputed 36.79 sq. km and give the remaining 18.28 sq. km to the neighbouring state. Sarma and Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma met Union Home Minister Amit Shah and placed their recommendations for his consideration over the five-decade-long boundary dispute between the states.
On the other hand, Assam and Nagaland are ready for an out-of-court settlement of the decades-long border dispute between the two northeastern states.