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Himanta Biswa Sarma takes oath as Assam chief minister, says Covid management first priority

Himanta Biswa Sarma, 52, who held key portfolios in the previous Assam government, including finance, health, and education — succeeds Sarbananda Sonowal as the Chief Minister

Written by Abhishek Saha | Guwahati |
Updated: May 10, 2021 7:09:04 pm
Himanta Biswa Sarma takes oath as the new Chief Minister of Assam, during his swearing-in ceremony at Srimanta Sankaradev Kalakshetra in Guwahati (PTI)

Shortly after taking oath as the 15th chief minister of Assam on Monday, Himanta Biswa Sarma said the first duty of the new government would be to check the spread of the Covid pandemic in the state. Sarma also said the state Cabinet, which will hold its first meeting on Tuesday, will announce fresh Covid-related measures.

In his first press meet after becoming the chief minister, Sarma said it is his government’s pledge to take Assam to “greater heights of prosperity” and propel it to be among the leading states in the country.

“Covid situation in Assam is alarming. We have seen that our daily cases have crossed almost 5,000. So, obviously, tomorrow when the cabinet meets for the first time, we will discuss Covid situation from all perspectives. We will take all the measures, whatever is required, to control this outbreak,” Sarma, 52, said.

Himanta Biswa Sarma with J P Nadda and Sarbananda Sonowal (PTI)

Sarma said as the CM, he would work to fulfil all the promises the BJP has made in its election manifesto. “The promises we made during elections were not made just like that. These are promises made for implementation. These promises are solemn for us,” he said.

He also said his government will seek a re-verification of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) published in Assam in 2019. “Regarding the NRC, our position is very clear. We want that in border districts, we want a re-examination of 20% names included and in other districts, that of 10% names,” Sarma said.

BJP’s Himanta Biswa Sarma gestures while taking oath as the Chief Minister of Assam (PTI)

“If after this examination, the published NRC is proven to be correct, then the state government will accept the NRC and proceed for the next steps. However, if, during the re-examination rampant anomalies are found, then we will seek that the SC looks at it in new light,” he added.

The NRC, published in August 2019 under direct supervision of the Supreme Court, excluded 19 lakh odd people from around 3.3 crore applicants. But NRC authorities have not yet been issued rejection orders, with which they can appeal against the exclusion at the state’s Foreigners’ Tribunals (FTs). The FTs will then decide whether the person is a foreigner or an Indian citizen, keeping the citizenship status of over 19 lakh people in a limbo.

Sarma appealed to insurgents, including the chief of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA-I) Paresh Baruah to leave the path of violence and return to the mainstream. “Murders and kidnappings… they do not solve problems, but complicate matters,” Sarma said.

In April, three employees of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) were kidnapped by the ULFA-I from Assam’s Sivasagar district. Two of the three men have been rescued by security forces while hunt is on for the third. In December last year, two employees of Quippo Oil and Gas Infrastructure Limited, were kidnapped by the ULFA-I and the NSCN from a drilling site in Arunachal Pradesh’s Changlang district — both have been rescued.

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