Guwahati, Aug 13: The Assam government on Friday accepted the demand of the opposition Congress for deferring a discussion on population control among the Muslim community, though Speaker Biswajit Daimary had allowed it.
When the Congress was about to stage a walk-out as its demand was not being met, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pijush Hazarika said that the government is willing to postpone the discussion. Friday is the last day of the budget session. The Speaker adjourned proceedings for five minutes after the minister's statement. When the House reassembled, Daimary said, "I am here as a mediator. If both sides (the treasury and opposition benches) reach a unanimous decision, I am happy.... The Speaker has some discretionary power, but what the House feels convenient, it should be done."
Earlier, when the House had met for the day, the Speaker had said that a discussion on the private member's special motion, moved by Congress MLA Sherman Ali Ahmed on August 10, would take place as the first order of business and the chief minister will place the government's response after the discussion. Ahmed, in his special motion, had said that the birth rate among the Muslim populace of Assam, especially those residing in riverine areas, will come down if measures are taken to spread education, and develop healthcare facilities and means of communication.
Deputy Leader of the Opposition Rakibul Hussain of the Congress and AIUDF MLA Aminul Islam pointed out that discussion on a private member's special motion or bill cannot take place on a day when government business discussion is listed. Hussain proposed that the discussion can take place in a different session as a similar matter was raised by Ahmed earlier during this ongoing session. Speaker Daimary said that he had announced in the House on August 10 that the motion will be discussed and Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma will reply on Friday, and no one raised any objection then. Though the Speaker allowed the discussion, the parliamentary affairs minister agreed to the Congress' proposal and said that the discussion will be deferred.
On July 19, Congress legislator Ahmed had raised a similar matter, under a different provision of the assembly, suggesting various measures to bring down the birth rate among the Muslims, particularly those settled in the Char-Chaporis' (riverine areas). Ahmed had 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.
The CM, replying to Ahmed on that day, had said that his government had no objection to the proposals, except those related to providing jobs as this had to be based on merit and not population representation. He had said that the House will adopt this resolution without any further debate if he made the relevant changes. Accordingly, the Congress member brought the Special Motion on August 10.
According to the 2011 Census, Muslims comprise 34.22 per cent of Assam's total population of 3.12 crore and they are in majority in several districts. Sarma had in June urged the Muslim community to adopt a "decent family planning policy" for population control to reduce poverty.