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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Will form seven committees to uplift Assam’s tea tribe community: Himanta

The Assam CM said, “Based on these recommendations, the government will come up with necessary schemes that will be incorporated in the next state budget."

Written by Tora Agarwala | Guwahati |
Updated: August 30, 2021 10:54:58 pm
Himanta Biswa SarmaAssam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma at the meeting with members of the tea tribe community (Twitter: @himantabiswa)

In a bid to uplift Assam’s tea tribes, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma Monday announced the formation of seven committees, comprising members of the community, to look into and make recommendations on key focus areas such as health, education and skill development, among others.

“Based on these recommendations, the government will come up with necessary schemes that will be incorporated in the next state budget,” Sarma said after holding a meeting with intellectuals, including poets, writers, doctors, community leaders, professors, bureaucrats and politicians, of the community in a programme titled ‘Humder Moner Kotha’ on Monday evening.

In July, the chief minister had held a similar programme and met members of the indigenous Muslim community, belonging to various fields, to discuss their socio-economic issues.

A statement from the Chief Minister’s Office said that Monday’s meeting tried to “prepare a roadmap for all round development of the community” and discussed various issues, including “infrastructural development, exploring alternative and additional livelihood, proper education, health infrastructure, preserving heritage, culture, language etc.”

Assam accounts for over half of India’s total tea production and the tea tribe community — comprising 17 per cent of the state’s population — is spread over 800 tea gardens. There are also several small, unorganised gardens in the state.

Tea garden workers — who live mostly in residential quarters adjacent to the gardens — were brought to Assam by the British from states like Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal after 1860. Though the community plays a crucial role in deciding elections, it still suffers from exploitation, economic backwardness, poor health conditions and low literacy rates.

Monday’s initiative was a first-of-its-kind reach-out programme.

Sarma said that while the BJP government had worked for development of the community in the last five years, “a lot still needs to be done for the community’s holistic growth”.

He added that seven sub groups — focusing on health, education, skill development, culture, literature, sports and employment — will be formed for “in-depth study”, and each committee will have a government officer as its member secretary.

MP Pallab Lochan Das, who is a member of the community, said it was the first time in the history of independent India that such a programme was being held. “As the name (‘Humder Moner Kotha’) suggests, there is finally a platform where we can highlight issues and speak our minds,” he told local reporters.

Poet and climate activist Kamal K Tanti, who was part of the meeting, said that the discussions were “fruitful”.  “Apart from political issues, we spoke about our actual problems at the grassroots level, including health, crimes against women and children issues,” he said.

The invitees also included former Union Minister Pawan Singh Ghatowar, former Speaker of ALA Prithbi Majhi, social activist Wilfred Topno, school teacher and writer Renu Gowala, and Gauhati University professor Dr Bhaben Tanti, among others.

Sarma said that this was the first such meeting and the government would continue to discuss important issues during further interactions with the community in the next six months.

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