Sought NRC re-verification to ensure error-free document: Assam CM

Hope it does not include any foreigner and exclude any Indian citizen, he says

August 15, 2019 04:19 pm | Updated 04:24 pm IST - GUWAHATI

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Thursday hoped the National Register of Citizens (NRC) “does not include the names of any foreigner” while referring to the Supreme Court turning down his government’s plea for re-verification of the documents of a section of the 3.29 crore applicants. The apex court, which has been monitoring the NRC updating exercise since 2013, rejected the re-verification pleas twice within a fortnight as it stuck to the August 31 deadline for publishing the citizens’ list.

“We had petitioned the SC for re-verification of the NRC only to ensure a pure and error-free document. I reiterate that the Assam government is committed to protecting all genuine Indian citizens residing in the State,” Mr Sonowal said in his 73rd Independence Day speech in Guwahati.

The Chief Minister reminded that his government was formed on the promise to protect jaati (race), maati (land) and bheti (hearth) and ensure a foreigner-free and developed Assam.

“Around 55,000 State government employees have had to take time off development projects to work on updating the NRC under the supervision of the SC. We hope that the NRC will be a historic document which does not include names of any foreigner and exclude any genuine Indian citizen,” he said.

Constitutional safeguards

Mr. Sonowal said the Central government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had taken steps to secure constitutional safeguards for the indigenous people of Assam.

“Our people have been awaiting the implementation of Clause 6 (of the Assam Accord of August 1985 seeking constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards for the indigenous) for four decades. The formation of a high-level committee toward implementing Clause 6 is an historic decision by the PM,” he said.

The Chief Minister also underlined the Centre’s move to provide the Scheduled Tribe status to six communities — Adivasi or “tea tribe”, Chutia, Koch-Rajbongshi, Matak, Moran and Tai-Ahom — without hurting the rights of other indigenous communities.

Mr. Sonowal resented the inability of the previous governments to map the villages across the State for drawing up a proper land policy. “We have started surveying some 900 villages to settling landless farmers and tea plantation workers. We intend to give patta [land deed] to one lakh such people during the current fiscal.”

The Chief Minister also lauded his government’s efforts to free the Kaziranga National Park and other protected areas from encroachers besides bringing down the rate of rhino-poaching.

Meghalaya coal

Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma, in his I-Day speech, said the “lifting of the 2014 ban on coal mining” by the Supreme Court would have a positive impact on the economy of the State.

The court, he said, upheld his government’s contention that the indigenous people of Meghalaya had rights over land and over the extracted mineral. “The judgment is historic and its implications extend beyond the realm of coal mining. Once tribal identity has been acknowledged by the Supreme Court, the customs, practices and traditions will remain protected,” Mr. Sangma said.

“This judgment will certainly have a positive impact on the economy of the State and will lead to revival of the coal mining areas. The State has about 576 million tonnes of coal deposits and about 9,300 million tonnes of limestone deposits. The value of all mineral resources of the State is about $180 billion. The government is now putting in place systems for sustainable mining so that the present and future generations can reap the benefits of these important resources,” the Chief Minister said.

Article 371H safe’

Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu allayed fears that Article 371H, which has special provisions for the frontier State, would go the Article 370 way.

The “bold decision” to dilute Article 370, Mr. Khandu said, would usher in a new era of socio-economic progress in Jammu and Kashmir. “At the same time, I would like to assure the people of my State that the provisions of Article 371H will continue to stay in force and the same has been categorically assured in Parliament,” he said.

“The main objectives behind the Article 371 granting special provisions to some States including Arunachal Pradesh are to meet the unique needs of the backward areas, protect the economic and cultural interests of this region, combat the local challenges and protect the customary laws whereas the provisions of Article 370 were primarily divisive in nature,” the Chief Minister said.

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